Thursday, August 7, 2014

There and Back Again: a Retrospective Post

“I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure, and it's very difficult to find anyone.”
“I should think so, in these parts. We're plain, quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things, they make you late for dinner.”

Returning home after the trip was almost surreal. It took about a week for my life to settle down, but when it finally did and I had the opportunity to sit down with a friend and let my mind relax for awhile, we decided to have a three day run of the Lord of the Rings movies, which he had never seen. I had the chance to think through the events of the last couple months. If anything, I think the above quote from the Hobbit describes my life before the trip.

I grew up in a suburb, doing my fair share of city traveling, making trips around the States with my family, but starting college, I’d hoped for the opportunity to study abroad. I didn’t know where or when, but I’d looked at programs as a freshman, hoping that somehow I could fit one into my schedule. For the first two years of school, that seemed impossible. I was told about the Scotland trip almost by accident, and I started looking into it on a whim.

My parents weren’t particularly fond of my desire for international travel experience, but I eventually won them over. It took time, but it worked. Looking back now, I was nervous, but at the time I did my best to hide it. Telling my parents I was worried wasn’t going to get me anywhere.

I can say today, without a doubt, that it was one of the best decisions of my life. Not only did I come away from the trip with international travel experience and a better idea of where I would like my future career path to take me, but also with a sense of mental and physical strength. Life has its twists and turns, and I’ve made it through many of late that I doubt I would have had the mental fortitude to handle before the trip.

As far as career direction goes, though I’ve always wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on others, I don’t think as many of the options were apparent to me until this trip. Medical writing, though perhaps not the most entertaining work to many people, has always held an appeal to me. Work with a medical technology company would be interesting and almost certainly fulfilling.  There are so many companies these days that work with teams around the globe, and I’ve always hoped I would end up working with a project that has a global element. The idea of improving lives on a global scale appeals more than ever, and the trip is no small part of that change.

However, my experiences also opened my eyes to small-scale work and the impact it can have. There isn’t a need to work for a massive corporation in order to impact other people’s lives. Before, I wanted to have a global impact. I wanted to make a change in the world, but remained blind to a number of issues in my own life.

The trip made it obvious: if you want to make a change, you have to start with the problems at home.
By no means does that mean that I’m not interested in a career in global communication, merely that if you want to fix something, you have to start small. You have to understand the roots of the problems through communication with a number of people, the more perspectives the better. I began to realize that making a difference or impacting someone else’s life didn’t have to be done on a massive world-altering scale. Small things, such as the nurse who took the time to explain some of the complexities of the NHS while riding the train or the man I ran into on the waterfront that talked with me about American politics, can make all the difference. Spreading knowledge and information doesn’t have to be on a massive scale to impact the world.

And you know what? That means it’s time for another Tolkien quote: 

“Even the smallest person can change the course of history.”

Maybe in this case, it will be small actions that have a large impact. Only time will tell.

On a concluding note: I am eternally grateful to the people that encouraged me to go on the trip as well as the people that made it possible for me to go. Though it may not be apparent just yet and it may take some time for me to find my path, they have made all the difference in the world. It may not seem like much, but it was the chance of a lifetime.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Return and Reflection

Now that I have been back in the United States for a few days I feel I have had proper time to reflect on my return home, and my time in Scotland. My Final day in the UK has a hectic one, I traveled by train to London, navigated from Kings Cross to my hostel via the underground, visited as many of the tourist sites around London as I could, and made my way to Heathrow airport by train to catch an 11:00 AM flight to O'Hare. When listed all at once it seems crazy, but in the moment i did not feel rushed or stressed, the train and underground made my travels to London and around the city smooth and effortless. Once I was in the city I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see many of the sights I've been wanting to see for a long time. 

First we visited Abbey Road, crossed one of the most famous crosswalks in the world, and stand in the footsteps of The Beatles!
Me crossing Abbey Road
 Next we went to the center of London and got a look at Big Ben, the Thames river, Parliament, and the London Eye.
Big Ben
London Eye and the Thames

View down the Thames
After slowing down to take a look around London the Next 24 hours were a blur. The next thing I knew I was puling into my driveway after a 6 hour drive from O'Hare international airport. After a good night sleep i had some time to reflect on my trip as a whole and what i noticed coming back into the US. I had never been  totally immersed in a different culture like I was during this trip, It brought about a different perspective and got me to think outside of Purdue, Indiana, Ohio, and the US. If nothing else I got to discuss and learn about a different set of social, economic, and political problems. I also learned about how non engineering groups study engineering projects, which I feel is one of the coolest and most useful experiences i will take from my time in Scotland.


