Monday, April 20, 2015

Wendel and Danny in Scotland and Beyond!

How do you write about an intangible idea? You could start internally with how it makes you feel: I felt like I was part of a family I never met. You could talk externally about the people you met: they were diverse, caring, trusting, and eternally optimistic. You could also describe the experiences that occurred: hiking, bungee jumping, St. Patrick’s Days, etc. Even with all these descriptions you would miss the fleeting moment/idea that I feel embodies what study abroad is about. These moments can’t be captured in a Facebook post, Snapchat, Instagram, or video. You try to give the feeling to others who can’t experience through blogs, postcards, or letters. However you know inside that the memories you have are the only traces left to accurately embody it. With that being said take this post as a humble offer from a family member you are meeting for the first time. Reading through some of the previous blogs I feel honored to be included in a group of adventurous people.  

My study abroad experience has gone through so many phases in my short time. Arriving in Glasgow, Scotland with my dragon Danny, we were very overwhelmed. The Glaswegian accent is quite thick. Every conversation was like a blind date. I never really knew if a person was genuinely nice or putting on a fa├žade. I can safely say now that almost everyone is genuinely nice and wants to help you. Additionally completing simple task felt like a chore requiring much effort. From simple things such as buying bedding sheets to ordering a meal, I was constantly challenged. It’s crazy how missing one or two words can completely lose the substance of a sentence. 

As I progressed I quickly became comfortable. And this sense of family began to take shape. The easiest way to describe this is through the lifestyle emphasis. In most situations the US tends to stratify people increasing the power-distance. The US is like a hotel and the UK/Europe is a mall. The penthouse of a hotel is the best, nicest room. It is physically at the top of the hotel and financially only people who are in the top tax bracket can afford.  Therefore only people with a lot of power (money) can get into the penthouse.  The mall is not equally divided, but there is much less distinction between the rooms. So this brings us back to the family feeling. Every time except one, in Dublin, I have stayed in someone else’s residence.  I love staying at bed and breakfasts (B&B).  My first B&B was at Fort Williams in Scotland. Our host Ann was very accommodating. My roommate and I, whom I traveled with, talked at length with here during breakfast each morning and learned much about the Fort Williams area. 

Cold winter mornings at the B&B

Currently I just returned from spring break. If Megabus had frequent rider miles I would be in the platinum club! I traveled to London, Paris, and Barcelona. London was quite expensive and overrated in my opinion, I prefer Glasgow if you are going to endure bad weather. However Paris and Barcelona more than lived up to their hype!!

Danny made a new friend!

 I was even lucky enough to experience Holi in Barcelona. If you are an arts major I feel you should be required to visit both cities! The Louvre Museum is so huge and contains a lot of history, and Barcelona is a living tutorial of how you should design any large scale project. In both cities I met amazing people who had such a different perspective on life. I was quite jealous of how they could be so satisfied with much less than I am accustomed to. 

That's my "I barely survived Holi" smile

My highlight of spring break was the Saturday in Barcelona where I spent the day on a bike tour and the evening having a rooftop tapas dinner.

Planning my return to Barcelona

It was a great time to reflect on my time and how fortunate I was to be abroad. That night on the rooftop, I was almost able to capture that intangible idea. It came up in a conversation with the hostess of the dinner. Looking out at Montjuic I told her how different our perspective of tonight was. It was my last night in Barcelona and was quite jealous that she could come up every day. She smiled, then looked at me and said “We don’t do this often, plus during this time of year it gets really cold at night.” 

Wendel Ridley
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, Scotland
United Kingdom