Scotland Studies with Shannon Ho
When my non-UC Irvine friends found out that I was planning on studying abroad, a few of them asked me how I had decided to take that step.
About a year ago, I was hanging out with my good friend Amanda, whom I had met in my first-year dorm in Mesa Court.
I asked her if she wanted to study abroad next year, and she answered yes. We then decided collectively to do it together. Easy enough, right?
What came after was definitely a little harder. Deciding on a location was a Herculean effort in itself.
We had decided to go during the 2014 Spring Semester, which would allow us to spend the holidays with our families before jetting off.
As we scrolled through the UCEAP countries webpage, our eyes got wider and wider — was the world really this frickin’ big?
After toying with the idea of Scandinavian countries, Russia, France and Spain, we decided that we wanted to narrow our choices down to a place in Europe where English was the national language.
By some sort of divine providence, I found out that my RA that year had spent the semester abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
She loved it, of course, and encouraged me highly to look into applying there.
“It’s gorgeous, there’s so much to do, and it’s so underrated. You’ll LOVE it!”
Amanda and I typed the school into Google, clicked images, and then found ourselves needing to scrape our jaws off of the floor.
“This is Hogwarts. We need to be there,” I said.
Amanda agreed without hesitation.
The application process itself was nothing more difficult than one for American college.
Amanda and I had to attend an orientation, fill out a very short pre-application, then one for UCEAP listing our personal and academic information, along with our school of choice and a personal statement.
After our acceptance into the UCEAP program, our applications were referred to the University of Glasgow, and we had to fill out yet another application for the school itself.
From there, it was a flurry of mailing health forms, attending mandatory orientations, turning in a country project, choosing housing, and perhaps most stressful of all, the process of finding and buying tickets on the same flight.
This was an over four-hour ordeal that consisted of relentless searching on Kayak and the two of us rubbing our eyes in exasperation while sitting in different corners of the living room in Amanda’s apartment, attempting patiently to explain pricing and layovers to our paranoid parents on the phone.
After that was all over and done with, we finally picked a flight going out of LAX early morning on January 3.
“Okay, so you’re all ready to go, but are you uh… emotionally ready?” Oscar, my childhood friend, asked me about a week ago.
I smiled and started to say yes, but felt as though someone had filled my insides with ice water.
Oh my God.
I’m leaving. And I won’t be back until June.
Suddenly, what seemed like such a fun and amazing opportunity had me scared absolutely shitless.
How am I going to survive five months without my mom? Or my dog? Or cheap, good-quality boba?
On top of Oscar’s imposing question, perhaps the most nerve-racking thing I’ve done to prepare for this trip is dye my hair.
For the past two years, my hair had been colored a distinct shade of crowd-pleasing Little Mermaid red.
I decided after a lengthy, sorrowful internal argument to dye it back to my natural black-brown in order to avoid dealing with color upkeep and root touch-ups in Scotland.
With my hair done, luggage packed, and iPhone successfully unlocked, I was ready. And still scared as hell.
The only thing I could do to bring myself peace of mind was spend my remaining time with my favorite people in the world, which included church friends I’d known since childhood and my dearest friends from high school.
I expressed my fears to my mother, who told me that she was proud of me for taking this step in my life.
“Everything will be here when you get back, don’t worry about that. Go and have fun. You’ll have Amanda with you,” she said.
And she’s right. I will have fun, and I will have my good friend with me, and I will return with no regrets at all about this decision.