Arbroath is a town in Scotland. It is located at North Sea coastal line and has a beautiful harbor. So it is also a good place to visit because I am doing some research and want to know more about the fishing industry in United Kingdom.

It is very close to Dundee, the distance is just 15 minutes of train. After leaving the train station, you will find the instructing sigh pointing out the direction to the harbor and tourist center. But if you don’t, just walking down the hill and the smell of sea will lead you there. On the way to the harbor, you will see a few houses selling smokies, and you know you are on the right track.

The harbor is pretty, with many fishing boats there. There is also a huge seafood restaurant right beside the tourist center. The coolest thing is you can have a real sea tour there! For an adult, you need to pay 25 pounds for an hour tour. It should be fun! I didn’t go to the tour because I didn’t have that much of cash with me. But I went to a bar restaurant and had their famous Arbroath smokie there. It is a popular local dish and the fish is fresh and tasty. You could have either chips or potato on the side with salad, and it only costs you about 10 pounds. I think it definitely worth a try.

Another popular attraction there is the cliff. But I wasn’t able to make it. I went to the pound instead. It is so beautiful and they have many ducks and swans there. It is a nice place for a short walk and you can enjoy the sunshine there.

This place didn’t help me learn a lot on the fishing industry history. However, it is still quite good to visit a local fishing town and to get to know how there looks like. I strongly recommend people going there for a perfect afternoon.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Birds and Boats

I cannot believe it is my last week here in Scotland.  I am incredibly sad to be leaving Scotland so soon. Last Thursday, my class and I traveled to Anstruther on a coach bus and this bus was incredibly comfortable because there were many seats open with only eleven students occupying these seats. Once we arrived in Anstruther, the day was beginning to warm up and there were numerous people who were riding the boat from Anstruther to the Isle of May.  The boat ride was incredible because the ride itself was incredibly calm.  As we continued onto the Isle of May, I saw many birds flying around the island because the island is a preservation for many species.  I saw baby puffins trying to fly in the air only to lift off the ground for a few seconds and the birds then landed back on the ground.   Furthermore, I saw some dolphins swimming around and the boat was about 45 minutes altogether.

After we arrived at the Isle of May, the tour guides gave us a brief introduction about the island and then we had about two and a half hours to explore the island.   They informed us that the Isle has numerous puffins and that we need to stay on the path so we will not step on the eggs of puffins.   As I started my walk up the hill, I accidentally veered off the path and was rewarded by a puffin attacking my face. After this incident, I was able to continue climbing and got to see the birds flying around in their natural habitat.   I got to observe the behavior of these birds and I have never seen so many birds in my entire life.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Scotland has moved from industrial to post-industrial state. One can see the evidences and characteristics throughout the place easily. The capability of being readily notice is the definition for visibility. I am interested in seeing the different aspects of development of Scotland especially about how Scotland is putting effort in being environmental friendly. Therefore, I have chose visibility as the theme for my study abroad program.
Post-industrial - taken from

Since I have decided the topic that I want to focus on, I start to do the research. Then, I have found a surprising fact which is Scotland has been one of the leading roles in sustainable developing in Europe. I have never thought that Scotland would be a candidate for being so environmental friendly and then, I begin to wonder the reasons behind it. After some research, I have found various evidences from small to big or digital to physical objects.
Flag of Scotland - taken from

From my perspective, I think the tone that the Scottish government uses on its energy website encourages its citizen to participate in a series of activities of install renewable energy equipments. Thus, one can see solar panels install on the roof of the individual household. Another visibility example is the hand dryer in the restroom. In Scotland, most of the restrooms provide only hand dryers instead of paper towel. Replacing paper towel by hand dryer will save water, trees and reduces solid waste and the amount of resources depletion. There are numerous case studies conducted at schools to prove that the use of hand dryer is more environmental friendly than use of paper towel produced from recycled materials. The last example that I want to use to demonstrate visibility of being “Green” is the tram in Edinburgh. Tram only relies on electricity to power, so there is zero emission. It also decreases the usage of cars and transport significant number of people to Edinburgh airport.
GREEN Earth - taken from

After being in Scotland for one and half months, I really think other parts of the world should follow it as a paradigm to make Earth a better place to live on. This blue giant, Earth, has once been beautiful and clean. However, human activities have polluted and destroyed it. If we do not start working on restoring or at least improving the environment, human may extinct before we are capable of travelling and residing in another planet. Please cherish mother Earth!

Cruachen power station

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Local Stranger

Night view of Dundee - by author
Port of Dundee( Marine Parade) - by author
Penguins in clothes at the side of church - by author
RRS Discovery Ship - by author
University of  Abertay Dundee - by author