Most people who study abroad don’t do it for the academics. They do it to expand their horizons in other ways — to travel, to live independently, and to immerse themselves in another culture.
But there’s another compelling reason to study abroad, and that’s to be a student of another place — of another institution, of another country, and of another people.
This past week, I’ve been slammed with work. I’ve had to write four papers and make a presentation on topics ranging from the implications of Brexit on Scotland’s economy to the prospects of Scottish independence.
And it’s been fantastic. They are all reminders that just as studying abroad can be culturally and individually enriching, it can also be a place of intense academic enrichment as well. For a public policy and economics student like me, to learn about political economy in a place as intellectually interesting as Scotland is a blessing. Since I’m in the Parliamentary Programme, all of our classes are geared toward preparing us for our internship at the Scottish Parliament, which starts in a couple weeks. That means that our classes are a bit like an intense bootcamp about issues in Scottish and UK politics.
To be learning about cutting-edge issues in Scottish politics to which the world is paying close attention — Brexit and the possibility of an independent Scotland, for instance —is a great intellectual feat.
There is such an inescapable culture of scholarship here in my classes at the University of Edinburgh. Professors are intensely interactive with students, class isn’t long but relies on close individual reading, and the professors engage students fiercely by asking and answering questions. When I conduct research for my papers, I keep seeing the names of my professors pop up in interviews at various publications, and I’m reminded that they are the world’s leading scholars in Scottish politics.
It’s something that makes me so excited, as a student and a scholar, to be a sponge in every way — culturally, socially, politically and academically. Cultural involvement lends itself to more academic involvement, and academic engagement informs the way I interact with the culture around me. It’s an experiment that relies on great immersion of every proportion.
Sonali Seth is a junior studying public policy and economics in Scotland this semester.