One major international event that occurred semester was the Ethiopia plane crash and the subsequent banning of the Boeing 737 Max. It was a major shock to hear about the plane crash. Due to the results of that investigation, many countries decided to suspend the use of that type of plane, which affected many airlines and flights. A few weeks after the incident that made international headlines, a man came up to me at a grocery store and gave his sympathies to me regarding the accident, stating that there were many Chinese nationals on the flight that crashed. I was very taken back, first by that the fact itself, and second, I found it weird that he was apologizing to me since I a from the same ethnicity, but I have no connections to anyone or anything from that crash. After talking to one of my professors, it was interesting to learn that China has been increasing their presence in Africa, especially in Ethiopia with manufacturing and helping with infrastructure. It is astonishing the level of globalization there is. One plane crash, the second of that type of plane, caused the recall of the type of plane, which affected so many different countries.
A lot of tragic events has happened this past semester from the shooting in New Zealand to the bombing in Sri Lanka. While I’m not saying those are not equally as important and devastating, the school shooting at UNC shocked me the most. Maybe it is because the incident occurred on their last day of class, and I, myself, was in the last week of classes as well, but it hit close to home. It is sad to know that this sort of violence doesn’t just occur in the US. A few months prior, there was a school shooting in Brazil where 5 students were killed. It made me think that this could have occurred in any campus, even my campus and there would have been no effective way to prevent it. It is sad that we now live in a time where school shootings have to be prepared for. I remember back in elementary school the only drills we practiced were the fire drill, tornado, and earthquake. But, as I graduated to middle school and then to high school, we were shown a video about the Columbine shooting and then we gradually had regular drills for what to do in case we had an active shooter in the building. Every student in my high school is issued a student ID during registration before school starts. Even though we had them, we never really used them unless it was for standardized testing. That all changed after the Sandy Hook shooting. It then became mandatory that all students must be always wearing their ID on a lanyard around their neck and must be always visible and doors between school buildings would now be locked so students must show their ID to a camera in order to be let in. While some students found creative ways around the regulation such as printing their ID on a t-shirt and wearing said shirt around, it was sad how this was now part of the daily routine. Teachers in first period now had the responsibility to check that every student had their ID with them every single day. Now in college, I still carry my ID everywhere to be let into buildings and for exams, but on such a large and open campus, there is no way to prevent a person with bad intentions to getting on campus. Just this semester, I had to listen to multiple professors at several different points throughout the semester to address another school shooting, thankfully elsewhere, and one professor even spent precious lecture time to discuss logistics on what to do if an active shooter entered our classroom. It is sad how frequently school shootings are occurring. I don’t know if they are occurring more, or if the media is reporting these types of incidents more publicly. A school should be a safe environment to teach the future generation. Instead, it has turned into a place of potential fear.
Near the end of the semester, I attended a talk called “Jihadi Salafism and the Decline of ISIS: What’s Next?” by Cole Bunel, who is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Islamic Law and Civilzation at Yale Law School. Especially since this talk occurred a few days after the incident in New Zealand, it was interesting to hear Dr. Bunel’s opinions the relationship between the mosque attack and ISIS’s need to retaliate with an attack in Sri Lanka. Even though ISIS has lost major cities, they are still organized and Dr. Bunel believes that they will most likely retreat and keep fighting. At the end of the lecture, there was an open question and answer session. During it, a debate broke out between two adults. One adult, a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman brought up a point that when researchers present to the public, they need to be careful about using Arabic words since the media can twist it. For example, the word “jihad” means struggle in Arabic, and the Arabic woman said that back in her home country she would use that term multiple times a day, but now media has twisted the meaning of the word so that when people hear it, they associate it with terrorism. She says that she is fearful of speaking Arabic in public because of other people’s assumptions. Another man, an ex-Muslim from Turkey, interrupted and counter-argued that we should create another language for researchers just because the public is misinformed, but rather we need to use it more often to educate people. While this man has a valid point, he presented his argument very rudely. I think that both people have valid points. Non-Arab speakers often associate foreign words in the context, and most Americans usually only hear Arabic words from the media about terrorism. We need to educate people to understand that words are part of a language to communicate and just because a terror group uses a language, it doesn’t mean that all people who speak that language or that language is bad.
