There are so many things that I love about traveling. I love seeing amazing sights, trying delicious (sometimes scary) foods (so far I've tried haggis and escargot), and getting lost on beautiful country roads or bright city streets. However, the thing that I love most about traveling is being able to experience the culture of a place and meet so many people. Last week, I traveled with IES Abroad to the country of Scotland. We were able to watch the sun set behind Edinburgh Castle, see the beauty of the Scottish Highlands through our bus window (the Highlands were breathtakingly beautiful...like a painting!), and we were even able to feed reindeer (yes, they do exist beyond the Christmas stories. No, they don't fly.) at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre!
Although I learned a lot about the history and landscape of Scotland as we explored the larger cities of Edinburgh and Inverness, I came face to face with the people and culture of Scotland in the most unlikely of places...a karaoke bar in Oban.
Oban is a small town located on the coast in the Northern part of Scotland, Oban has a beautiful bay--we saw an amazing view of it from McCaig's Tower--and just a small stretch of little shops, restaurants, and cafes.
Thanks to one of our IES Abroad staff members (shout out to Simon!) we were informed that there was a karaoke bar located somewhere in Oban, but we had a bit of a problem...we didn't know the name or location of it. So, a group of us set out on the hunt for the karaoke bar! After a bit of wandering and stopping for directions about 3 or 4 times...we finally found it! A local Scottish man was standing outside and I could see the look of terror on his face as a crowd of about 20-30 American college students slowly approached the bar. As we entered, I was expecting to see all of the local karaoke singers staring at us with disdain as we encroached on their karaoke turf. However, we were greeted with smiles and many approached us to talk about our experiences in the UK and our visit to Scotland. As the karaoke began, we all joined in singing "Livin' on a Prayer," "Don't Stop Believin'," and one Scottish man even sang an emotional rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream." Although some of us were good friends and some of us had just met or were acquaintances, by the end of the night we were all swaying and singing together, laughing and enjoying each others company.
Even though I was away from my home in London and even farther away from my home in the States, in that moment I felt as though I had a home in Oban.
One of the reasons that I have loved studying abroad so much is because even though I am thousands of miles away from home, I still feel that wherever I go I am welcomed into a new home with new customs, traditions, and cultures that I can experience and learn from. Since arriving, I have gone out of my way to meet new people and learn about their stories and experiences so that I can have new perspectives when I return to America. I can only hope that when I go back to the States I will continue to learn from the people and places around me in hopes that I can teach others the same one day!