Monday, May 23, 2016

Towsif in Scotland!

Hey everyone! My name is Towsif Aziz and I am studying at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Scotland. Unfortunately I forgot my dragon, Yoshi, at home so there will be a lack of him in my pictures…

140 days. I remember writing that number down on my calendar right after I arrived in Scotland. 140 days in a foreign country all by myself. When I had first left the states on my way to Glasgow in Scotland I had been extremely excited about what I was heading into. That excitement wore off quickly, but would pick up soon again. But for those first few moments after touching down on Scottish soil I realized the entirety of the situation before me. I almost immediately felt overwhelmed. How would I get to my university from the airport? Where do I shop? Did I forget to bring anything from home? Am I going to be able to meet new people here and get along with them? Are classes going to be hard? These, among many more questions flooded my mind. I had realized that all those meetings we had prior to my departure were right. No matter how much you prepare, it is still a shock when you arrive. But don’t worry, that wears off soon.

Celtic Park, home of the Celtic Football Club

Almost within a week my past inhibitions and anxieties had melted away. Strathclyde University had done a tremendous job of getting all the exchange students together for multiple events so that we could find comfort with others going through the same ordeals we were facing. Within two weeks I had stopped counting down how many days I had left in Scotland and begun truly appreciating what I was experiencing. Everything, from the culture, to the food, even the architecture was something that I had begun to appreciate. There was always something to do or somewhere to go. 

Hiking through the Scottish Highlands.

A few friendly faces from our journey.

I was actually secretly studying at Hogwarts.

The impromptu trip to Spain.

Now, here I am on the other end of my exchange journey with less than a week left, watching the days fly by and wishing that time would slow down just a little bit so I could enjoy this trip just a little bit more. For those of you going on exchange programs in the future I implore you to do everything you can. I know I did and it made my experience that much better. Impromptu trip to Spain? Why not? 96 Mile hike through the Scottish Highlands? Sign me up. Bus trip to London just to see Platform 9 ¾? Gone faster than I can say Hogwarts.
So go ahead, make new friends, go to new places, and experience it all! These memories will become a part of you which you will remember and cherish for the rest of your life. If you don’t live a little while you are abroad, you might end up regretting it. So go ahead, experience life to the fullest, live life with no regrets, and enjoy yourself while you are abroad!

Towsif Aziz
Strathclyde University
Scotland, UK

Friday, May 20, 2016

Matthew and Ash in Glasgow!

We have another first at There Be Dragons: our first audio submission!  Check out Matthew Froehling's pictures below while you listen to him give you the full run down of all things Glasgow: transportation, shopping, traveling, school, registering, eating,'s all covered!  Matthew and his dragon buddy Ash studied at Strathclyde University this spring.

Glasgow's own rugby team, The Warriors

Tulips from my trip to Amsterdam

Ash with his older cousin in London

Embracing my inner Viking in Dublin, Ireland

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sara and Samwise in New Zealand!

How To Be a Kiwi in 6 Easy Steps

Step 1:  Travel (to the FUTURE)


As much as I love flying, 16 hours in a plane can make anyone a bit stir-crazy.  Add the excitement and anxiety of going to a different country to the mix, and it’s a wonder I was able to sleep at all on the flight!  I also thought crossing the International Date Line would be a bigger deal.  Not that I was imagining a bright dotted line in the middle of the ocean, but I thought someone would at least make some kind of announcement.  I did get to see quite a stunning sunrise from the plane, complete with a lightning storm in the distance!  

Sunrise over Australia

One of the many famous sculptures on the Wellington Waterfront

A bit of the scenery on my walk to school

Step 2: Meet the locals

New Zealanders on the whole are quite friendly and always willing to help out their neighbors.  They have also done well in respecting the Maori community and culture here, and kept many of their traditions alive even in a modern, more Westernized perspective.  Wellington is known as the “artsy” city, and Kiwis get creative when there is little space to work with.  About half of the buildings have old, elaborate architecture (as you would expect in the city’s center), but with more modern and minimalist buildings and skyscrapers sandwiched in between or even added to the top.  It makes for an interesting mix.  Most walls are covered in murals and colorful graffiti.  You can also find festivals, fairs, and markets nearly every weekend!  I’ve noticed that people (including myself) feel very safe here.  Children and teenagers are often seen running around the city on their own or with friends in the afternoons and early evenings.  I haven’t travelled to the South Island yet, but the North Island feels like one big community.  I think because the country is quite small and isolated, it gives New Zealanders a more immediate connection that larger countries don’t have on the same scale.

