Because tomorrow is my final, as well as my final day here, I wanted to write a bit about the end of my journey. Its been a wild ride, starting with my first solo TransAtlantic plane ride, and ending with new friends, tons of amazing memories, and a whole lot more knowledge of the world beyond my porch. I am certainly a different person, whether or not this turns out to be a change for the better. When a person decides to study abroad, they tend to try and find a school which isn’t difficult so they can go off and do tons of things. I didn’t. My classes were challenging and made me think differently about the way I study. So I got the fun of the experience, as well as the shock to my academic system, so to speak.
Overall, I started here with this cynical view, because I was cold and the food was different and I felt that I didn’t belong. Thursday morning I’m leaving here with the knowledge that no matter where you go, you can adapt and become a part of that culture, as long as you have an open mind and heart.
I’m going to miss my favorite restaurants. I’m going to miss all of the friends I met here. I’m going to miss being a 10 minute walk from the beach. And I’m going to miss all of the accents. So many accents.
I’m off to pack and study for my last final tomorrow. “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, because as much as I’m going to miss it here, I can’t wait to go home as well.
I feel like there is such stigma when you come to another country. Mostly about the people. Before you go, you’re told horror stories about Americans who unwittingly got swindled by some local and didn’t have money to get back to their hotel, hostel, dorm, etc. And by others you’re old that everyone is incredibly friendly and sweet and you’re going to be loved for being an American. This overgeneralization continues when you actually make it over to the country you’re going to be visiting. The other Americans you meet tell you about their very first experiences with the natives, whether they are super nice or they just about got into a first fight in a local pub. You also get the flip side of the coin as you being chatting up the students from the country you’re staying and instantly pass judgement on their status as a person of worth. You also get their opinion of other local students as well as the Americans studying abroad. You’re told, “that group over there? They will rip out your heart if you so much as look at them. But us, we accept you silly Americans.”
So where does the opinion of others and that of your own separate? Can you separate them? As I began pondering this I realized that any opinion or thought that forms in your head will always have some influence from another person stamped on it. Because no matter if you agree with that person or think they’re completely bonkers, you have to analyze their thought first. I guess the hardest part is actually realizing this when you come to a decision on a person. No one can be completely neutral. There is always some factor which has led them to this point and I think people should remember that before ostracizing someone for what they think. Yes, I might not agree with all of the rules/norms that the university and the culture here abides by, but that’s only because I grew up with a different set. Had I started here as a fresher, the rules would have been the only thing I had experienced and thus wouldn’t have had nearly the negative reaction I experienced upon learning them.
I suppose what I’m saying is that living in another country gives you perspective. Not only by seing new things, but also by reevaluating your thoughts through the culture of another. I’m not saying that I’m embarrassed of my nationality nor am I saying that America always does the right thing. What I’m really saying (I think?) is that each culture has its own sigma which it created about itself and about others and because of that, we need to be cognizant when we form opinions.
Wow, heavy stuff right? Who’d have thought I’d leave my study abroad experience with self-awareness? Certainly not me.
On a lighter note, today is my last Friday here in Scotland and I am enjoying the bitter cold and rain you can only find here, indoors with my textbooks.
My first final is done and now I have a little time to relax before my next (and last!) one. I do have to say, they do finals a lot differently here in the UK. I was placed with my class and 2 others into the basketball court to take the first one. Also, all grading is anonymous. Finally, you cannot leave in the last 30 minutes of the exam. You can either leave before the final 30 minutes or you have to wait until the clock has run out and everyone exits. I found this out at the last 28 minute mark. Woops.
Oh well. I decided a run on the beautiful West Sands beach would make me feel better, and it did. I consistently wish I had my camera whenever I’m out, but since I was running I’ll give myself some slack. It was sunny with that ever-present wind, and actually a decent temperature. All the makings of a great run and I came back with the exams tension out of my shoulders and that lovely soreness of physical activity.
With only one final left and 7.5 days, its coming to a close. I think we all sense it; there’s been a lot more of hanging out “just because”. I’m really going to miss this place. The people, the beach, the really old buildings, and the strange sense of calm that hits you as you cross the Scottish border. I recommend a trip.
That’s all for now, relaxing and getting ready for a busy week ahead.
As everyone is well aware (or at least, NOW is well aware), today is Mother’s Day. Although holidays are so much fun and brings joy to those giving and receiving love, they can sometimes be sad. Today was the first Mother’s Day that I was not home for and it hit home for me. I’m starting to realize that this is what my life is going to be like once I leave the nest for real. I’m not going to be home to make my mom her annual breakfast-in-bed. As a study abroad student, you start swapping some of the memories you would make at home for the memories you make abroad. Next week is my brother’s last day of high school and his senior prom and I’m going to miss them. I really wish I could be there for those moments but then I remember that if had been at home, I never would have eaten a baguette on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower or stood on the top of the Oslo Opera House.
Being a study abroad student has truly opened my eyes to the reality of growing up and living apart from your family. You stop doing some of the traditional things you always did as a kid and start making your own experiences and traditions. The hope is that one day you can teach your own children the traditions you had when you were their age and share that joy with them.
I will always love my family. I’m just starting to come to the realization that they won’t always be physically there with me, but I know they will always be with me in spirit.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom!
Last night was the Valedictory Meal at my dorm, which in case you didn’t read my last post was for all of us who are leaving the dorm in the next couple of weeks. It started with a wine reception and then we were taken to the dining hall where we got a special table that was decorated. It was so nice! For dinner, I had fruit salad as a starter, then cannelloni and cheesecake as a dessert. We were served first and actually got waited on by the dining staff. It was a really sweet gesture and I felt like I truly was a part of the hall community. After dinner, there was an after party, where we talked for hours. I met so many new people that I hadn’t come in contact with before. It was a bit of a downer, if only because I was just getting to know these people and now we are all getting ready to leave.
