The ins and outs of the Scottish culture and country
About three years ago in 2013 I took a trip to Scotland with my high school. My high school does an exchange program with another high school in Scotland every year, and I got the chance to go. Thirteen Americans and thirteen Scots host each other and from the very beginning, the trip was amazing. From February and up until it was time to
leave in June we had a ton of preparation meetings to attend. The meetings covered the basics, how to get a passport, how to put money into a bank account and use it overseas, etc. Well, the day had finally come, and it was time to leave. We all met at the airport in Raleigh-Durham International Airport at six in the morning, said bye to our loved ones and went through all the necessary airport checkpoints.
When we finally got on the plane, I was so scared. I had never been on a plane before so I was very uneasy. My friends reassured me everything would be alright. As the plane was lifting off I was expecting a much larger incline, but it was fine. Everything felt normal, so I just tried to relax on this 14-hour flight. When we finally arrived in Scotland, we had to wait for a bus to come pick us up. The bus finally came, and then we spent four more hours on a bus driving through Glasgow trying to make it to our destination in a timely manner. Our destination was Oban, Scotland which is a small town right on the edge of Scotland by a major fishing port. Each one of us Americans had been paired with one of the thirteen from Scotland. They were our hosts. I met mine, and she was just darling. We had so much in common, she showed me around her classes and her school and explained to me their school system. There are so many differences in the schooling system it’s unbelievable! I sat in one of her classes with her; it was her English class, and they were reading Hamlet (okay maybe not so different). They walk everywhere in Oban since it’s a small town, so we walked about 3 miles to her house. All of the Americans said goodbye to one another, and we would see them in a few days for planned activities. The first few days we were free, and the host families’ can do whatever they wanted to do with us. So, I met her mother and her sister. Her dad was a fisherman and wouldn’t be back for a few days since he was out at sea. Their houses, for the most part, resemble America, but their bathrooms are something else! Everything is separated: the toilet, shower and sink have their own room!
The most intense part of the trip was the food. The food was so different from American food. One day, we had a formal dinner to attend with all the thirteen scots and thirteen Americans. The menu consisted of two options, fish and Haggis. I do not really like to eat fish, so I got Haggis, I thought it sounded nice whatever it was. The food came, and it looked just like meatballs and some rice. I tried my first bite, and I about threw up. One of the Scots then laughed at me, and I asked if I had something on my face. And the guy said, “No, do you know what you are eating?” I politely said “No” and he laughed some more. Intrigued I asked, “What is it?” He is non-stop laughing at this point and then whispers… “Sheep testicles.” I about died and had to excuse myself to go puke a little.
They also have a McDonalds, which I figured they would, McDonalds is everywhere. But their chicken doesn’t taste like chicken. Their burgers are really grainy, and their drinks are less carbonated. The food was a definite culture shock.
My favorite part of the whole trip was going with the whole group kayaking right off the coast of Scotland. There was this big cliff that is known for jumping, and we all got in line to jump off the cliff, and I did it! I was so proud I did that! Another thing we did was go to a Ceilidh which is a Scottish dancing party. They showed us all the famous Scottish dances, and we tried to mimic them. Another fun activity was going to tour all the castles in Scotland; that was a thing my host family did privately with me. We also drove out to Skye where my hosts grandpa lived, and that was the most beautiful place. Mountains on one side, and ocean on the other side. It was so serene; I would go again in a heartbeat.
For anyone who is curious about traveling, or is just thinking about going abroad, DO IT! It was so much fun to experience another culture from our own, although as soon as we landed I went to the nearest McDonalds and ordered a BigMac. Learning about other cultures, especially your own heritage is such a joyful process. Do study abroad, do take trips, explore, because you only live one life, make it count!