Closing Time

This blog was originally published on the MSU Mass Media 2017 Blog.

Well, it’s really over. The best five weeks of my life have officially come to a close, and it’s hard for me not to tear up (or sob violently) as I sit at my airport gate writing this. This trip has taught me more about myself, more about others, more about media, more about culture than I thought I could learn in a mere five weeks. At first that seems like a long time, but I could have sworn that I was packing up nervously for my flight to Belfast just yesterday. 

As it relates to mass media, I’ve learned that the atmosphere and environment in Scotland is quite different than in the United States. However, I found it to be most similar to Ireland out of all of the stops on our tour of the United Kingdom.

The Irish and Scottish people communicated in similar ways. First of all, both groups were blunt, fairly loud and looking for a good time. They swear freely, saying words that you wouldn’t dare say aloud in the United States. Just this morning on my cab ride to the airport, my driver was explaining to me his thoughts on the English people. The English are too quiet, according to the driver, and they hold their thoughts back.  He believed that anyone who wasn’t from England and who spoke on the tube would feel extremely out of place since all of the English people would just stare at you. The Scots, however, are blunt and will give it to you straight. You never have to guess what they are thinking. Though not as apparent as in Scotland, I did notice plenty of brutally honest remarks in Ireland.

In the United States, I think there is a fair mix of the two. Since our country is so diverse and has as many different types of people as it does, you will come across people who are passive aggressive and keep to themselves, those who will say every unfiltered thought that crosses their mind and every combination of traits in between.

Whereas London is more similar to the United States in regards to population diversity, Scotland and Ireland seemed to consist of mainly Scottish and mainly Irish people, respectively. The communities were not as diverse as other areas we have visited, or as diverse as it is back in the United States. The Scottish and Irish people seemed to be more driven by their heritage and families. This is evident especially when you stop to consider the importance of tartans and family names in Scotland, along with the naming of children based on religion in Northern Ireland.

Another similarity between Ireland and Scotland is the use of language and dialects. In both countries, English is spoken most commonly, but Gaelic is spoken throughout as well. Aside from that, the Irish and Scottish accents were definitely the most challenging for me to understand in the time we spent there. I feel bad for the locals, actually, because even though I tried my best, sometimes my lack of understanding their thick, fast-paced accents just made both of our lives more difficult.

The use of specific words differed between Scotland and America as well. You wouldn’t think that two predominantly English-speaking countries could have that many differences in language. It was definitely a learning experience, but now I can direct anyone to the toilets, cash machines or lifts. Though at first I was confused at all of the differences and felt silly asking for the “toilets” rather than the bathroom, it started to make much more sense. All of the phrases they use are actually far more straightforward than what we you use. “The ATM? … No… where you get money from… ATM? A-T-M? Oh, sure, cash machine, yes!” I honestly couldn’t even tell you what ATM stands for without looking it up, but cash machine is so simple and tells you exactly what it does. A machine that dispenses cash. Where’s the confusion there, I ask you?

As far as broadcast media goes, Scotland and America differ quite a bit as well. We visited BBC Scotland in Glasgow and learned all about the function of the British Broadcast Corporation. The BBC is a publicly funded news corporation that doesn’t air commercials and relies on payments from British citizens to survive. They are completely unbiased, and the goal of the company is to be the most accurate, not the fastest to release the news. Since they depend on the public to exist, the public depends on them to give out the most accurate information, not simply speculations that come in quickly during a breaking news event. In the United States, however, publicly funded news companies such as PBS and NPR are not nearly as popular as the biased, privately funded news stations such as CNN and Fox. These type of news stations in the United States seem to make it a priority to be the first to break a story. From the perspective of a viewer, they are more focused on winning the race than presenting full and accurate information. There is no “fake news” coming from the BBC, which is a refreshing change of events.

Similar or different from where I come from, I have truly loved every minute of this trip and every place I have been privileged enough to go to. Each country taught me something new about the world that I never dreamed of knowing. What always intrigued me on this trip was how no matter where we were, whether at a small advertising agency in Cardiff or a major broadcasting company in Glasgow, I looked around and thought, “I could definitely see myself living and working here.” I’ve always dreamed of going abroad, and I could not have asked for a more incredible, formative experience than what I was just given. I definitely am not ready to leave this life that I’ve been living for the past five weeks, but I know that I will take the friends I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned back home with me and carry them with me for the rest of my life. If after five weeks you guys are still reading these blogs, thanks to all of my family for getting me here and for always supporting my crazy dreams.

“Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

By Julia Swoish