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Flip It: How They Think We Can Make the Most of Our Time Abroad

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Susqu chapter.

Disclaimer: Minor edits have been made to the interview for grammar and spelling. The only spelling errors that have been left untouched are anything written in British English. The interviewee will be kept anonymous.

This past summer, I studied abroad in Scotland for a month. During my time, I was lucky in the sense that I did not need to learn a new language. While I had some trouble with heavy Scottish accents, I managed to survive. However, this summer, I do plan on going somewhere where learning a new language is important. As mentioned in my previous interview about studying abroad, which will be linked at the bottom of the article, I noted why research is important.

However, in Scotland, I learned a lot about how to enjoy my time in other places while being respectful. I was not always perfect. I learned art gallery etiquette the hard way, which taught me to be more aware of how loud I can be compared to the locals. But otherwise, I went out of my way to try new things when I felt ready for it. I hiked up a tower, which was super scary, but it was worth the view in the end.

While studying abroad, I met a new friend, and this Scotsman guided me around Glasgow with a lot of jaywalking. (He may have also almost guided us into a moving car by accident). However, I was glad to meet a person who made my time worth it. Therefore, I thought it would be fair to let him speak on how to enjoy your time abroad.

Tell me about you and your cultural background.

My background is mostly Scottish. I don’t actually know too much outside of that, sadly! Most of my family came from Glasgow though we don’t live there. Outside of nationality, I don’t belong to any religious sect, though I do know that my family on my mother’s side was Jewish.

What qualities do you think makes a respectful visitor to another country?

I believe a respectful visitor should have a willingness to learn about other cultures and traditions of the location they’re visiting. I believe one of the most important aspects of this should be allowing your mind to be open to a change of opinion. What I mean by that is that you shouldn’t go to a country/location believing that you know more than the natives. There are still things that they would know that you may have gotten wrong (not through any fault of your own, it may just be outdated or just straight-up misinformation). Another important aspect of being respectful, not only when visiting another country, but in general, is treating others how you would wish to be treated. This should be common sense, though there are some people out there that would surprise you. Don’t treat people who live in a location you’re visiting as if they’re zoo animals, just the same as you wouldn’t want to be treated like that back home.

What are your perceptions of people who study abroad?

I believe that anyone looking for an education should be free to look anywhere they’d like! Say that the country you reside in has little or just less than ideal institutions for studying a subject that you’re really passionate about. Would you not want to look for the best possible location to study in? Anyone should be free to study anywhere, regardless of their background, as long as they meet the qualifications for attending the location they want to study in!

Can you usually tell if someone is not from the area based on how they act? If so, what observations have you made?

For me, it’s sometimes difficult to notice if someone is visiting. For Scotland, the main tourist hubs are the large cities, so places such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling. The obvious tell if someone has come from abroad is that they seem lost or confused about the landscape. The only other tell that I can think of would be that they’re very interested in everything around them! Of course, if you live in a location for your whole life, it may still be interesting, but it would never be like seeing what’s around you for the first time.

What is something you wish people who are visiting your country knew?

If you’re visiting Scotland for the first time, I would absolutely recommend visiting the Highlands as well as the cities. They’re beyond beautiful. As for not immediately outing yourself as visiting, or more likely making sure you don’t annoy the locals, most Scottish people, especially in Glasgow, really don’t like it when you try to put on a Scottish accent. Your results of that could range from slight discomfort to confrontation. To completely flip that last statement on its head now, Scottish people aren’t as aggressive as they’re portrayed! A lot of the people I have met through my years of living here have been really nice and friendly, with only a few bad apples turning up, so don’t be afraid to ask someone for any information or directions (though sometimes deciphering the Scottish dialects can be the most difficult part of asking for help)! Oh, and be wary of what football (soccer in some countries) jerseys you wear around certain areas, as some locations, such as Glasgow, have two teams with some very combative pasts.

Have you ever traveled outside of your home country? If so, what did you learn when you traveled?

I have travelled outside of my home country! My travelling escapades have only taken me around Europe so far, though. I would have to say my favourite place to visit had to have been Italy, though we couldn’t explore much as it was a ski trip with my high school at the time! As for what I’ve learned travelling abroad, I would have to say the biggest lesson is that no matter where you go, always bring both a sunscreen and waterproof jacket, especially in European countries. The weather has never stayed consistent wherever I’ve been, and I’m so bad [at] forgetting to put on sunscreen, then wondering how I got sunburned in 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures. As for interacting with locals, if you’ve met them while out at a bar or just asking for information/directions, unless you are absolutely certain that you’re fluent in the local language, always try asking in a language you’re comfortable with first. If that doesn’t work, a translator may not always be 100% accurate, but it’ll be more accurate than you butchering the pronunciation of a translated phrase (coming from slight experience…)

Regardless of your answer to the previous question, what advice would you give others when traveling abroad?

As for advice when wanting to travel to another country, always look up some information on the country beforehand! Get an idea of where you’d like to visit and the sights you’d like to see. A great thing about travelling to other countries is it’s a great way to learn the language if you’ve been learning it! Just make sure to let whoever you’re speaking to [know] that it isn’t your first language (unless it is, of course). Travelling to a country that speaks a different language that you would like to try and learn allows you to find out what phrases would be the most efficient to learn first as well. There’s always going to be a time when you need to ask where the toilet is, whereas I don’t think I’ve ever had to ask someone what colour their xylophone is. Most importantly though is making sure that you enjoy yourself! Travelling and visiting another country shouldn’t be stressful, so relax and enjoy your travels! Make some friends, make some memories, and make sure that you stay safe. Happy travelling!

I don’t think I could have explained it better than he could. But what I also took away from interviewing my friend is that we will make mistakes. What is important is that you learn from it. Respect is an easy thing, but it definitely helps to know how you can be respectful. What applies in one culture might not in another. Of course, you do want to treat others in the way that you want to be treated, so you should always keep that in mind.

Traveling is going to be a little scary at first. It is a new place, so it is natural to feel that way. Just take your first steps. Before you know it, you might be having one of the best moments in your life.

🧳 Related: Flip It: How They See Us When We Study Abroad
Jena Lui

Susqu '23

To go on an adventure means to set off into a new environment and to take it all in, keeping what is important to you.