We appreciate that studying abroad for a full semester does not suit everyone be it for financial, academic or personal reasons. However, Arcadia also offers a wide variety of programming in the summer that may be more suitable to some students preferences. For this week's "Stories From Scotland" blog, we sat down with one such student, Mary Alice Lange, who is a History major at University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
Mary Alice participated in the Scottish History and Museum Studies Internship program during the summer of 2019 and shares with us her lasting experiences of her time in Scotland, ranging from field trips to historical sites, attending a Highland Games and being introduced to Love Island by her colleagues at her internship. We loved catching up with Mary Alice and hope you enjoy reading about her unique experience in Scotland.
I picked the program because it was honestly like a dream; it was perfect...In terms of Summer programs it was the exceptional choice
Name: Mary Alice Lange
Home School: University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Semester Abroad: Summer 2019
Scottish University: Arcadia Museum Studies & Scottish History Program
Hello Mary Alice; could you tell us a little bit about yourself? When you studied abroad, where and what’s your home school?
I studied abroad in the summer of 2019 on the Museum Studies Internship Program in Edinburgh and my home school is the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.
Why did you choose Scotland and the Museum Studies Internship as your program?
Coming from America, there’s less time depth than you’d find in a place like Scotland as there’s such a rich history and certainly more work done historiography. I picked the program because it was honestly like a dream; it was perfect. You got some work experience, you had the opportunity to study with amazing professors and a big plus is there’s no language barrier. Looking at the programs and comparing them to others it became clear to me early on that the Arcadia Museum Studies was the only one I was interested in. In terms of Summer programs it was the exceptional choice.
Thank you! You did your Internship at the Engine Shed, can you speak a little about that please?
My work placement was in Stirling, a short train ride from Edinburgh. I felt like a real worker, taking a commute and going to the office every morning. Being able to work for the Engine Shed was insane to me, so cool, especially since they are part of Historic Scotland. The people there were amazing and the work they were doing to protect and restore historic buildings and the built environment in Scotland is so important. It was just cool. Being able to see what it was really like working in heritage and the career opportunities that those interests can provide, yeah, it was some of the best experiences I’ve ever had in terms of work.
That’s fantastic. What were your first impressions of Scotland?
I loved it! I felt very at home almost immediately. Everybody is incredibly friendly. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit before and I think the people in Scotland were exceptionally friendly and accommodating. Edinburgh itself is just beautiful! I loved it so much that I’m applying to Grad School exclusively in Scotland for the Fall. I think sometimes you come to a new place and you can feel really disoriented but the landscape and the people made me feel right at home.
How did you find the adjustment experience and settling into your accommodation?
The flat was great. I loved living with people who were also on the program because we were really able to support each other. The accommodation was easy, you guys were a huge help to us, pointing us where to go to get the essentials. Again, it was such a good group of people who were on the program and we all supported each other and we made the transition without any difficulty.
What were your classes like; how did they differ from what you were used to?
The classes were unlike anything I’d ever taken before. Jen and David were really great teachers. For starters, I’d never taken a class where you physically go to museums, exhibits and historic homes and examining the way they presented their histories and discussing why it did and didn’t work. I’d never been in a class that was taking that critical approach which I think is really important to do. Now I can’t go into a museum without critiquing the way that it’s put together! Jen was just amazing; the knowledge that she has at her fingertips about Scottish History. It was amazing to watch somebody stand up there and lecture without needing any notes or rely on the PowerPoint and be able to share the narrative with you was really cool.
I really liked the structure of the classes too. In America there is a lot of busy work and check-in assignments which distracts from the larger point of the class. Being able to come to class, listen to the lecture, absorb it and take notes and work towards something large at the end was much more the style I liked to work to.
What about the Friday field-trips, did you like them?
Oh my gosh, yes, they were so cool. We were really getting out of the classroom. The truth is, the physical classroom space isn’t the only place to learn and being able to go into the places where these histories were being made and they way it was presented was an invaluable experience.
Did you meet any local people during your time in Scotland?
Yeah, I’m actually still in contact with a couple of people that I met over there and I’m sure you remember Lynsey from our year, she met her partner over there and we’re still all friends and he’s been helping me when I’ve been looking at Grad School in Scotland. Everybody from the program still talks and I think there are lifetime connections that have been made, especially when you share such an intense experience in such a short space of time.
And anybody from your internship?
Yup, I still talk to my coworkers and we all follow each other on Instagram; they got me into Love Island!
Did you participate in any of the Arcadia events?
Yes! I went on the Highlands weekend where we got to go see a Highland Games which was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before; grown men in kilts throwing logs which was really cool. We went to see the castle where Monty Python, Outlander and Game of Thrones was shot which was really cool. A group of us went to the Highlands independently but it was nice to have everything taken care of and not worry about transportation. We knew we could just get on the bus and go and see amazing places like Loch Lomond.
How did Arcadia support you through your Study Abroad experience?
You guys were great and so helpful to us. You were always willing to give us suggestions or tips and advice. It was really nice as being completely separated from your support system can be very disorientating but being able to go to the Center if you have any questions or need anything and getting the help you need through people who are kind, courteous and warm was really nice to know that security was there.
What was the hardest thing about studying abroad?
Honestly, I wish I had more time, I think that was the hardest thing for me. It went so quick. I had a massive list of everything I wanted to do while I was there and I don’t think I even did a quarter of it. I really did not want to go home. I was in this amazing place with amazing people so the time constraints for sure were the hardest.
What did you learn most from your experience?
That’s tough because I learnt a lot. I was 19, turned 20 when I was there and that’s an important age. You learn a lot about yourself being apart from your family and friends in this new place about your self-sufficiency which is really empowering but I also learnt I was really passionate about Scotland and that’s where I want to be for the rest of my life. I learned a lot about myself and my strengths but also my interests at what I want to do, it really was an amazing opportunity.
How has study abroad helped your career, academic or otherwise, since returning?
I think this is where the work experience was really important to me. I’ve always loved history and heritage but I didn’t realise how many opportunities I’d have and I also didn’t realise that, although I loved being at the Engine Shed, technical education and outreach isn’t my calling, it was invaluable experience, but it made me realise that I’d rather teach than be in a public facing role. It gave me really great experience in that sector of heritage but also made me realise my interest in other sectors of heritage which was really invaluable. When you’re 19 and 20 you don’t really have that much work experience but in America you’re nearing a point where you have to choose a career path so being able to get that experience was very important for me.
Finally, why would you recommend future students study abroad in Scotland?
I don’t think you could pick a better country to be in. Like I’ve said, in terms of adjustment, the people there will be so helpful and the places you can see are just amazing. It’s beautiful. The heritage and vibrancy of the culture in Glasgow and Edinburgh is really worthwhile to experience.