Don’t Stop Me Now

Did you know that only 37 percent of Americans have a passport? I believe it. My Dad will be 55 this December and he has never had a passport. He wanted to come to visit me in Glasgow, but when I asked him if he had a passport he said “oh, well I guess I don’t”. He’s never left America. Obviously, if he had more opportunities to travel abroad he would, but the man works in Construction and has traveled around America for work more times than I can count. In America, you don’t need a passport to see a lot. You want to see a beach? Go to California or Florida. You want to see incredible mountains, forests, and rivers? Go to Colorado or Montana. Big cities? New York and Chicago. Tropical honeymoon? Hawaii or Puerto Rico. Even for a snowy wilderness trip, you can head on up to Alaska. America sees a lot. It doesn’t have the history of France or Italy but it has so much beauty and ecological diversity within the country. Europe is different. Obviously, America is a huge country giving it advantages but in Europe, you take a vacation to London or Morocco and that is the equivalent of a Spring Break in San Diego or Miami. We are taking advantage of this while living in Scotland. For Halloween, I took an overnight bus to London to stay for four days and last weekend my best friend and I flew to Iceland for a weekend. Here is a little about the experiences.

London, England

My best friend’s boyfriend is studying abroad in London, so we decided to visit for Halloween weekend. We went to all of the amazing London sights including Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Big Ben, Borough Market, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, etc. I don’t think I have a favorite spot, they were all so incredible and beautiful. We ate amazing Indian food on our third night in London. To my surprise, Indian food is the most popular type of takeout in the UK. It was the best butter chicken and Indian cuisine I have ever had. I highly recommend trying Indian food in the UK even if you aren’t a huge fan of that type of food. It was delicious. We also ate at chipotle during our time in London. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss some of my favorite food chains from home like Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A, Panera, Raising Cane’s, etc. so this was a great treat. 

Tower Bridge, London
The London Eye

The Saturday before Halloween we went on a London pub crawl which was such a fun and interesting experience. We went to five different bars/clubs in a group of about 30 people. We got discounts on drinks and free shots from each venue. I am not a heavy drinker but one thing I have found interesting about the UK is that their shots are smaller and drinks are weaker. After some research, I found out that a “free pour” is not a thing in the UK. They measure out every drink and their shot are almost half the size of shots in America. I could not find a reason for this other than it’s the law and it’s just the way America is. I think this goes into the drinking culture in the UK versus America. There is a culture in America to drink until you get drunk and drink until you pass out. Being a heavyweight and drinking to your limit is also hyped up in America whereas in the UK you just drink to drink, it’s really no big deal. I think it was great to see another culture’s view of drinking because it really shows how things in America that may seem defining are really not as important or significant as we think they are. We met some fun people on our crawl. The people in London were so interested to hear about America. They were very respectful about making conversation with us, including us in their conversations, as well as giving us space when it was clear we just wanted to do our own thing. The whole experience was so laid back, it was such a great debut into London nightlife and it was a Halloween I will never forget.

London Pub Crawl

London is definitely different from Glasgow. It’s much bigger, more expensive, more modern and honestly more similar to America. You see more American brands, foods, people, music, etc. I could definitely live in London, but Glasgow is less similar to America making you step more out of your comfort zone.

Iceland (Reykjavik and the surrounding area)

Iceland was the most amazing place I have ever been. I am not exaggerating or bragging. Iceland was incredible. Everyone goes to Rome, Paris, London, etc. Those are the big cities full of history and beautiful sites. You never really hear about Iceland and it was definitely a more expensive trip than a quick bus to London, but it was 100 percent worth it. We planned ahead and saved money specifically for this trip and it was one of the best decisions. First, the food was incredible. Iceland is known for seafood and even though I wasn’t brave enough to try the shark dishes I had lobster, scallops, and saltfish. They were all incredible. The food is a little pricey and drinking in Iceland is much more expensive than other European countries, however, a nice seafood dinner in Iceland is essential. We didn’t drink at all in Iceland due to the cost but also because we rented a car.

I honestly could not imagine visiting Iceland without renting a car. The cities and sites are pretty spread out. We stayed near the Reykjavik Airport in Keflavik which was a 45-minute drive from downtown Reykjavik. the scenic attractions were anywhere from a 15-minute to 2-hour drive from our hotel making the rental car very worth it. We also didn’t have to pay extra fees because you can rent a car with no extra charge at 20 years old. It was the only way to see Iceland and since we were only there for a weekend it was the perfect choice for us.

My favorite places in Iceland were the Brimketill Lava Rock Pool and the Blue Lagoon. We saw a lot of American tourists at these places and it makes sense why. The Lava Rock Pool gives an incredible view of the black rock ocean. The blue lagoon is a hot springs resort with bright blue water. These were some of the most amazing things I had ever seen and created unforgettable moments. 

