By Carlie Pearson
Students coming from other countries face lots of challenges, but for Rachel Stewart, on exchange from Heriot Watt University in Scotland, “it’s definitely one of the best experiences of my life, which is cliché, but I don’t know how else to explain.”
When Stewart and her best friend, Lauren McNally, on exchange from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, came to OSU for the year, they had to start fresh and build a life here.
“It wasn’t easy to start with. But you learn a lot about yourself,” she explains. McNally, an international hospitality and management major, met her best friend, Stewart, an international business major, at OSU. Together, they have above all, become true Cowboys during their year at Oklahoma State.
Early in the year, they met the captain of the lacrosse team, and joined her team. It turned out to be the best decision they could have ever made. “We are actually going to the championships this weekend,” McNally said, in May. The club sport been a great way to meet people and get involved on campus. It has also been an incredible way to see more of the United States, as the lacrosse team makes trips to surrounding states to compete.
“Here everyone is huge into OSU; it’s like a culture,” Stewart explained, “Back home we have club sports, but no one would really come see them.” They were excited to find out how interactive and social sports can really be. They recommend incoming students get the season sports pass, and to experience tailgating at a home football game.
Academically, their experience at OSU has changed their perspectives on learning. At OSU, there is always help available. It’s the first time McNally and Stewart have really gotten to know their professors. “Each class, my professor starts with trivia, and it gets everyone interested. We have also been taught practical skills we can actually use,” McNally said. In their classes, they have been inspired by OSU’s students, of whom they say are very ambitious, and make them want to try harder. Above all, they love the friendly community on campus and in Stillwater.
Lauren and Rachel are thankful to have come to Oklahoma State for the whole year. Not only did they see an entire school year, from football to finals and from the perspective of a Cowboy, but they also learned things from outside American culture through meeting other exchange students. Because they met students from Germany, France, Mexico, Australia, Spain, South Africa, and more, they now have contacts from around the world that they can visit in the future. Some of their best friends, for life, were made here.
“One of my favorite weekends was renting a lake house at Tenkiller Lake,” McNally said. It turns out they rented, unknowingly, an old girl scout camp. “It was fun to sleep upstairs with all the beds in one room – like The Parent Trap!” It was also their first time to try s’mores, a traditional camping food favorite.
The most unexpected things for Stewart and McNally were seeing real cowboy boots and hats. Sometimes cultural differences such as this made things tough, like when repeatedly ordering food. “We speak the same language, so I wasn’t expecting so much trouble.” But the slang between Scotland and Stillwater was hard to get used to, according to Stewart.
During our interview, the two were sad to think about leaving Stillwater. Stewart said she will miss the fact that there’s always something going on, and that every week, everyone is talking about it. But their American adventure isn’t over yet. Before traveling home, they will spend one month exploring San Diego, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. Upon leaving, Stewart said she “will miss Mexican food so much. I don’t know what I’ll do without Qdoba.”
Rachel says for anyone looking to study abroad, they should consider Herriot- Watt University in Scotland. “Obviously the city is amazing,” she says about Edinburgh.
Herriot-Watt is a great central location in Scotland, located just outside of Edinburgh. Though the university is small, students become very close, especially if you join a sports team.
Robert Gordon is a great, modern university located in Aberdeen, a student city near the adventurous Scottish highlands. Though quite small, it is called the “Granite City,” and also has its own beach. McNally says that if students are looking for a business school, RGU should definitely be one of your top choices for a semester or year abroad.