An unexpected decision to change from engineering to a European studies major led James Crookston to search out a European internship. Crookston felt that in order to understand the people and culture he was studying he had to reach outside his textbooks and discover what aspects set Europe apart from the rest of the world. With these ideas in mind, he set out to find an internship that would allow him to visit a country on the continent to which he was devoting so much of his BYU education.
At first, Crookston thought an internship would be easily obtainable; as he looked over the list of possibilities it seemed limitless, but upon further investigation, many of the contacts listed backed out before he had even applied and his list of options became quite limited. The limitations a three-month visa put on him were a huge concern. Crookston had hoped to visit friends living in Europe during his time abroad, but with only three months that wasn’t possible while still fulfilling his work duties.
Weighing his somewhat dwindling options, a governance internship in Scotland stood out from the rest—partly because the position offered a six-month UK visa, allowing Crookston the time he needed to complete his work responsibilities as well as visit his friends in Naples, Italy and Barcelona, Spain, and see a bit more of Europe than he would have otherwise. Another draw for Crookston to work in Scotland was the family history he had there. He immersed himself in Scottish culture mainly through his living arrangements with a local woman and her dog near Holyrood Park. Living with a local gave him insights to the daily routine in Scotland outside the workplace.
Due to limited access to public transport, Crookston walked to work daily, on the way enjoying beautiful views of the local kirk (church), loch (lake), and Craigmillar Castle in the distance. After accepting an internship at the Scottish Parliament, he was offered a position at the media research office instead of working for an individual MSP. Although different than his original plan, the internship proved to be a growing experience in many ways, particularly learning through observing those more experienced than himself.
Crookston’s main responsibility was to keep up on political news by reading all the newspapers in circulation and reporting what was said about a certain political party or the Parliament in general. Learning through experience is the way to become truly capable, as Crookston quickly learned in his internship. The time in Scotland helped him see what being in the professional world was like, and he found it to be refreshing, energizing, and a motivating reason to work harder to solve the problems surrounding the political world in particular. He found that others with real-life experience can become a newcomers greatest ally in both a work or a personal setting, and the greatest learning comes through experience—not from books or by sitting in a classroom.