Engineering in Edinburgh
How did you live your study?
Because I went abroad before affiliating with my major department at Cornell, I was registered at Edinburgh as a physics major. The building where most of my classes took place was named after James Clerk Maxwell, because he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh. The semester before going abroad, I had learned all about the fundamental laws of electricity and magnetism, and now I was attending classes where the man who actually discovered the laws had studied as well. In addition, Peter Higgs, one of the most accomplished men in the field of physics, had once taught at Edinburgh. Going to class every day felt like I was walking in the footsteps of some of the greatest physicists in history.
Outside of physics, I took a class on sustainability. Scotland is a major proponent of renewable energy, and whenever I took a trip up to the highlands, I witnessed the massive wind farms twirling about. In this class, we had a project where we created a sustainable menu based on local, seasonal ingredients that had a positive economic impact on the country. In the dining hall, and whenever I traveled, I tried to choose meals with this project in mind, to promote sustainable tourism.
On Wednesdays I did not have class, and would often take a short walk to the National Museum of Scotland. It was amazing to see an actual copy of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, or the Nobel Prize Alexander Fleming won for discovering penicillin.
As a STEM major, studying abroad in Scotland was the perfect way to witness applications and achievements in my field of study in my daily life.
What do you value most about your time abroad?
I value the most the friendships that I made. For me, I realized that I was surrounded by people from a more diverse selection of backgrounds than I had ever been before. Maybe it was out of pure curiosity, but people in general seemed more willing to reach out and get to know one another. Especially when I was traveling, I felt a real sense of camaraderie between other travelers: everyone was willing to give advice or lend a helping hand.
I was anxious about making new friends, because this is something that did not come easily to me when I started at Cornell. Yet, I found that people were so approachable and willing to be a friend. The other students who lived in my dorm hallway became some of my best friends.
When I was abroad, I took the opportunity to always have an adventure, try new things, and be outside of my comfort zone. So, it was incredibly new and special to me that these strangers accepted me for who I was and joined me on the occasional adventure throughout the city.
How have you changed because of your time abroad?
Study abroad confirmed for me that the world is so much larger than I thought, and it deserves to be explored. I never would have considered living or even studying outside of America before going abroad, but now I am hoping to go back to the U.K. for graduate school!
I also gained much more self-confidence from my time abroad. I was free to try new things in an environment where it was unlikely I would ever see most of the same people again, so I felt comfortable taking risks and defining my own identity. After navigating through foreign countries and overcoming obstacles when a language barrier exists, I feel like now I can tackle most challenges.
Because I had such a short time to spend abroad, I prioritized my own goals and made sure to have an experience that was uniquely my own. This has translated into a greater sense of independence for me.
Most importantly, I remember that the times that brought me the most joy were when I was exploring a new place with good friends. These memories now give me incentive to keep exploring and to remind myself that it is healthy to take a break from studying occasionally—for the sake of adventure, no matter how little it may be.