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June 28, 2014

Final Reflections

Nearly a month has passed since I have returned from my year long study abroad adventure in Glasgow. These past couple of weeks have been a difficult transition, but has given me the opportunity to reflect on my time in Scotland. In one simple sentence, the past year has been the best experience of my life so far. I could give so many details as to why that is, but to make this blog post a bit shorter I'll only focus on a couple of these aspects.
My two semesters at the University of Glasgow were two completely different study abroad experiences. I enjoyed them both immensely, however, this post will mainly focus on my last couple of months abroad, as it's a bit fresher in my mind.
While the transition into the study abroad program was easy enough during first semester, I made friends quickly and had the opportunity to travel all around Scotland with the International Society at Glasgow, the transition into second semester seemed almost more difficult. I was afraid that since I had really only made other study abroad friends first semester, that were mainly one-semester students, I would find difficulty making new friends. Added to my fear was the impending 9 exams I had coming up in the spring, most of which were worth 100% of my grade. To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to returning for my second semester.
These fears disappeared quickly once I returned. 
For me, every person I meet makes an impact on my life. My friends make enormous impacts on me whether they see it or not. During both semesters I was able to meet fantastic people that I would never have met had I not studied abroad. Second semester especially, I became friends with so many international students, and not just other Americans-though I love and appreciate every American I met. I was able to learn about different cultures and through that was able to reflect on my own culture. The friends I made taught me so much about myself and changed me dramatically, even if it was a simple thing like discontinuing my constant use of the word "whatever" or noticing that, as a Minnesotan, I pronounce the word "bag" wrong. These friends and the people I met abroad are probably the single most reason I am having difficulty transitioning back to Midwestern life and not wanting to think about how I am not returning there next year. To those friends who may possibly be reading this, know that I love you and am inspired by all of you. 
Besides getting over my transition to who I became over there and who I am returning to back here in Minnesota is not the only transition I am nervous about. I begin my last year at the University of Minnesota,  Morris this upcoming fall, and after spending a year at a university where my grades were based completely on independent study on one exam at the end of the year, it is going to be extremely difficult to go back to the typical American routine of having exams every 2-3 weeks in every course.
I am excited to start the next journey of my life, my final year and (hopefully) on to graduate school, as well as saddened that the happiest moments of my life so far happened thousands of miles away. However, I find myself chameleon-esque, and I do believe that I will continue to be happy with my fast-paced and ever changing life. Studying abroad for a year was so worth it, I wouldn't have gotten to know some of my favorite people on the planet if I hadn't. And to those of you reading this who are thinking about study abroad, do it. Even if it isn't for an entire year, do it. It's so worth it.

-Rachael Blais

One last note: I'm embarrassed to say that while in Scotland I only came away with 3 Scottish friends, however, I took the opportunity to meet people all over the world more than I took the opportunity to meet locals. I wouldn't have it any other way; however, if I were to have any single regret from my time abroad, this would probably be it. 




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