Go Study Abroad

Go Study Abroad

Many people say one of their biggest regrets is that they never studied abroad.  This was never top of my list my first three years of school but then I decided since I didn’t get to take a gap year a great way to visit a new country is to study abroad.  I had wanted to do a semester at sea but that was too expensive.  So my senior year I went to Scotland and stayed in a castle for a semester through Wisconsin in Scotland Program.


I went to Scotland in the Fall of 2000 and it was one of the best experiences of my life.  Scotland is a magical place to me.  I loved walking down Princes Street in Edinburgh and roaming around the Highlands and visiting Stirling castle.  The 5 months I spent there flew by.

When I was preparing to leave and planning everything it seemed like I was going to be away for eternity.  I was afraid people would forget about me or that all these amazing things would happen while I was away.  Well all these amazing experiences did happen but they happened to me while I was abroad.

Living in a castle – there were 112 people living in the castle and it was our own little community.  Shared rooms and bathrooms, lunch line styles meals, a shared computer lab, walks on the grounds, everyone pitching in to keep the day to day routine of the castle running.  All students and teachers were from UW schools and the teachers and their families were brought over as well.  If you didn’t want to, you wouldn’t need to leave the castle but of course you do!

Having a Scottish Host family – my host family was so lovely.  They were really outgoing and caring and it was one of my favourite experiences of the trip.  From the little things like having us over for dinner and taking us to Costco to get some snacks to take back to the castle to helping show my family around Edinburgh.  They were always really helpful in showing us how to do things or even dropping us off at the airport for a trip!  I still keep in touch with them today.

Travelling in Great Britain – I travelled extensively around Scotland and even England.  Everything is so close and its easy to travel around.  There were weekends where we would pop on the train and head to London just for the fun of it.  We took group trips to the Lake District in England, my host family took me to York, we spent time in the Highlands of Scotland and again my host family took me to the Isle of Skye.  I was one lucky lady.

Travelling in Europe – We also had an extended leave mid way through the semester where we spent weeks travelling around Europe on our Eurorail pass.  On my trip I flew to Paris and spent a few days there.  Paris never gets old with the delicious food and the amazing sights like the Opera House, Arc de Triumph, Louvre and of course the Eiffel Tower.  From Paris we went to Interlaken, Switzerland where we paraglided off of the Swiss Alps.  From there we headed to Italy – Rome, Naples, Capri, Florence, Venice.  Italy was by far my favourite destination and still is today.  From Venice we went to Innsbrook, Munich and then onto Amsterdam.  It wasn’t quite one of those Conkiti Tours around but we definitely took advantage of our rail passes.

Spending a month in Ireland – our semester abroad finished in late November so what’s a girl to do but travel some more!  I spent the month of December travelling around Ireland and Northern Ireland.  The emerald isle sure is picturesque!  The rainbows, the stone walls, the waterfalls, the sheep, the pubs and the amazing scenery.  Kissing the Blarney stone and seeing the Cliffs of Moher are two of those experiences you wouldn’t trade for the world.  And can I just mention that Ireland gets a bad rap for weather and yes it does rain there but the weather we had in December was amazing.  Brief periods of rain but that brought out the rainbows and the sunshine.

Studying abroad gives students an opportunity to get out of the campus and go experience the world.  It still amazes me how small the world really is and how everything is on your doorstep in Europe.


Nicole LaBarge is a travel expert who has been traveling internationally for over 25 years and she has visited over 115 countries all while working a 9-5. She has lived in England, Scotland, Japan and New Zealand. Check out her detailed destination guides and travel product guides.

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