At the University of Edinburgh

Katie Schmidt overlooking Edinburgh

I’ve always loved to travel and have an itch to absorb as much of the world as I can.

There was a sort of confidence I gained while abroad—a confidence in my ability to navigate foreign environments alone—that helped me grow up and made me realize that I’ll be okay after Cornell.

Katie SchmidtI knew before I arrived at Cornell that I wanted to study abroad. I’ve always loved to travel and have an itch to absorb as much of the world as I can. In my freshman year, I attended a study abroad info session. Hearing about all the possibilities made me even more resolved to go somewhere.

I chose to spend a spring semester attending the University of Edinburgh. I direct enrolled through Cornell and received credit for all four of my courses: Computer Security, Foundations of Natural Language Processing, Scottish Literature, and Scotland and Heritage.

There were three reasons I chose the University of Edinburgh. First, I wanted to be in Europe where I could easily travel to several neighboring countries. Second, I wanted to be somewhere English-speaking because, although I speak both Spanish and German, I didn’t want language to be the focus of my international experience. And, third, I wanted to focus on my major. I wanted to take classes in my major, Information Science, because I was really curious about how technology is taught abroad.

I believe that Edinburgh was a perfect fit because of the excellence of their Informatics program, easy travel to other European cities, and the fact that English is the primary language spoken there.

You’re abroad for a very short amount of time, and it goes by quicker than you think it will. Make sure you’re doing the things you can only do there.

My experiences in Scotland taught me things that I wouldn’t have learned on campus in Ithaca—both academically and in terms of softer, less quantifiable lessons. Learning about Scottish literature and history in Scotland itself was an unparalleled intellectual experience. You can read about political acts like the Scottish referendums or watch movies like Braveheart, but hearing about the Scotland-England conflict from someone for whom it’s personal is extremely powerful.

Katie Schmidt overlooking Edinburgh

In my major I study people, technology, and the ways they intersect. I was particularly struck by the attention on aesthetics and design that I noticed in the European countries that I visited. Getting to see beautiful art, from paintings, to sculptures, to architecture, was a huge inspiration to me. The amount of detail put into even one tile in a cathedral and the use of bright colors and patterns gave me a lot to think about in my own designs.

I found that I had a lighter workload during my semester in Scotland than I'd had at Cornell—meaning that I had free time during the week to explore Edinburgh. I spent this time visiting new coffee shops, checking out thrift stores near campus, or just walking until I got lost. I never regretted the times I made myself get up early to go for a run in a new part of town, or the times I dragged myself out to a pub trivia night with some new friends.

At times during my semester abroad, I felt a sense of isolation—in spite of the fact that I had American friends. I was keenly aware of the ways in which I “stuck out,” particularly as a result of my American accent—which seems to come with its own special set of judgments. Once I got more familiar with Edinburgh and with everyday things like the British currency and which way to look when crossing the road, I felt a lot more like Edinburgh was my home, too, and that I also belonged there.

I also learned that even though the nations of Europe are in close proximity physically, their cultures can be quite different. I was especially impressed by the example of Scotland and England, which—though technically part of the same country—are, in fact, immensely different, with a shared history that is often quite tense.

I loved getting to travel to many different countries to see what they ate and drank, when they ate and drank it, their superstitions, their histories, even their fashions. It reminded me that humans are so complex and adaptable and that there’s really no singular way to live life right.

Going Abroad
Arts & Sciences
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