Facing Challenges Abroad

I would like to apologize for the delay in this post. Midterms and spring break proved to be a very hectic time and I was unable to post this when I wanted to.

This post is dedicated to the challenges and lessons I have learned so far from attending St Andrews and being in a foreign country in general. While I have been having a great time at St Andrews, I have face challenges that I had to overcome.

The first challenge was making friends. In the beginning, I was very lonely. I initially gravitated towards trying to make friends with the other study abroad students, but it quickly became apparent to me that my interests did not align with theirs. They wanted to go out and party every night, something that I do not enjoy doing. After being ignored, I decided that I needed to reach out to the other students in my corridor. I have been extremely lucky that the students in my corridor (hallway of my dorm) are so friendly and nice. After reaching out to them, having conversations in the kitchen when making meals on the weekend, and being invited to sit with them at meals in the dining hall, I quickly became friends with many of them. They have all become my close friends and I am very thankful to be meeting students from different countries who are kind and include me. My friends come from England, Scotland, Malaysia, South Korea, Germany, Ireland, and the U.S. I have been able to learn the customs of each of their countries, in addition to the customs of St Andrews and Scotland as well. This has enhanced my experience and allowed me to become integrated into the culture of St Andrews, along with having a better understanding of different cultures.

School in general has been a large challenge as well. Understanding how the grading system works, what the expectations are for assignments, and contacting professors are all issues that I have to deal with. The grading system is on a 20 point scale and the conversions to A B C grades are a little complicated. Expectations on assignments have been one of the biggest challenges. Since I am considered a “third year,” many of the classes I am taking are upper-level. This means that the professors expect that, since you are an upper-classman, you know all of the rules and expectations regarding assignments. It also means that you have been taught certain curriculum before that carries over into the upper-level classes. I found that out through my math class. I did not do well on an assignment because I solved a problem using the wrong method, despite getting the right answer. Most students knew the method because that is what they had been taught in previous years. I, on the other hand, had no clue that the directions implied a certain method. After talking with the professor, I learned that nothing could be fixed. Being a perfectionist, this frustrated me. There was nothing that I could do about it and I learned a valuable lesson from the experience. In order to provide clarity on expectations, I was going to have to ask questions. This has always been a struggle for me, but I have had to go outside of my comfort zone in order to be successful and get the answers I needed.

I of course miss my family and friends back home as well. Thanks to technology, I am able to keep in contact with them very easily. My grandmother has also continued to send me care packages just as she does when I am at Whitman! These always make my day when they come.

St. Patrick’s Day-themed care package from my grandma!

Moving to a foreign country always has its challenges, but learning how to deal with the challenges has allowed me to grow as a person. By learning the culture of St Andrews, making new friends, and stepping out of my comfort zone, I have been able to better myself and gain an understanding and new perspective of the world around me.

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