Scotland coming to town

The University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County will offer a wee taste of Scottish culture Wednesday.

The event, set to focus on the "Wisconsin in Scotland" study abroad program, will feature Scottish music and food and presentations from some local students and faculty who have participated.

Kelsey McLean, who coordinates study abroad programs at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, which administers the program, will be available to answer questions and discuss details with interested students.

The university also invites community members who have visited the country through the campus' continuing education programs to discuss their experiences and memories. The public is welcome.

Associate professor of English Marc Seals had visited the country twice before being selected to teach in the program in the summer of 2012. He jumped at the chance to go back and teach a course on Scotland in film.

“I always expected that Ireland would be the place that I connected with, and Ireland is beautiful, but it was just a place,” Seals said. “For some reason, when I got to Scotland, I felt this strange, almost visceral draw. It was bleak and desolate and beautiful, and it felt like home.”

The program is affordable, and UW students won’t have to worry about their credits transferring, Seals said, adding that the cost is basically the same as a semester in Madison or Milwaukee.

The experience is one-of-a-kind, Seals said. Students and faculty live in Dalkeith House, the 300-year-old ancestral home of the Duke of Buccleuch. The group forms bonds. “They’re your family by the end of the semester,” Seals said.

During their time in Scotland, Seals and his students traveled extensively around the region, attended the European premiere of the film “Brave” and met many interesting people. The students visited famous filming locations and got to see the birthplace of modern geology in Edinburgh.

“It’s like the whole area is a giant classroom,” Seals said.

Seals plans to wear his kilt and share his scrapbook with those who visit. “I’m not sure if anyone is going to have haggis or not,” he said.

UW-Baraboo student Olivia Schoenoff is currently studying in Scotland. The 19-year-old is pursuing her associate degree and plans to transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Madison next fall to study marketing research.

The Baraboo native said she heard about the program on campus and joined the university’s Scotland Club, which helps students plan and raise money for the study abroad program.

She arrived in Scotland on Aug. 30 and will leave in mid-December.

“I wanted to study abroad because I’ve been in Baraboo for 19 years,” she said via e-mail. “I didn’t go away for college to save money because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Once I heard about the program, I became obsessed with the idea of studying in a foreign country.”

She said the classes she’s taking — British history, Scottish heritage and culture, intercultural communication, and society and globalization — will apply toward her degree, so she will remain on track with her studies.

Schoenoff also said she’s had a wealth of cultural experiences, including attending a rugby match, eating haggis and learning to drive on the opposite side of the road.

“I would just like to encourage anyone who is thinking about studying abroad to pursue it,” she said. “This experience is something I will remember for the rest of my life. I’ve made so many Scottish friends that are going to be so incredibly hard to say goodbye to.”

Dean Thomas Pleger, who participated in the program as a student in 1989, said the experience is an important offering.

The university has sent more students to the program than any of the other freshman/sophomore campuses of the University of Wisconsin Colleges, he said.

Participation in the program has been "a life-changing opportunity and event" for many students, educators and community members.

He encouraged local students and the community at large to attend Wednesday's event to learn more about the program.

Baraboo News Repbulic
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, December 3, 2013