Three UW-Baraboo / Sauk County students will be attending classes in Scotland this spring, hoping to
expand their cultural knowledge and see a bit more of the world.
The three sophomores, Mauston resident Stephanie Hayes, Nick Quinn of Baraboo, and Sauk Prairie’s Maurissa Myers, will spend a semester taking classes with 49 other students from the University of Wisconsin system, living and learning at Dalkeith Estate, a 300-year-old palace outside the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.
Campus Dean Tom Pleger said UW-BSC is the first two-year campus in the UW System to send students through the program, which is offered through the UW-River Falls campus. This first batch will be gone from late January until early May.
The students will take classes with Scottish and University of Wisconsin faculty, including one mandatory class about Scottish culture and globalization.
Myers, who is focusing her studies on English literature and hopes to transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said she was looking forward to living in a location so related to her area of study.
The historical surroundings didn’t hurt either, she said, and made her feel somewhat like she’d be living in a Harry Potter book.
"There are days I wake up and think, ‘In three weeks I’ll be living in a castle,’ " she said. "I’ll get up in the morning and brush my teeth and eat breakfast but I’ll be in a castle."
Hayes, a member of the paranormal club at UW-BSC, said she was looking forward to her classes — focused mostly on communications — but also to the stories surrounding Scotland and England.
"Loch Ness and the Tower of London and all that kind of stuff really interests me," she said, saying she was planning on visiting Loch Ness, and hopefully parts of Ireland as well, since she is of Irish descent.
Pleger, who as a student was part of the program in 1989, said the Scotland program provided a safe environment for students without previous international experience to explore another country.
"It’s an English-speaking country ... There’s a great support network, you’re living with other American students all living together in the building," he said. "The schedule ... really allows students an opportunity to explore on their own."
Quinn, who plans to study business once he finishes his general studies at UW-BSC, said he definitely plans to travel around Europe while he is there, including to Liverpool and Ireland.
"I’ll get in as much traveling as I can when I’m over there," he said. "I can’t stay in one particular place. I just want to go out and experience as much as I can and learn as much as I can."
Program director Kelsey McLean, who was a student of the program in 2006, said exposure to other cultures also gave students a new perspective on their own countries.
"I walked away with a better perception of what those other cultures are," she said. "But also with a better understanding of what my culture was and who I was as an American."
For example, she said, she noticed that many Americans tended to sympathize with the Scottish independence movement, even when given evidence that the United Kingdom might be benefitting the country.
"With that need for independence and freedom, we’re always kind of cheering on the underdog," McLean said.
Many students who studied in the Scotland program went on to other exchange programs, she said, and even when they didn’t, it was a "transformative experience," teaching students cultural sensitivity, self-confidence, and even flexibility as, for example, independent travels led students into different unforeseen obstacles.
"There’s definitely a lot of individual personal growth that goes on during the semester," she said. "There have been students who come back and realize they want to do something else and changed their major, there have been other students that came back and realized that they were on the right path and pursued that with a renewed vigor."
Myers said she saw the distance as a chance to grow, and learn about herself in isolation from friends and family, one of the reasons she had signed up in the first place.
"I felt like my life had gotten a little stagnant, I’ve always been an adventure monger, so I was like yeah, I need to go," she said.
All three students said it would be their first experience living away from family, as well as their first trip overseas.
"I’ve never even seen the ocean, the first time I’ll see it I’ll be flying over it," Myers said.
"I’m terrified but at the same time I’m excited," Hayes said. "I’ll probably pack and unpack a couple dozen times before I leave."