Alexio Barboza on the road to Edinburgh, Scotland

Hi everyone,                                                    

I’m going take you back several months now and tell you of my road to venturing to Scotland to study abroad for the 2014/15 school year and all the preparation that was involved in it. I’ve wanted to study since we had to choose what college we wanted to attend in High School. Even at that time I was asking to go to University in Europe. The main place I wanted to go was Scotland. All my life I’ve had a fascination with Scottish culture; it was in 1st grade where I did a project on heritage and I found out I had Scottish descent from the Thompson Clan. Since then I joined the Gordon Highlanders Pipe Band of Locust Valley and I march in many parades during the year playing the Bagpipes.

While in my Sophomore year at Albright College I found out about a chance to get a scholarship to study abroad at Scottish Universities. I went to speak with the Director of Experimental Learning, Kimberly Justeson. She is an amazing woman ad it is because of her that I will be in Scotland fulfilling a dream. She worked with me every step of the way in applying for this Scholarship and handling all the paperwork. There was still a lot of paper work though, I think in life you can never escape it ha ha!

This funding I found was the St. Andrews Society of Philadelphia Scholarship. They send five students from the Pennsylvania area to study at four of the oldest Universities in Scotland, including St. Andrews University, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Glasgow, and mine the University of Edinburgh. First step was to see if the college you are attending will nominate you, because each college can only nominate one student. Albright nominated me, but I got off pretty easy since I was the only one this year who wanted to do this scholarship lol. The next step was the application process which included personal info, recommendation letters, transcripts, an essay, and finally the interview in Philly. That was one of the most relaxed and best interviews I’ve ever had. The St. Andrew’s Society is filled with wonderful Scottish-American men who are so welcoming and kind. A few days later I received a call telling me I was got the scholarship and I was going to Scotland. I was given the second position out of the five to choose what University I wanted to attend, so I chose the University of Edinburgh. A few weeks after that during the school year I went to one of the Society’s quarterly dinners where of the five position holders came to meet the whole St. Andrew’s Society. We had a wonderful dinner where I got to play the pipes with a few of the lads and then there was a ceremony where they robed us with the shrouds of the Society and gave us a Society beer mug to take over there.

Now it was time to actually apply for the University itself. This was mainly just a formality because the Society ensured your acceptance. Then requesting courses came, along with the big headache of figuring out what you could take to fulfill credits at Albright and running around to different teachers to get those approved. After a couple weeks of that there was a great relief felt when that was over.

Now came the summer. This was filled with the essential paper work to get over to Scotland. First was making sure my passport was up to date. Next I began my VISA process which involved going to the UK Immigration website and figuring out first what type of VISA I needed. I figured out I needed a Tier 4 VISA since I was staying for a year, and this cost close to 600 dollars. Second was the application for the VISA, which included a lot of questions and tasks, like TB shots and loads of other paperwork. In the mail to the UK embassy in New York I placed my identification, passport, Biometrics (which I got done locally), and a passport sized picture for them to put in your VISA. It took 3 weeks for my things to come back with my accepted VISA. Then came the accommodations hunt, where the University contacted me to choose where to live. This took a week or so because I researched the dorms over there. Then floating over the summer where many small tasks that the University asked me to complete, like website and email sign ups, freshers week sign up, and others. I also spent the summer contacting people in Scotland making connections with friends and family of members of my Bagpipe band. Also my Half-sister is married to someone in the airlines so I’m taking a standby ticket to Edinburgh for only 220 dollars (Thank God, because that can get expensive). Now with everything complete, including the essential things bought and everything packed, I leave in 2 days and I am so excited to begin my journey after a lengthy process and much preparation. I’ll be boarding my plane at 9 pm on September 3rd and I’ll be keeping Bilbo Baggins’ quote from the Lord of the Rings in mind as I go: “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.” So Cheers all and I’ll be updating you soon!!!

 

Respectfully, Alexio Barboza

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