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