I’m never going to forget the new friends I made and the experiences I had while in Scotland. I can already feel how far I have come as a person and am now excited for the growing I still have to go.
My life has been strange and fun-filled the past few days. Sunday, we were supposed to go to a beach party but it got rained out. Instead, we stayed in and hung out. Monday marked the beginning of Revision Week. I still can’t believe that students get a whole week to study for finals. In the States, you’re lucky to get one day. The first day was spent studying, goofing off, and enjoying time with friends. Tuesday was a busy day. I woke up early for the first time in a while and got all of my studying done before lunch. There was a going-away reception for all of us Study Abroad kids. We got gifts (including a maroon St Andrews shirt, which happens to be one of the colors of Salisbury U, so I was quite excited!) and met up with some of us that we hadn’t seen in a while. My main group pf friends left early in search of caffeine. I had my first iced Chai latte, which can only be described as heaven. Or like a Chai milkshake. One of the two.
Last night was probably the biggest event of the last few days. After much pleading and wheedling, Kira convinced me to come play Manhunt with a bunch of other people when it finally got dark. It was a tough decision because I enjoy my sleep and it doesn’t get dark until 11 PM here. I adopted the “sleep when you’re dead” philosophy and donned my ninja gear. Playing felt like childhood, remembering all the times you held your breath because the “seeker” was right next to you. I also met a lot of new people; it surprising how easy it is to form bonds with total strangers when you have a collective goal. After getting muddy, winded, and scraped up, we walked to the beach and looked at the stars. A couple of us are astrophysics majors and were pointing out the constellations to those of us not as scientifically-inclined. Comprehensively one of the best nights I’ve had in St Andrews. With only 15 days left, I’m starting to realize how much I enjoy being here and the extent to which I will miss it when I’m gone. Sobering thought.
On a lighter note, we were informed that Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth are filming in St Andrews this week for an upcoming movie. Obviously, a group of us took it upon ourselves today to go looking for them. Although the trip came to no avail, it was a lot of fun speculating where they could be. Tonight there is a dinner for all of us, Leavers (what Americans call graduating Seniors) and those of us only here for a short time. I’m really excited to celebrate, but once again sad that this chapter of my life is coming to a close.
Sorry for all the introspective babble!
Last night was the Melville Ball, an annual event for my dorm. It was free for all us of residents, and included refreshments, ice cream, and tons of delicious cupcakes. We danced the night away, first with a traditional Scottish band. From there, a local band came on and played jazz tunes and some Journey. Finally, a DJ came on and we had fun dancing to popular music and a cool light show, smoke machine included. It was it great to let loose after classes and see everyone dressed up, especially the guys in their kilts. We finally left around 1 AM, exhausted but happy from the experience.
It felt like cross between prom and a fancy adult event. So I guess it prepared me for the Black Tie parties to come! Love dressing up!
Anyway, pictures are up after this.
Title says it all. I only have less than 21 days left in Scotland. Time has flown!!! I really can’t believe that soon I’ll be on a plane back to Maryland, USA. Now I just have to survive two finals (50% of my grade for each class!) and pack. Plus all of the last minute travelling I have planned. This weekend is going to be super busy as well. Friday (tomorrow) is the last day of classes, resulting in celebratory soft serve ice cream with friends. Saturday is the Andrew Melville Hall Ball, so we’re getting all fancied up, eating free desserts, and dancing! It will be in the Old Course Hotel, which is the beautiful hotel right on the golf course. Pictures will be up. Sunday is Waltzing on West Sands, a beach party with bonfires and local music entertainment. There will be no running into the water for me this time though. Once was enough.
Busy Busy Busy!
Last night/this morning, my group of friends, myself, and a majority of the St Andrews student population took the plunge into the North Sea at dawn. It was probably one of the most memorable things I will ever experience. We spent the time before 3 AM hanging out in our friend Mike’s room, then began the trek to the other side of town. Large groups had already gotten there before us and several fires had been built on the beach. Everyone was milling around or huddling to stay warm.
*Side note: IT WAS SO COLD.
The wind was blowing off the water while we were sitting there, waiting for the sun to rise. Then, when we decided it was light enough out, we raced towards the water in our undergarments and then waded into the North Sea. Some people chose to completely submerge themselves. I could barely put my pinky toe in, so only the bottom half of me got wet. Afterwards, we hightailed it back to the dunes where our clothes and towels were. Looking back, there was so much of a time build up for that very short moment of actually going into the water. But it was worth it.
Post-robing, we walked back to our dorms to clean ourselves up and get some shut-eye. Many of us, including myself, had classes today. You only live once though.
Pictures to come!
Since its April 30 my time, I’m starting to think about tomorrow, AKA May 1. This day has a lot of significance for me. It begins my last 24 days in Scotland. It also is the anniversary of the May Dip. The May Dip is a tradition where any St Andrews students whom have committed an academic sin must take the plunge into the North Sea and “wash away” the academic sin. I don’t think I’ve done any sort of educational no-no, but to experience the true St Andrews student life, I feel it’s necessary to participate. Disclaimer: I MAY chicken out. We’ll see. The North Sea is quite cold. I am trying to mentally prepare myself in advance. It’s a one-in-a-lifetime experience, it won’t be that cold, etc.
In any case, I’m reaching the end of my time here. It feels very strange. I remember first arriving here and feeling cold and scared. Now I’m still cold, but comfortable with the life I’ve made myself here. Friends. Traditions. Familiar sights. I’m not quite sure I’m ready to leave all of that yet.
Obviously, I need to come back. Again. And again.