Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents Scotland Last Minute

October 6, 2021
By Mariana Velasco, Huntsman '22

University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Mariana is one of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents writing and sharing her experience abroad during the Fall 2021 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed. 

I am a traveler at heart. And a writer. And as much as I love when things go exactly the way I want, I love it, even more, when they don’t, and I am just completely baffled and surprised. I don’t want to make this a story about the past, but I have to say — it is a story of changing plans. Long story short, from the moment I got into Huntsman as a Russian target I dreamed about Moscow. It was both something that I couldn’t believe would ever happen and yet one of the most certain things in my life. The week of my admission to Penn, I lost appetite and could not sleep — what if my Russian could never get there? I was terrified.

Fast forward to sophomore year, I am in the last floor at Van Pelt with a friend. He mentions his plans to study abroad twice. My heart jumps inside of my chest. The dream of my life has always been to live in Paris. But intellectual curiosity got in the way, and I am only secretly a French target. I sit down for hours and days, pondering if this is a wise decision to make. I spent the next months both excited and scared pushing my business requirements forward. The balancing act of coming up with a challenging, yet achievable, semester with seven courses. Moscow in junior spring, my internship in New York, and then Paris for the fall. Turns out that you don’t have to believe that your dreams will come true, you just have to do everything as if they would. My plans for 2021 are even scary to me. They are too good.

You know what happens next. Moscow is out of the picture completely. Paris gets canceled in May — only a few hours after it got approved that same morning. I have absolutely nothing left within me to fight for my study abroad plans or whatever is left of them. I haven’t even given myself the chance to dream about Paris when I have to change course again. But there is one thing that keeps me moving forward. It is the gentle reminder of a fourteen-year-old girl dreaming to travel the world, her eyes shining in that special kind of way when she talks about it with her mom — waiting to seize the moment. I submit my application to go to Scotland the next week.

You better believe me when I say that it is a week before I am supposed to start orientation in Edinburgh, and I am still not sure whether study abroad will happen or not. So, when a girl at the airport sitting a couple of seats away from me says: “I can’t believe this is actually happening”, I understandably turn my head around.

And that is how I meet my first friend. 

It has been almost a month here in Scotland. And I am falling in love with this Unexpected.

Scotland is that guy, who shows up at the party last minute, invites you to grab a coffee the very next morning, and ends up making you smile the whole time.

The truth is I don’t know what October will bring. Nor November, or December. And I am making plans, but I am okay if they change.

View of Scotland's flag from a mountain view.


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The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.