As part of being on the ICDG Exec Board, each member is supposed to host discussion with a professor event each semester. After some coordinating, I was able to host a discussion with Dr. Mains, who is an Anthropology professor and a Fulbright Fellow in the Honors College. His research focuses on the youth and infrastructure development in Ethiopia. Dr. Mains was kind enough to forward a few articles on the topic before the discussion. On the night of the discussion, we actually had a much higher attendance than expected and many people asked well-thought questions. It was interesting to learn about the conflict between Ethiopia and Egypt regarding hydroelectric dams. Ethiopia is upstream along the Nile River compared to Egypt. Due to their want to increase their economic development and meet their need for more electrical power, Ethiopia is planning on building one of the biggest dams. This creates concern for Egypt, who is downstream of the dam, and heavily depends on the flooding of the Nile River to support their agriculture and survival. Only time will tell how these two countries will resolve the conflict. Dr. Mains drew an interesting parallel how a few decades ago, the United States outsourced their manufacturing to other countries such as Mexico and China. Now, China is considered a powerful player and is outsourcing their manufacturing to Ethiopia. Despite the parallel, Dr. Mains doesn’t believe that Ethiopia will become a powerhouse any time soon. I had a fantastic time discussing with other students and Dr. Mains about Ethiopia’s development.
This past semester, I had the great fortune to be on the ICDG Exec team and be a co-moderator with another GEF fellow. While our group size was smaller than past semesters, we had some very interesting discussions. We had a couple international students in the group this semester, so it was very interesting to hear from their perspectives about global events occurring in their own countries and how the media can put a different spin on events. One girl in my group, her parents are from Pakistan and I learned a lot from hearing her talk about the recent events of the tension between India and Pakistan. In the past, I’ve always been aware of the long conflict between the two countries, but I never fully understood how the conflict originally began. Especially with the current political climate, a lot of the discussions were mainly focused on national news. Near the end of the semester, we had a lot of fun debating and predicting about the presidential candidates. I am looking forward to my last year of ICDG starting next semester!
The University of Glasgow is one of the oldest and gorgeous campuses in the world in my opinion. The main building looks like a real castle with its famous cloisters. It also is one of the best universities in the world. Being an urban campus, it took some getting use to crossing all the streets and not being ran over by cars. Their grading scale is very unique which reflects on their educational values. They take a much more independent learning style. Before I came here, I thought that my learning was pretty independent since I read the textbook and study my notes outside of class without the professor’s prompting. Here, the education is very much hands off for the professor. Besides the lectures, the professors give a list of suggested readings for the students and it is up to the student and his or her interest to find the books and articles and learn about those topics. Also, very few classes give out homework. Besides my Gaelic class, all my other classes grades were determined by one to three essays and that was it. For my Year 1 music class, my entire grade was based on two essays. The grading scale I feel like is very subjective. Each letter grade is broken up into bands. So there is A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1 , B2 and so on. For some reason only the letter grade A has five bands while the rest of the letters only have 3. Also, the grading system isn’t based on percentages. It isn’t like my home university where all the points are added up and divided by the maximum points to get the final percentage and a letter grade is given based on the percentage. (I’m going to finish this later)