The famous Colossal Squid on exhibit at Te Papa Museum of New Zealand

An old Maori saying.  They believe in honoring their connection with Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, and Ranginui, the Sky Father.

The view of Wellington City from Mount Victoria's summit

Step 3:  Have a love-hate relationship with hills.  And wind.

Almost everything is within walking distance, despite all of the hills.  There are so many in and around the city that it is impossible to see far ahead unless you’re at the very top.  Once you do get to the top, the view suddenly hits you out of nowhere, knocking out whatever air is left in your lungs.  It’s full of strange, abrupt changes in scenery that somehow fit and add to the city’s charm.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

Anna and Pippin in Scotland!

Hi everyone! I’m Anna and I’m currently studying at The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland with my dragon Pippin! 

Pippin and I enjoy a rare sunny day in Scotland at Loch Lomond.

I’ve been in Scotland for just over three months, and I still have trouble forming the words to describe it. Nothing I say can capture the beauty, majesty, history, heart, and pure magic that this country has to offer. So far I’ve been to all seven major cities, visited numerous small towns, traveled all along the east and west coast, ventured up into the islands, and wandered around some amazing glens, parks, and forests. And despite all that I’ve done and all that I’ve seen, I still want to see more.
If you’ve talked to me in the past three months, you might not know exactly what I’ve been doing or where I’ve been, but you will know this: I am madly in love with Scotland. I would say that I won’t be satisfied until I see everything this country has to offer, but even then I think I would still be yearning for more. It’s already begun, of course: my friends and I are now not only planning trips to places we haven’t yet been, but also trips back to the places we’ve already visited and fell in love with (Loch Lomond, I’m lookin’ at you). When I look back at the past three months, I’m filled with nothing but happiness. Of course, there were things that went wrong—bad days, poorly planned outings, the worst weather I’ve ever seen, etc, etc, etc—but I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had had for a million perfect days.

This dragon sits in Irvine on the Ayrshire Coast to protect Scotland from future Viking invasion. Pippin was quite pleased to meet him, but had to stay in my pocket for the picture because it was too windy!

Faeries and magic play a big part in Scottish folklore. If you don’t believe in magic before coming to Scotland, you probably will once you leave. I mean, just look at this water near Luss Glen—there’s no way that’s natural…

Speaking of magic: Hogwarts Express, anyone?

One of the hardest decisions I had to make on this trip was whether to spend my travel time and money on touring Europe as a whole or to spend it on touring Scotland instead. If you couldn’t guess based on what I’ve already written, I chose the latter, and I am so glad I did. If I’d chosen to spend my time on touring Europe, I would have seen a lot of cool places, but I wouldn’t have really been able to experience them. Here in Glasgow, I was lucky enough to find a really great tour company that takes students all over the Scotland, not only to the big cities but also to the most remote places that you would never think to visit on your own. And because the tours are run by a Scot, we not only get to tour around, but also get to hear a lot of great stories about history and local fairytales—two things that are extremely important to Scottish culture. While exploring Scotland I’ve discovered that knowing the history really gives you a new and important perspective on the landscape itself.  It is easy to understand the beauty of the highlands. It is humbling to understand the culture of the people who lived, fought, and died on them. 

The Old Stirling Bridge was the site of a famous battle between the Scots and the English in 1297. The Scots, led by William Wallace (whose name you may recognize from the film Braveheart), used the bridge to achieve an unexpected yet brilliant victory over the English.

My biggest piece of advice to anyone planning on studying abroad would be to really try and experience your home country, not just live in it. Try and learn the language or slang, meet locals, test out all the little pubs and cafés, read up on the history, explore everywhere you can, and most importantly, don’t forget to appreciate the little things. You only get five months (and trust me, it will fly by), so make the most of it.

Study abroad has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life, but even as I still have a little more than a month to go, I already know that it’s also been one of the best.  I left the US in January without my friends, my family, and (most of) my possessions, but I’ll be leaving Scotland without a piece of my heart.
Slàinte Mhah!

“Where ever I wander, where ever I rove
The hills of The Highlands for ever I love”
-Robert Burns (My Heart’s in the Highlands)

Anna Taranto
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, Scotland