The Study Abroad State of Mind – How a Dream Became a Lifestyle

Guest Post By Tiffany Harrison

Tiffany at Stirling Castle

I was fifteen when I took control of my destiny. Some may regard this as a bit late, but considering my prior obsession with time travel, it was significant progress. Imagine this if you can: an adolescent girl standing on the back deck of her home, nestled in the California Foothills, arms raised towards the sky, while traditional, Scottish bagpipe music poured from surround-sound speakers. Ok, so it wasn’t exactly a traditional mode of time travel, but I had to start somewhere.

Now imagine trying to explain this to your parents when they unexpectedly catch you in this situation…. Needless to say, I don’t anticipate my mother ever getting tired of embarrassing me with this story.

About the same time that I fell in love with time travel, I also became enamored of Scottish culture. Celtic music, Scottish literature, traditional foods and even cheesy romantic novels….you name it, I was obsessed with it. Unfortunately, hanging off my back deck wasn’t a very effective way to get to Scotland. It was also clear that until H.G. Wells decided to lend me his time machine, it was up to me to find another means of travel.

I didn’t know it then, but that was the moment study abroad came barreling into my life.

It just so happens, though, that taking control of your destiny is harder than it looks. When I first discovered the possibility of taking my education to Scotland, I pursued it with all the grace of a sledgehammer— typical, I suppose, for a 15-year-old with a vivid imagination. From the mass emails to the University of St. Andrews (it was the oldest, most prestigious university in Scotland after all), to signing up for various newsletters and brochures about Scotland, there was no limit to my determination. Unfortunately, it would take awhile to refine my skills—and to acquire a new email address. For some reason, “scottishmist” wasn’t exactly making a great first (professional) impression…

Scottish Highlands

Live and learn quickly became my mantra, and patience my new best friend. By my senior year of high school, I was armed with a new email address—that people didn’t pass off as spam—and in the midst of finally making my dreams a reality. Of course, rarely do things go according to plan, and I was no exception. My plan to attend a university in Scotland straight out of high school faced a reality check when I learned of the steep expenses involved. Even with scholarships and grants the tuition was daunting, and I had three other siblings who would be attending college someday. As luck would have it, though, branching out and exploring other international education options is what finally introduced me to study abroad. An ideal option for a student on a budget, study abroad would also give me the opportunity to live in a new country (yes, Scotland) for up to a full academic year. Looks like I didn’t need H.G. Wells after all.

No longer were college tours just about finding a right fit for my chosen major; it was also important that they have thriving student exchange/study abroad programs. I sought an atmosphere where diversity was celebrated and culture embraced. I knew I wasn’t the only one out there with itchy feet and an appetite for travel—all I had to do was find them. The rest would take care of itself.

Four years later and fresh out of school, I’m still amazed at where my journey has taken me. I did finally make it to Scotland on a yearlong study abroad program, and though it’s been two years now, I think of it often. Study abroad opened my eyes to a world I thought knew and taught me to value every single moment. Many people told me I had far too many expectations going to Scotland, and I was sure to be disappointed. I’m not going to lie to you—much of what I imagined turned out to be quite different, but it was these differences I cherish the most. All the surprises, obstacles and unexpected situations are what made it a true adventure.

And who says it has to stop now? I might not be abroad, but living in a study abroad state of mind is what keeps me actively involved in international education. Someday, I hope to make a career out of it and give other students the gift of travel. Until then, I’d like to urge all the dreamers out there to take control of your own destiny; instead of standing on your back deck waiting for something extraordinary to happen, grab life with both hands and BE that extraordinary something. Who knows, you just might surprise yourself.

Tiffany is a recent college graduate who studied abroad in Scotland. Among her many interests are Jane Austen, a good cup of tea, social media, and study abroad. You can learn more about Tiffany through her blog, What Would Jane Do ~


Tiffany and friend at Edinburgh Castle


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  1. Bill (the dad) Harrison says

    I love hearing these stories missy…..wait, I’m going out to the back deck now , trying to imagine myself on a nice warm sunny beach…….

  2. Great post! I particularly liked your pictures. Studying abroad seems to be a wonderful way to experience Scotland.


    • Thanks Andrew! It definitely was. That second picture of the Highlands, by the way, was captured on a moving bus on the Isle of Skye. I’m still surprised it came out so nice–especially after trying so hard to get perfect shots. The best ones always come at unexpected moments I suppose 🙂


  3. Debbie Everett says

    I just love reading all of your quips about your study abroad and life. Mary too is itching to study abroad and I so hope she does it and that I can visit her. I am so proud of you for your success Tiff and I know you will take this education far in your life. Best of everything and keep on writing! Love you!

    • She should indeed!! Why wait? Tell her to start planning now so that her dreams are put into action (and so you can start planning your visit 😉 Thank you so much for your kind words! I learn something new everyday, and I can only hope I take those experiences with me–the same goes for study abroad memories. They’re potent and powerful and I think every student deserves the chance to make them. (aka get Mary on board lol) xxoo 🙂

  4. susie harrison says

    Nice pictures! I really like the last one. Hmmmmm, wonder why you picked that one? Very interesting that you would choose that one instead of a tea shop or a quaint inn. Great article but I think you left out that you were “chanting”! Oh, where is Karen Marie Moning when you need her…….lol

  5. Ohh… what a great story to share. I love it! It’s always so inspiring to hear about other students’ experiences with study abroad. There is no better motivation I can think of. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story.

    • Thank you! I think every student that studies abroad comes home with SO many stories to tell, and it’s a privilege to be able to share mine 🙂 Do you plan on studying abroad or have you already? I don’t think life would be quite the same without having gone 😉

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Sep 25, 2021 @ 15:47
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Sep 24, 2021 @ 16:40
Photo contest!
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Sep 20, 2021 @ 17:45
Calling all API alumni! We know you have some amazing photos from your time abroad with API and guess what?! You now have the chance to win up to $500 cash for showing them off in our 2021 API PHOTO CONTEST!

Click the link to enter!
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