It is currently really late on my last day in Scotland. I can’t believe that a whole semester has gone by so quickly. Two years ago, if someone told me if I would be studying abroad in college, I would have thought they were crazy. Now, it has been one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life. I got to meet so many people from different backgrounds through my flatmates, the international friends I met at university, and talking to the locals. I learned that even though two countries may speak the same language, there is still definitely a culture shock living in another country. Even then, there is still a slight language barrier. While two countries have the same word in their languages, their meaning may be very different. One of flatmates told me the story where she tried to compliment someone on their pants, but the word ‘pants’ in British English refers to undergarments. One of my most favorite memories from this study abroad is having all my flatmates sitting in the kitchen area and we are all talking about the differences in our countries and sharing traditions. On Thanksgiving, all the Americans in my flat hosted a Thanksgiving dinner where we cooked a traditional meal (except we had chicken instead of turkey because we couldn’t find a turkey nor had the time to cook it) to give the other international students a taste of an American holiday. In turn, the Australians made us try Vegemite, which I found out that I like quite a lot. It was fantastic to be able to learn and experience a little bit of various cultures around the world. This study abroad has made me appreciate everything I have back in the US. It definitely was an interesting experience and sometimes a challenge navigating a different educational system and values. It definitely took some adjusting. I’m definitely going to miss all my flatmates, but not the 4 pm darkness. Bye Scotland! Hopefully, I will be able to visit again soon. (I’m probably going to do some massive editing on this post when I’m more awake and don’t have a plane to catch in a few hours)
With how my final exams schedule turned out, I was finished with all of my exams during the first week of the two week exam session. Luckily, I got to go to Belfast in Northern Ireland for the weekend. A classmate and I took a bus to the coast of Scotland where we took a ferry boat to Belfast. The ferry boat was one of those boats where the vehicles could drive onto the boat and the rest of the ferry was more like a cruise boat with a restaurant, arcade, and a cinema. Belfast a beautiful coastal industrial town renowned for its shipbuilding. I learned that the Titanic was actually build in Belfast right behind the Titanic Museum. The museum was very informational and interactive. It even had a small ride like those in Disney World! I was shocked to learn that shipbuilders had to climb over 30 feet each day for over a year, but there was only 8 deaths. One of the nicest things about Belfast was that there were guide posts every few blocks to help point pedestrians to all the main attractions. We took a Black Taxi ride where the driver took us to a Protestant neighborhood and a Catholic neighborhood and told us about the history of the feud that led to a lot of bloodshed. It was shocking to see that the wall between the two neighborhoods is still standing today and that there are only 3 gates along the wall that allows traffic to flow between the two neighborhoods. Each night, the gates are closed, creating an over one mile distance apart from the neighborhoods, one way to discourage attacks. While many outsiders wonder why the wall, which is three layers high, still stand even though the violence between the Catholics and the Protestants has massively decreased since the Good Friday agreement, the residents of both neighborhoods view the wall as a protective measure against bombs. Both sides carried out attacks on innocent civilians. The wall is covered in painted murals that depict national and international peace leaders and movements. As I walked along the wall, I was surprised to learn that Bill Clinton, a former US president, was involved in having the Good Friday Agreement passed. It made me realize that we live in a world of interconnectedness and that even an agreement for a national conflict has other international influences involved. It was really cool to be able to visit both Ireland and Northern Ireland and see both perspectives of the story. It shows that sometimes there is no black and white, good or bad, but rather shades of grey where all parties hold some responsibilities.
I had the fortune to be able to visit Ireland with some of my flatmates. We completed our own modified version of the Ring of Kerry, a popular car route that circles around Ireland. We rented a car and was able to drive around Ireland in four days. The first stop on our trip was Dublin. Unfortunately, since I had class that day, I had to take a later flight to Dublin and missed out on truly being able to explore Dublin. I was able to visit Trinity College, whose library contains the Book of Kells. Walking around the gorgeous campus, I was reminded of my senior year in high school, visiting all the different college campuses around the US. Speaking of college, it is interesting that in the US the words ‘college’ and ‘university’ are interchangeable, both meaning higher education after high school. In the UK, ‘college’ is an intermediate school after high school where students study for their entrance exams for university.
