My time studying throughout Europe has sadly now come to an end. After five amazing weeks I have returned home with new friends, new memories, and a new understanding of cultures. Each place I visited offered their own unique scenery and ways of life, whether that consisted of busy city streets or green landscapes covered in sheep. Every destination on this trip was a learning experience that I will never forget.

Edinburgh City Landscape.
Northern Ireland Landscape.

Living in different parts of the U.K. for a month has given me perspectives that I never had prior to this. When I think of every place I visited I can see the differences and similarities they have with one another. One similarity that has struck a cord with me is that these cities are proud of what they have created and shared with the world. There is nothing bad about being proud of your own creations, but when it’s taken to the next level it can be overbearing. In almost every city I went to in Europe there was a common theme that would make itself known at some point in time and that was the story of Harry Potter.

I remember walking down random streets in London and Edinburgh and seeing multiple stores that had Harry Potter merchandise displayed in the front window. I knew prior to this trip that the author, J.K. Rowling, was from the U.K. so I expected to see an occasional plaque and some shops dedicated to the franchise. I just didn’t expect to see as much Harry Potter publicity as I did. During my stay in London I was able to visit the Warner Brothers Studio to see “The Making of Harry Potter”. A lot of the filming took place in the London area and at the studio itself, so it started to make more sense to me as to why I was seeing the name Harry Potter everywhere.

Warner Bros.

When I left London and arrived in Scotland, I quickly noticed that Edinburgh loved Harry Potter as well. One day as I was walking back to my flat, I noticed a plaque on the outside wall of a cafe. If not for the red “Do Not Walk” crosswalk light being on I wouldn’t of even stopped to have read the plaque (I’d like to think that was pure luck). The plaque stated that J.K. Rowling wrote some of her beginning chapters in one of the rooms in this very building. Finding that plaque definitely put a smile on my face. Europe (at least the places I have been to) has put so much effort in the spreading of this franchise and has shown much love for it; they clearly take pride in this creation.

J.K. Rowling Plaque.
The cafe that had the J.K. Rowling plaque on it.

Overall, seeing as much of the Harry Potter franchise as I did was a positive thing. I knew the story and films were based out of England, so it was nice to be at the heart of the story. It was just odd to see so much merchandise and ads because back home it is rare at this time. The movies are older and the books have been out for ages so to come by Harry Potter merchandise in the states isn’t as popular (even though the fan base is just as big in our country). Usually in the states, movies or big franchises have merchandise and ads that appear when the movies is about to be released or has just recently been released. After some time goes by, the attention to the film usually dies down (even in the cities the they were filmed in). For example, the Twilight franchise started off as famous books and then became a very popular film series. I remember when the films merchandise was absolutely everywhere, but when the films ended so did it’s heavy publicity. It seems that the Harry Potter publicity never died out like films in the U.S. do.

Scotland was by far one of my favorite destinations on the trip. It had beautiful landscapes filled with giants hills and trees, but it also had its city parts too (best of both worlds). When I used to think of Scotland, kilts would be the first thing that would pop into my head and I was right for thinking that because while exploring Edinburgh I saw plenty of men wearing them. I was fortunate enough to learn more about kilts while I was there. I ended up visiting Kinloch Anderson, a kilt company, who makes expensive kilts and who have made orders for the royal family.

A picture on the Kinloch Anderson wall.

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The owners of this prestigious kilt company inherited it from their parents. The business has remained in the family for many generations. I was lucky enough to learn about how the business began and how they have become so successful throughout the years. I learned about the origin of kilts and how back in the day the Scots would only wear a certain kilt-pattern that corresponded to their family name. The history connected to kilts is a long one and I’ve only touched the surface.

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Kilt patterns based on family name.

One of the owners also showed how their kilts are made and hand stitched to perfection. I was fascinated by the complexity of kilt making and how well-made their merchandise is. They take pride in their everyday creations and they also take pride in the idea of kilts as a whole. Multiple times throughout the owners speech/tour, she would mention how Scotland gave a gift to the world: Kilts. She kept saying the words “gave” and “gift” like she was trying to make sure her point came across. Hearing the owner say things like that really put into perspective how important this attire is to the Scottish culture. Kilts or Tartans (as Scots call it), are a big part of Scottish lives and natives do not want other countries or places taking ownership of their creation.

The owner showing how they make kilts.
The company’s workshop.

This study abroad trip has been an eye-opening experience. I have learned so much and have seen things that I’ve only dreamed about seeing. Exploring Europe has been such an educational advantage. I feel that I have walked away with a clearer knowledge of how other people live and how other cultures influence media. Europe truly has given the world a few gifts and it has personally given me a lot.