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Opinion

Wisconsin in Scotland program changes UWRF student’s life

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February 25, 2015

I had never been so nervous, sad and excited at one time in my life.

I sat in my window seat, glancing up at the millions of stars as we flew through the night to Amsterdam, Netherlands, from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Opening my bag, I grabbed the stack of letters that my friends had written for me to read on my flight. With each one, my eyes burned more thinking of how long it would be before I would see them again.

I thought about what lies ahead of me in Scotland. I had no idea what to expect, where I was going to travel or who any of the other students were. I asked myself over and over why I had decided to do this and began to formulate an escape plan in the back of my mind.

Suddenly, I could see a web of lights on the new continent below and within an hour we landed. It was 3 a.m. and I was wide awake. I met up with a few of the other program participants and we chatted while waiting for our next plane. Five hours later, it was 8 a.m. (Scotland time) and I was landing in my new home.

We descended through the clouds and into a verdant landscape below. The program director was there to meet us and arrange for our passage to the Dalkeith House. I spent the entire taxi ride glued to the window, looking at the new and different landscape of Scotland. Finally, the taxi pulled into Dalkeith and the palace came into view.

My mouth fell open in surprise at just how big and amazing this palace was. This place looked like it fell out of the pages of a fairy tale. The palace was surrounded by a 1,000-acre estate, completely separate from the urban world just a quarter mile down the road. I thought to myself that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

To be honest, those first few days were rough. I missed my family and friends, but eventually I became so busy it was impossible to even have time to miss them. Every day was a new adventure, and I tried to take advantage of as many opportunities as I could. I took Scottish cooking classes, danced at a ceilidh (Scottish folk dance), went on a spring break Mediterranean cruise, listened to Jane Goodall speak about her experience with chimpanzees, drank fresh Guinness in Ireland, hiked the highest part of the Munro Mountain, visited castles, attended rugby and football matches, traveled through the highlands in Scotland, and met a lot of great people.

Now, more than a year later, I think about that semester almost every day. Sometimes, it feels like I never actually left and the whole semester was merely a dream. The only proof I have is the pictures that now fill my computer. I am incredibly glad that I went and cannot express how much a semester abroad taught me.

There are a lot of great experiences to be had and lessons to be learned from studying abroad. If not through the Wisconsin in Scotland program, then perhaps a different program that the Global Connections office offers. There are so many opportunities out there that are waiting to be had. All you have to do is take that first step by saying yes to a new adventure.

Jenna Newman is a senior animal science student from Somerset, Wisconsin. She plans on attending UW-Madison next fall for veterinary school.