Living Abroad: Glasgow

In Glasgow, Scotland, Michelle Chernack (’16) finds herself lost…and happy about it. 

Scotland3
Scotland’s highlands, where Chernack’s study abroad group spent a week in September.

By Michelle Chernack /// Staff Writer

To cross the street, look right. When leaving a store, a clerk says “cheers.” One pays with pounds, not dollars—no, it’s a currency, not a weight measurement.

So much of my daily schedule is different. But I’ve realized the importance of experiencing that difference. I should know what it’s like to constantly look right instead of left. I should be able to immerse myself in another way of greeting people. I should understand the currency of another country. All of these cultural norms here in Glasgow were so foreign to me when I arrived just about a month ago.

The University of Glasgow in Scotland.
The University of Glasgow in Scotland.

At the local grocery store, Tesco, I asked a sales associate where I might find plastic wrap, a phrase which he did not understand. After a few minutes of struggling to explain what I was looking for, he pointed to what they call cling film. The words we use to describe products sometimes differ, just like so much else in the country.

When walking into boutiques and waiting in queues, the locals talk to one another, and they want to talk to us, too. People make conversation most places I go; sure you might be able to compare that with Portland, but there’s a refreshing twist to it here.

For the first time in my life, even after having traveled before, I felt like a foreigner. In fact, I still do. But there is a beauty that comes with being unfamiliar, confused and lost simultaneously.

We have stereotypes about the Scots, while they clearly have stereotypes about Americans. We can identify one another based on the different sounds of our voices, and the differences of our choices.

I am able to understand another way of life, another way of looking at the world and living in it, but right now, most importantly, I am able to experience it.

I am now able to cross the street as adeptly as the local standing next to me at the crosswalk, and I am able to correctly count my change and know how many pence equal one American dollar (I won’t even go there.) I am able to understand another way of life, another way of looking at the world and living in it, but right now, most importantly, I am able to experience it.

As the Glaswegians say, cheers—for now.

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