JWU North Miami student Jacqueline Gonzalez-Cuba is taking the "study" part of "study abroad" extremeley seriously. Her literary and historical trek through Scotland is magnificent and a lot of hard work.
“Vitally important for a young man or woman is, first, to realize the value of education and then to cultivate earnestly, aggressively, ceaselessly, the habit of self-education.” – B.C. Forbes
Although spending several weeks in Scotland is a dream come true, it’s not all fun and no work. A big component of study abroad is the study part. When I was accepted to the University of Stirling, I was accepted to take two classes: “Scotland the What? Contemporary Scottish Literature and Identity” and “Royals and Rascals: Contemporary Studies in British Journalism”.
Never could I have imagined I would learn as much as I have.
The first day of class is sweaty, sticky palms and a constant knot in your abdomen that won’t waver. You’re afraid you’ll get lost in a brand new campus that is 6 times the size of the one back home. You’re worried you won’t be able to keep up with the class and the heavy coursework. You’re scared the professor may just flat out not like you and your American habits. The anxiety really kicks in when you realize that each class only meets for 3-4 hours over the course of three days and that you are expected to do mostly independent study. As hard as you try to get all your recommended books from the library or bookstore, you’re short the one required novel for the literature class.
Suddenly the panic sets in.
You are required to read a different novel each week and also complete an analysis of the author and have a thorough understanding of the underlying themes. The journalism class is better. The professor’s accent isn’t too bad. But wait, the slides move too quickly, what did it say? I can’t take notes that fast!
Prince Philip once said, “Only a Scotsman can really survive a Scottish education.” I agree. One of the first things I learned is to adapt, and promptly. Between both classes, I learned far more than I expected beyond the subject matter. We touched on the history of Scotland, how literature and journalism have influenced the past, present, and future, the political system, and how Scottish people identify themselves.
Each class also came with an excursion. For the literature class we had a Scotland’s Democracy Trail tour and a visit to The Writers' Museum. During the tour, we visited landmarks that defined the changes in the Scottish political system and why authors chose to get involved via poetry or prose. At the museum, three of Scotland’s poets were honored: Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott.
For the journalism class, we visited the Scottish Parliament and the Holyrood Palace. The Scottish Parliament building has some interesting history in its foundation, including the murder of a servant boy over a fireplace that still sits in the building. Holyrood Palace is known as the official residence of the Queen when she’s in town. It is also famous for containing the bedroom of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the murder of her secretary by her then husband. Just outside the building are the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, and just beyond are the Queen’s extravagant gardens, known to host celebrity-filled parties.
Scotland has a rough history that goes back centuries. When I consider that the United States is only 200 years old and once belonged to the British Empire, I can’t help but think that I have so much more to learn.