Indian River High School graduate and rising Flager College junior Ashleigh White left for her study-abroad trip to Scotland relatively sure of a future career in business.
She had also never witnessed firsthand a referendum by United Kingdom voters to exit the European Union, been waved to by the Queen of England during a parade or seen two policemen break an intoxicated man’s leg and subsequently drag him away, screaming, across the floor of a train station.
That is not how she would return.
After three weeks completing a case-study project for Prickly Thistle Scotland — a Scottish company that manufacturers and designs tartans (for kilts and more) — as well as touring the Scottish countryside with her trusty camera, being in Edinburgh during the Brexit vote and just simply getting to experience a non-American culture, it could be said that there are few things on which the 20-year-old soon-to-be-college-grad’s perspective has changed.
Sure, she had been on resort-style vacations to places such as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and even Mexico. But, for White, none of that compared to making her way across the pond.
“The culture’s a lot different. It was cool to see how they lived,” said White. “Everyone was really nice over there. They have a different sense of humor from us. None of the cities over there are anything like here.”
For her internship with Prickly Thistle, White was tasked with putting together a feasibility study concerning a possible new business venture marketing tartan materials for private jets and yachts.
Based in Inverness for the better part of the trip’s three weeks, she and the rest of her team reached out to companies and put together a 10-page report documenting their findings and recommendations.
“It definitely prepared me for the business world,” she said of the project.
“We got the whole experience. We created the study, we got to see her workshop and everything that she does. We got to see every part of the business — that was really cool.”
Once looking forward to a possible career in corporate event planning, working with private jets and yachts sparked a new interest of now going into a similar field.
However, how she spent her free time in Scotland would also have her second guessing her future plans.
It was for Christmas, some now three or four years ago, that Ashleigh’s younger brother Andrew — a standout for the Indians’ football, soccer and lacrosse teams — got his first camera.
It wasn’t long after that that she started using it, eventually becoming interested enough in photography to warrant getting her own camera.
Down at school in St. Augustine, Fla., White will often go out on shoots, loading up memory cards with images of coastlines, sunsets and any other landscapes or native animals that she might find along the way.
While in Inverness, however, scouring a strange new countryside, she filled up her entire laptop’s memory by shooting more than 5,000 photos.
“The last two days, I couldn’t take pictures,” White said with a laugh. “I really appreciated the landscape.”
Preferring to shoot landscapes over people, White said she particularly enjoyed the journey to the island of Skye — the largest island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago, connected to Scotland’s northwest coast only by bridge and known particularly for its mountainous landscapes, remote fishing villages and medieval castles.
While the group would have to drive there on a 12-hour trip, for White, the scenery was well worth it.
“It was so pretty. It was just gorgeous,” she explained. “It was really deserted there. There were no houses or anything, but there were so many things to take pictures of, so many mountains, waterfalls, the coastlines — everything.”
The excursion was so impactful that it left her curious about taking her photography further.
“This trip kind of made me want to do something more with photography,” she said. “I don’t know what I would really do. It would be awesome to be a National Geographic photographer, but I’m taking a photography class at school next semester.”
The travel bug
White eventually left Scotland’s wooly green countryside and unsullied islands for the country’s capital and second largest city, spending the trip’s final two days in Edinburgh.
It’s there that she saw Queen Elizabeth II, witnessed the incident with the Scottish police and observed the people’s reaction to Brexit the day after the vote for the U.K. to leave the E.U.
She saw protestors in the streets after they had lost their E.U.-funded jobs, listened to their not-so-fair-spoken thoughts on Donald Trump when he was there to open a golf course the same day, and even once had to wait an hour and a half for a bagel, thanks to some shoddy restaurant service.
However, through it all — and whether or not her future plans will include business or photography, or maybe even something completely new — one thing is for sure: those plans will almost certainly include seeing some more of what the world has to offer.
“It just put my life into perspective — the world is huge,” White said, noting that she’d like to take some time off when she graduates from Flagler a full year early next spring and visit countries including Iceland and Greece.
“There’s so many different places you could go. It was awesome. It was such a fun trip. It made me definitely want to travel more and see everything.”