My name is Sammy Moore, and I am a double politics and philosophy major. I participated in both UCEAP and UCDC, attending the UCEAP program in Edinburgh, Scotland in fall 2021, and UCDC in fall 2022. Specifically, I will be focusing on my time spent abroad attending the University of Edinburgh. One thing that studying abroad has taught me is that traveling has both its upsides and its downsides, but the experiences that you gain are priceless and have the potential to overshadow the negatives.
As a bisexual woman, I entered my term abroad with little fear that others would respect my identity, especially since I would be in Edinburgh, Scotland, a location known for being both accepting of different sexualities and safe for young women. Additionally, my family hails from Scotland, which led me to anticipate my arrival so I could get in touch with my familial roots. Edinburgh quickly became my favorite city; the old buildings, immense history, kindness shown by the locals, and a deep feeling of familiarity not always felt in cities made me feel safe enough to go out at night and be by myself. I fell in love with the city. However, this love was soon tarnished by the reality that not only am I white and so is everyone else, but there is also rampant sexual harassment in the city, especially at night from intoxicated young men. One reason for this is a mentality among European men that American girls are “easy.” While this mentality is much less prevalent in the United Kingdom than in other European countries, it is still present. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the UK is a bit more closely aligned with American values than a country like Italy, which is more conservative.
It became clear to me that awareness is the key to safety, meaning that Edinburgh is not so different from cities in America in this way. On the other hand, it was blatant racism that provided me with the greatest level of culture shock. Coming from an environment like UCSC where there is such a powerful anti-racist sentiment among the student body, I was shocked and appalled to overhear a group of young men mocking foreign tourists in the street. I was even more taken aback when I noticed that no one else seemed to take issue with, or even notice, these actions occurring.
Moments like these were contrasted by the breathtaking beauty of Scotland, as well as the fascinating and unique education and priceless experiences that I was able to accrue during my time abroad. The proximity of Edinburgh to not just the United Kingdom, but Europe as a whole makes travel both inexpensive and accessible, which presents an opportunity to explore in ways that are not possible within the United States. Not only was I able to travel to multiple different countries with ease (like Ireland and England), but I felt safe wherever I traveled (to be fair I am a white straight-passing female which is likely a huge contributor to my treatment abroad).
While there, I learned from remarkable faculty; one of my professors was a member of the research team that broke the Brexit bot scandal! And I was able to join societies (student organizations), for example, the philosophy society and the Edinburgh Political Union, where I met amazing and interesting people from many unique backgrounds. One of my favorite memories from being in Edinburgh was one of the first philosophy society meetings that I attended. It was part of a discussion group series of meetings where the intention was for students to read a philosophical text and then come to the meeting to discuss the reading with other students. The part of the meeting that was extremely novel to me, however, was that it was conducted in a bar and everyone got a pint to drink while we talked. This was quite a different experience to school-sponsored events in the United States, where alcohol is strictly prohibited. I loved this style of meeting, as it was much more relaxed and open, allowing for a greater discussion to be had. People were not afraid to participate, which kept the meeting from growing awkward, or the conversation dominated by a few select voices. It was through this meeting that I was able to meet a new, dear friend. We met the evening of the society event, and that weekend we went on a trip to Balloch/Loch Lomond together, despite only meeting that week. It was one of those experiences that would not have been possible if people were not kind and open to strangers. It was this level of openness that made me truly love Edinburgh.
My study abroad experiences shaped who I am as a person and facilitated my growth as an independent person who has the capacity to take care of myself in a different part of the world, away from my family. Navigating a new country on my own was not easy, but I learned that I am able to do it. My self-confidence and maturity grew vastly during my time away, which allowed me to come more into who I am. Without my time abroad, I would have never gotten to take the time I needed to grow as a person. I also realized that I was living in a bubble, and studying abroad helped me understand what it is like outside of that bubble, both the good and the bad. It is for these reasons that I so highly cherish my time abroad; everything, the ups and the downs, taught me more about the world and how it works. I would be a very different person today if I had remained in California for my entire undergrad experience.