Brimketill Lava Rock Pool
Blue Lagoon, Iceland

I found it interesting that everyone we met at restaurants and around town spoke English. Icelandic is a complex language and I don’t know how to say more than three words, so I was thankful there were no language barriers. We saw a Costco in Iceland which really shocked me. Costco has basically taken over the world, I’ve decided. In Iceland, they drive on the same side of the road as America but I still found some trouble adjusting to driving. Not only has it been two months since I have driven a car but the signs were completely different. I had to guess what the icons meant and be very aware of the roads because I was in a completely foreign place. There were also barely any stoplights and tons of roundabouts which was an interesting adjustment. The car and speed limits are in kilometers which really threw me off when trying to comprehend my speed and how fast I was going. It’s amazing to say I drove in another country but I had to be on my best driving game the whole time.

After going to Iceland I posted about it on my social media. I got so many messages from kids I haven’t seen since High School asking how I was visiting all these amazing places. I explained to them that I was studying abroad and it’s a lot easier to travel Europe from Europe. I know I am so fortunate to have this opportunity. I also know that traveling while studying abroad is an expense I am lucky to be able to afford. My advice, wherever someone chooses to travel is don’t limit yourself. Take advantage of every opportunity and see everything you can see. You might not be able to go everywhere your friends go and that’s okay. Just do what you can because these are your memories that you will carry with you your whole life. No one can take them away and no one can make them less special if you stay grateful for every opportunity.

Valahnukamol, Iceland

Born in the U.S.A

As a kid, there are so many things you are taught and things you do that you don’t think about. Growing up in America, you are used to getting ice cream at the Sonic or Wendy’s drive-thru, picking up groceries from Target or Walmart, riding in a car to get everywhere, etc. It wasn’t until I moved to Glasgow, I realized there was so much about my childhood that is completely foreign to people abroad. However, the conversation in my Public Policy class last week may have blown my mind the most when it came to growing up in America versus growing up in Scotland.

One of my classes at the University of Glasgow is called Education for Citizenship. It combines public policy and philosophy by examining the relationship between traditional education and an individual’s commitment to their community and political culture. Lately we have been discussing how critical skills and analysis can be taught or used in school for a more well-rounded education. My group was discussing how young children in elementary school can use critical skills at a young age because they are more perceptive than society believes. One of the girls in my group from Scotland was a camp counselor in Wisconsin last Summer and was describing a story where a kid asked her if he had to say that pledge of allegiance. She was explaining how she did not know what to say because she was not entirely sure the point of the pledge of allegiance or what it means to America. The whole group looked to me for insight because most of them did not know what the pledge of allegiance was. I gave a broad explanation and said it was something we would recite in school everyday typically when the school announcements would come on. I also explained it was different from the national anthem which is played at every sporting event even in High School. The group seemed astonished. Some thought it was silly, others declared “indoctrination”. The teacher who had joined the conversation at this point asked me if you have to stand or sit for the pledge of allegiance. I realized I completely forgot about that aspect of the pledge and quickly explained that you stand and place your right hand over your heart. The group seemed even more astonished and perplexed. After that, the rest of the discussion was all about the pledge, the national anthem, America’s patriotism, and how Scotland has nothing similar. The group said they don’t even know what the Scottish National Anthem is or says, they jus know that they have one. I was very entertained by their confusion, but it was eye-opening for me to realize something that I found completely normal, had never questioned in my entire life, and does not cross my mind on a daily basis was shocking to them. When the group was asking me why we do the pledge of allegiance, I did not really know what to say. I had never in my life wondered why people do the pledge of allegiance or questioned the words I was reciting. I told the group about instances in High School when kids would sit for the pledge in protest or when kneeling for the national anthem was a huge national controversy. They seemed even more confused when I explained this. 

After the group discussions ended, the teacher brought the whole class together to share their discussions. She put me on the spot asking me to explain our discussion on the pledge of allegiance. I felt like a lab rat when I recapped my group’s conversation about the pledge of allegiance to the class. Everyone was staring at me like I was either crazy, making the information up, or like they felt sorry for me. I almost felt the need to say “It’s not a big deal! It is just the pledge of allegiance!”, but they would probably not understand.

That moment when the whole class was listening in disbelief is a moment I will remember forever. Not because I was embarrassed or nervous, because being born in the U.S.A is an experience unique to me. I have never lived outside the country before, I have only ever been surrounded by other kids who grew up in America just like me. Being in a new place, where that fact alone makes me stand out from everyone else is an interesting feeling. It doesn’t make me feel bad, it doesn’t make me feel better than anyone, it was simply unique. It will be a silly story to tell for the rest of my life, but on a more personal level, it was something that made me check myself and be grateful for the qualities I have. It sounds cheesy but I felt proud. When I see kids and teens in Scotland walking home from school or sitting on the train with their friends I sometimes stare for a second too long because I cannot even begin to understand growing up in another country. It seems like it would be so weird, but not to them. They probably don’t question it just like I never did. One day I hope they have the opportunity to travel just like me and see that some of the smallest things from their home country have made them who they are, and they should be proud too.

Blog Post 5
University of Glasgow Campus Established 1451
Blog Post 5
University of Glasgow Campus Established 1451