“The Experience”

Something I find fascinating about American culture is the need to have “The ___ Experience.” High school. College. Dating. First day/week/month/job/apartment. Study abroad. These Experiences™ are well-documented in books, movies, TV shows, social media, so most of us know what the life we’re “supposed to have” looks like, from Little League and princess dresses to a two-story house with a Golden Retriever. No matter how skeptical one might be, it’s very hard to be an American now and not have at least a fragment of The American Dream tucked away somewhere in the subconscious.

As an introvert, an HSP, a shy person, and a girl with curly hair and glasses, I don’t fit the American ideal. My little rebellious heart doesn’t want to fit the American ideal, it just wants me to be me. I’ve gone my own way (with varying degrees of success) as far back as I can remember, planting my flag in a mountain of books and declaring it my own. But aha – books are a very good, very sneaky (or not) way of talking about The Experience. And so, despite my efforts to turn off the path of the great superhighway of the American Dream, I often find myself on autopilot, merging back on.

And it never feels right when I merge back on. I’m like a mountain bike with a bunch of mud and rocks in my tires suddenly trying to keep up with a horde of sleek commuter bikes. I’m bumping along and I feel very out of place – which is good, because I am. I belong wandering around the mountains (very slowly) instead of zipping from place to place. Zipping around is great – I’m just not built for it.

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Analogies aside, I have my little being that loves walking slowly and soaking things in, and I grew up in fast, experiential culture. And that gets me here to the country I’ve wanted to visit since I learned that castles were real, but somewhere along the way my childhood dream and adult curiosity got muddled in with the idea that I am A College Student™ and I’ve got to have The Study Abroad Experience™.

What I would do here for me and what I would do for The Experience look very different. Briefly, for me I wanted to take some European-style lecture classes, wander around the countryside and the ruins and the old bits of town, and go to music things. What I felt a study abroad student should do here is madly finish classwork to clear up time, leap-frog around Europe every weekend, and join a bunch of adventurous clubs.

I found myself – surprise, surprise – alone in a café, writing and people watching, and realized I was vaguely dissatisfied. Why? I wanted to be doing something more. What? …something. Why? Because I’d compared my list of “experiences” with those of other students and my list was much, much shorter and much less dramatic.

Most days, I wake up early. I go to the gym or run along the River Kelvin, make a cup of tea, and go to my lectures. I’ll spend the afternoon studying, either in my flat, at a café, or in the GU Catholic Association building. Evenings, I go to theological talks or choir rehearsals. It’s a comfortable, calm routine, I like it, and it leaves room for the handful of jaunts I’ve done outside of Glasgow and my many forays into shops, museums, and parks.

My routine is not glamorous. And, unlike the rest of the international students, it seems, I have yet to venture outside of Scotland. I’m definitely not having The Experience. But, as I’m coming to realize, the normal study abroad experience is not for me. It never was, and I used to know that. Realizing it again felt like the sun was coming out (a big deal in gray, dreich Glasgow).

My realization also gave me permission to recognize the experience that I am having. By spending so much time on my own, I’m growing in self-knowledge and self-advocacy. By staying in Scotland, not only am I taking care of myself, I’m learning about the country in depth. By focusing on my studies and tours of museums and ruins, I’m gaining a rich, nuanced knowledge of the last two thousand years of European history with a focus on Glasgow’s West End. I’m having my own experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


Alice Major

SCOTLAND – UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW, 2018 FALL

Alice Major is studying at the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland. She is a double major, focusing mostly on music and adding history because history is cool. Study abroad is Alice’s first time out of the country, and she hopes to come home in one piece and with a wicked Scottish accent.

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Injury, Pain, and Silver Linings

When thinking about study abroad insurance, I didn’t put much thought into it. I didn’t want to think I would ever have to actually use it, but today I get to be the chosen one to tell you how it works. All in all, it was definitely different than how things work in the United States, but wasn’t too bad.

Let’s start at the beginning:

I made a little mistake this week…I landed incorrectly in a gymnastics class I was taking and managed to dislocate my knee. After a lovely trip to the hospital and 4 hours later, I’m dropped off at my dorm with a pair of crutches, a full-leg brace, a useless leg, and a lot of paperwork.

Now here’s what happened:

After I injured my leg and sat with cold paper towels on it (ice doesn’t really exist over here) I didn’t quite know how to seek medical help. My city is a hugely bus-dominant area with no Uber or any sort of online car pickup service. So, unless I wanted to hobble to the bus and cram my dead leg next to some old lady reading a newspaper, I needed an ambulance.

 

 

The first thing the ambulance EMTs did after strapping me into a stretcher was figure out insurance. I had my insurance card on my phone as well as a picture of my passport (they required official identification) and off we went to the hospital, sirens and everything.

Once in the hospital, there was a seemingly unorganized system. I was wheeled into a hallway in front of a door, straight past the waiting room, and just waited for the doctor to open the door. Not sure why I didn’t have to register with the front desk, maybe it was because I was an “emergency situation” or the ambulance EMTs talked to them for me.

Also, note that no one thus far spoke more than 5 words of English. Thankfully, I was with my gymnastics coach who translated.

 

For some reason, the ambulance ride and the x-ray and the small operation they did were all free. Not sure why, definitely not complaining. I did pay full price for everything prescribed, kept every single piece of paper given to me, and filed a health insurance claim the VERY next day. (I highly recommend keeping any sort of paper possible and sending them to your insurance ASAP, while everything is fresh in everyone’s mind).

 

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The unforgettable moment of being rolled down the street in a stretcher

Once with the doctor, I was X-Rayed and poked, then a few hours later was sent away with a PRESCRIPTION for crutches, a brace, and some drugs. Let me highlight that they did not provide them for me. So, being unable to walk, my coach took the prescriptions, and me on the stretcher, and ROLLED me down the road until we found a pharmacy that could fulfill the prescription (paying full price, out of pocket). Then, after I had gotten the goods and could finally stand, we hauled the stretcher back to the hospital.

Overall, the process wasn’t terribly painful (my leg, however, is a different story). If you are in a situation similar to mine, here’s my advice:

 

 

  • Have someone who can translate for you. The doctor spoke English, but the nurses, EMTs, and radiologists didn’t. If you aren’t fluent in the local language, find someone who is.
  • Don’t be afraid to call an ambulance. I was really worried an ambulance would
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    You will get lots of papers. Probably not in English. KEEP THEM ALL!

    clean out my entire study abroad allowance, and almost didn’t go to the doctor because of it.

  • HAVE YOUR INSURANCE INFORMATION WITH YOU. I didn’t have a physical insurance card printed out, nor my actual passport with me. Try and always carry them with you, other places might not be nearly as flexible about this and might refuse digital copies.
  • Be aware that hospitals are different than in the United States. Not everything is as convenient and you might have to work to get necessary supplies for your injury (AKA bring someone with you!!)
  • Keep absolutely everything you are given, and try to get originals. File your health insurance claim as soon as possible!
  • Try to be positive. My European lifestyle was definitely not made for those on crutches. My dorm is at the top of a hill and half a mile from the nearest bus stop. Injuries aren’t easy or convenient, but positive attitudes and optimism won’t hurt anything!

Stay tuned for either a how-to guide on navigating a city on crutches, or (hopefully) a look into the Czech physical therapist department!


Hannah Langford

CZECH REPUBLIC – MASARYK UNIVERSITY, 2018 FALL

Hannah Langford is taking a break from studying Integrated Sciences at DU to study history and culture at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She’s looking forward to exploring the unique geography and outdoor opportunities in the area and the surrounding countries. She’s also looking  forward to eating a lot of chocolate.

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