Next, we drove to the Wicklow Mountains where we had a fantastic hike in a gorgeous park. In between the mountains, there was a crystal blue lake where we took many group photos. As we drove away from the park, all of a sudden the trees just disappeared. All we could see were rows and rows of tree stumps. It was devastating to see deforestation ruining a nature’s beauty. Afterwards, we drove to a place called the Magic Road where supposedly when the car is in neutral, it will be able to drive up a hill naturally. There was a brief moment where our car indeed did this phenomenon, we were unable to replicate it. However, the most memorable part was drive along the road in the night and seeing these glowing eyes staring back at us in the dark. As we slowly approached, it turns out it was actually sheep. We laughed so hard out of relief.
Our next big destination was the Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs were a breathtaking view. People are able to walk along the edge of the cliffs for miles. There was a barrier built with a sign that highly suggested that people stay behind the barrier, but many people ignored that and walked on the outside side of the barrier. Since it rained that morning, the ground became muddy and very slippery. It was somber to see a memorial built next to the cliffs in honor of those who lost their lives at the Cliffs of Moher. We remained there watching the sun set. It was definitely a great bonding experience.
One of our last stops was to Sean’s bar, supposedly the oldest bar in Ireland dating back to 900 AD. That was the place where I first tried Guinness beer, Maybe I’m just not used to drinking beer, but I found it to be very bitter. Overall, my trip to Ireland was one of the best trips I went on. I saw beautiful scenery, learned more about the country, but most importantly I got to experience it with my flatmates.
Since the semester is coming to an end, which means that my time in Scotland is ending as well, I decided it is a good time to talk about all the trips around Scotland I’ve taken. At the beginning of the semester, I took a trip around the Highlands. We stopped briefly at Loch Lomond. On that day, the water was so clear and calm, the water was like a mirror, creating a perfect reflection of the mountains and trees that surround the lake. I learned that Loch Lomond lies on the Highland Boundary Fault which is a physical mark that discerns the boundaries of the Highlands and the Lowlands. The Highlands is geographically marked by high mountainous terrains. We also stopped at Loch Ness, trying to see if we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of Nessie. The Highlands is a gorgeous place. It is great for a road trip with winding roads through mountainsides and valleys. With having a sheep population of twice the human population in Scotland, the sides of the roads were scattered with roaming sheep. I’m impressed that the sheep are able to survive and navigate the steep and rocky mountainside terrain. It is a very peaceful place with houses scattered far apart, tucked away in the valleys. I was even able to see some Highland cows, or Highland coos are they are called in Scotland.
Unlike the black and white regular cows that we typically see, the Highland coos have shaggy brown coats with long horns (insert photo). The people who live in the Highlands seem to have a very peaceful life living in the quiet mountains and tending to their sheep. On the way back, we were able to stop at a Eilean Donan Castle. As I toured the castle, I learned about the rich and long history this castle had. It was built in the 13th century and was the site of many feuding Highland clans. This castle stood standing until it was destroyed during the Jacobite Rebellion. In 1919, Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap decided to restore his family’s castle. The castle is situated on a little island where three lochs intersect. A bridge was built for easier access to the castle. Based on its location, this castle was very picturesque even though it was gloomy and raining when I visited it.
Eilean Donan Castle
A few weeks later, I had the fortunate opportunities to travel to the Isle of Skye. It is a gorgeous island near the very north west corner of Scotland. People claim that during the winter months, it is possible to see the Northern Lights from there. Before the bridge between mainland Scotland and the Isle of Skye was built, the only way to get to the Isle of Skye was by ferry. If the weather was rough, people would have to wait at the harbor until the storm passes. Thankfully it only rained heavily during our travels to the Isle of Skye and not during our visit of the island. The island is gorgeous. We got to visit a beautiful bridge and stream and even got to see a rainbow created by a waterfall coming out of the side of a cliff. One of the most arduous parts of the trip was a hiking trip to the top of a viewpoint that allowed us to see most of the island and a part of the ocean. I had one of the best fish and chips meals at a seaside town called Portree. That place is one of the most beautiful and untouched by society places I have ever been to.
Isle of Skye