Studying Across the Pond

So I thought I’d give a little background on how I got here in Scotland, for those of you who don’t know.

I lived and worked in Germany for a year, taking a break from my undergrad studies, and since then I’ve been aching to make it back to Europe (nothing against the US, but…Europe is Europe). So after I graduated with my nearly worthless degree in English, I had a strong desire to go to grad school, I just didn’t know what I’d want to study. The classes I enjoyed the most in my undergrad were the creative writing and editing classes.

I looked into some programs in the US, mostly in North Carolina and Texas (maybe I have an inclination towards Southerners). But nothing really made my heart sing. Then a friend told me about this website where she’d been able to investigate several grad school programs in the UK, called Study Across the Pond.

She encouraged me to apply so we could potentially be studying in the UK at the same time. I registered on the site and they set me up with an advisor. Basically the entire purpose of the website is to help people who want to come study in the UK from all over the world by doing the research for them, about different universities, programs, visas, things needed to live in the UK (insurance, bank accounts, etc.). It’s quite convenient, and they have a 99% acceptance rate for students who apply to universities through them, so I highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to join me in the UK.

I told my advisor the classes I enjoyed most from my undergrad, screenwriting being one of them. He sent me back a long list of potential programs in the UK that would suit me. The Screenwriting program at Edinburgh Napier University was the first program I read about, and I couldn’t pull myself off the University’s website. I clicked every link and read every page, some more than once. My heart wasn’t just singing, it was also accompanying itself with full symphonic orchestra and an organ whose pipes filled the crevices of my soul. Reading about that program felt like falling in love.

But I’ve always had an issue with commitment. So I didn’t respond to my advisor. I pushed it away from me for months, even when my friend got accepted to a school in Aberdeen and was preparing for her journey to Scotland. But it wouldn’t leave me alone. Everything in my life kept coming back to living in Scotland. Not going to grad school, not screenwriting, but living in Scotland.

Then I went to see Brave. As many faults as the movie had (weak character development outside of the Queen and Merida for one, predictable down to the second for the other), those dang wisps awakened something inside me. I needed to be in Scotland. So after about seven months of not contacting my advisor, I emailed him and told him I wanted to go to Edinburgh Napier. He said I needed to apply for a few more schools. So I applied to 4 others, just because that’s what they suggested. One in London, one just outside of London, one somewhere else in England that I can’t remember, and one in Wales.

I heard back from the one in London two days after I submitted my application saying I’d received an unconditional offer (meaning as soon as I accepted the offer, nothing would change my status). Then about two weeks later the one from Wales gave me a conditional offer (meaning they wanted some more documents from me to see if I’d meet further requirements). The school somewhere else in England asked me for a writing sample and I never sent it to them because I didn’t care enough. I just wanted to be in Scotland.

Eleven weeks after my applications were submitted, I emailed Edinburgh Napier asking them about the status of my application. They said that since it was a creative program, there were usually lots of applicants and takes a little more time. In the next few days they asked me to send them ten pages of a screenplay. I did immediately (luckily I had ten lying around). About a week later they set up an interview time with me. None of the other schools had asked for an interview, so I appreciated that Napier seemed more legit, but was also nervous. I practiced for the interview (which I’d never done before in my life) but did the time conversion wrong in my head, so the interviewer called much earlier than I expected. I had to dash out of work and talk to him in the busy elevator zone of my building (which was slightly quieter than the stairwell would’ve been).

He asked me why I wanted to be in Scotland, what I wanted to do with screenwriting, and what kind of movies I wanted to write. When I said “musicals with serious themes” he said “yeah, I really enjoyed your Muse musical you sent over” (my heart raced), “do you know The Proclaimers?” I love The Proclaimers, and told him so. “One of the film mentors we work with just wrote a musical of their music” (my heart shatters to pieces because I had a Proclaimers musical on my storyboard) “so we could set you up with him to be your mentor. He’d know all about getting the rights and things for you musicals.” Well, that sounds like I’m in. Then the interviewer (who is my program director) told me about how many people across the entire world he’d just interviewed and how they only admit at most fifteen people into the program. And I’d hear the final decision within the next week.

Turns out I don’t eat very well when I’m anxious.

At 4:40 a.m. on March 27th, I received the email telling me I’d received an unconditional offer from Napier.

Now, don’t think that it was all sunshine and roses from there. Like I mentioned, I’ve always had problems with commitment. Even though everything in the world felt right when I thought about going to Scotland, it still terrified me to consciously make the decision the change my life so drastically (this is why I’m single, and the second I think a guy wants to put a label on it, I run for my life). But I kept walking, even when my feet got tired or my hip tried to pop out of the socket (this is not a good feeling, by the way). And here I am.

As for things I accomplished today:

  • Got my cell phone unlocked so I can use a UK SIM card
  • Set up an appoint at Bank of Scotland to open a bank account
  • Found out my weakness for Celtic jewelry is overpowering (I bought a thistle brooch, only £15, so totally reasonable)
  • Almost bought a kilt (but the guy in the shop was totally laying it on too thick)
  • Spent the evening getting to know a family half-full of gingers (ginger dad, three ginger sons, and two ginger daughters out of ten kids; yes, it was heaven)

By the way, the last university I applied to accepted me months later (the one right outside of London). There I would’ve been studying creative nonfiction, which was really tempting, but I am so drawn to Scotland it’s outrageous, and no other school really had a chance. As my roommate and I were walking down the Royal Mile (the street between the castle and the Queen’s palace Holyrood), there are a billion tourist shops (where I bought the brooch). And all the tartan flashing around me was totally making me swoon.

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One response to “Studying Across the Pond

  1. I’m getting help from Across The Pond for my undergrad degree in Marketing, currently on a gap year in the US working 2 jobs (so just in case I do get it, I’m not completely and totally broke) and studying for SAT subject tests to improve my chances, and after that’s all done I’ll be working 3 jobs. So hoping it’ll be worth it… I’m terrified that I won’t be getting in anywhere and that anxiety thing? Totally get you. This kinda eased my nerves a bit, super happy for you 😀

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