Our summer Observation and Research Assignments in Scotland program is underway! This year we have four students doing Psychology Research Abroad in Edinburgh. Each student is working closely with faculty members at a research lab in Queen Margaret University for six weeks.
Psyched about Scotland
Upon sharing that I study psychology, most people respond by asking, “Oh so you want to be a psychologist then and help people with their problems?” While the clinical route of psychology is certainly important and as challenging as others, I prefer a different path- the route of psychology research. I thrive on the opportunity to learn new things, and making abstract, theoretical ideas turn into concrete and tangible studies. This is something I’ve found as enticing as it is rewarding. That’s why when I found the opportunity to work in a psychology research lab abroad, I could not let the opportunity pass.
I’ve only began traveling within the past year, but the second I started I couldn’t stop. In the past year I’ve been to Italy, Greece, a brief visit to Turkey, Costa Rica, and now Scotland. Cross-cultural psychology, or the study of how human behavior differs across assorted cultures, has always been a fascinating subject for me. What better way to get acquainted with assorted worldly cultures than visiting them myself?
The internship here in Edinburgh is usually open for two applicants, however, this year there are four of us. Skye & Karen are originally from China but are currently international students studying in Wisconsin. Melissa, my roommate here in Edinburgh, is originally from Turkey but currently studies in Lebanon, and then of course there’s me- from little ol’ Minnesota, USA. We talk about the cultural variances across the four of us all the time and it’s so fascinating to be surrounded everyday by a plethora of culture different from my average surroundings in the US.
A TYPICAL DAY
We generally wake up around 8/8:30 in the morning and begin getting ready for the day. We make breakfast in our flat (I usually make eggs or oatmeal) & make our way down 41 stairs to the outside alley, then back up another 40 stairs to reach the Royal Mile where we head to our bus stop. The bus ride to Queen Margaret University is about 40/45 minutes depending on the amount of stops, but the ride has become a wonderfully relaxing part of our day: we pass through many towns- my favorite is Portobello, the seaside community of Edinburgh, and get to see the waves of the North Sea crashing against the shore every morning.
The bus finally reaches Queen Margaret and we enter the Academic Building through automatic sliding glass doors and make our way to the third floor. We have ID cards that have to be scanned to even open the door into the psych lab and then the four of us each head to “our” desks, respectively. The thing I love so much about this internship is that there are constantly different projects to be working on; “routine” is the last word I’d use. The four of us work underneath two professors, Jamal & Steve, and we assist them with different parts of the research process in a seemingly infinite flow of studies. So far we’ve had the opportunity to code experiments on software we’ve only recently learned how to use, organize & run participants through assorted studies, and even had the opportunity to begin building our own ideas for studies that run synchronous with some of the research Jamal & Steve are currently doing.
After we’ve completed a day’s worth of work, we head to the door and press the green exit button to unlock the door allowing it to open; the amount of times we’ve tried to open the door without pressing the exit button is a continuous stream of laughter for us. We again ride the bus home, walk down the 40 stairs to reach our building, and back up another 41 to reach our flat. We can be found spending our evenings differently depending on the day. Some evenings Melissa & I, both enjoying physical fitness, make our way to a recreational center where we’ve been attending pole fitness classes every week. Other evenings, we can be found sorting through photos and videos, updating diaries & social media, or simply walking around the city enjoying what Edinburgh has to offer. The sky stays light for so long in Scotland and the darkness doesn’t generally nestle in until around 11:30 or so in the evening, but eventually around midnight or so we finally lay our heads down and lay to sleep for the night.
Living a Life in Scotland
It’s crazy to think that we’ve already been here three of the six weeks our internship lasts, I can’t believe time is flying by so quickly. However even such a short period of time has allowed for many cultural differences to emerge-
Though we’re in an English speaking country, almost every measurement in the UK is different: money is pounds not dollars, distance is kilometers and meters rather than miles and yards, temperature is Celsius not Fahrenheit, and time is 13:00 rather than 1:00 pm. You would be amazed how often you use measurements in your life once you no longer can understand even a simple weather broadcast or bus schedule. The bar, or should I say pub scene, is still prominent here in UK, but it’s so strange meeting people at bars who are only 18 or 19 years old rather than the minimum of 21 they have to be in the US. The Netflix options are different as well, that one caught me a little off guard! I’m not a tech wiz so I’m not sure how Netflix knows, but I’m only able to watch shows that are available on UK Netflix- one of which is the Big Bang Theory, not available on US Netflix, and is also on cable here almost 24/7.
Aside from cultural differences, some things remain constant worldwide. News about the American political season is published in the Newspapers almost daily, and native Scots talk to me all the time about my political beliefs (which is a stimulating topic for me to get into, to say the least). I still get lightly ridiculed at for how I say the word “bag” and “tag” by not only other Americans but by Scots as well, and the daily chore of doing dishes and laundry is just as tedious abroad as it is at home.
It’s been so wonderful to get acquainted with the other interns, the professors at QMU, and just the general city of Edinburgh itself- sometimes I forget that I don’t actually live here permanently. So far we’ve been to the Royal Mile, the Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens, Portobello Beach, The World of Illusions, Dynamic Earth, and a haunted Ghost Tour, as well as a handful of restaurants, art galleries, grocery stores & pubs. This weekend we’re hoping to make it up to Arthur’s Seat as well as a trip planned to the Highlands, Glencoe, & Loch Ness. Next week we’re heading down to southern UK for trips to Manchester, London, & York, and the following weekend we have a tentative trip planned for the Isle of Skye. I can’t wait to see what the next three weeks of learning and adventures will bring, and I can’t wait to check in again near the close of our program. As the Scots would say, Cheers!
– Jenni M. (Psychology Observation and Research in Scotland)
Interested in doing a program like Jenni’s? Check out our Psychology Observation and Research in Scotland program. We also offer other internship opportunities in other parts of the world, check out our internships abroad page.