A World Away

Haley Dunbrack University of Edinburgh, Scotland


November 16, 2016

To the people I love:

I started writing this blog post about three weeks ago, and it was originally all about food. I wanted to tell people all about the amazing restaurants I have visited while traveling abroad and the delicious dishes I have eaten. I wanted to talk about foods unique to Scotland, eating too much, and loving every minute of it. Then, papers happened and time got in my way, and last week when I considered finishing this original blog post, I really couldn’t imagine it. Times had changed and my point of view had been altered. Maybe I will finish my original post next week, or the week after, when I feel less weak and more calm, but I can’t today…and not tomorrow…just not yet.

I don’t write often about my political or social views because I dislike self-ranting and I think in-person conversations are more useful for growth; honestly, social media exhausts me. As a writer, however, this past week was incredibly difficult to digest without writing out my emotions into some piece of work. I wrote an entire blog post before I wrote this one; one that I can’t even imagine sending out into the world because it was raw and rough and reactionary.

That’s not to say that this post will be any less imperfect. In fact, I assume many people will disagree with me or look at situations differently from me, but I am writing only what I can at a time when people are angry or hurting, or worst of all, terrified for their futures. Furthermore, I am writing only what I know – I do not have enough knowledge to encompass the emotions of every person or even of myself, but I do have enough to try and capture what it has been like watching the unfolding of the 2016 US election while studying in Scotland this fall.

I’ve been removed from politics since coming to Edinburgh in September, but I’ve also made sure to follow recent news through online resources such as YouTube, Facebook, newspapers, etc. I wanted to be an aware voter before I submitted my absentee ballot. I did this about two weeks before the election and proceeded to encourage my friends and family to vote as well. Then, I went to sleep on Tuesday night and waited to see what would happen in America while I slept – many things changed overnight.

To say the outcome was unexpected is an understatement – from Scotland, I really believed that there was no way America would elect Trump president. Perhaps it was my removal from the States that led me to believe so erroneously, but many of my friends shared my disbelief so I realized I had grossly misunderstood America during this election. I am a liberal-leaning college student with friends who think a lot like me and I hadn’t been consuming the rhetoric of the other side as much as I should have been. Due to this, I was shocked and in despair on Wednesday morning, but I had a 9 a.m. class which I could not miss filled with people I didn’t know how to face.

When I arrived, I saw my good friend from Minnesota and we hugged each other long and hard; both of us were holding back tears and anger. Our classmates watched us because they knew what had happened, and we knew they knew – but what could we say? Did we represent our country in that moment? Were we all of America at that time? We sat in silence and tried to process our roles in the room.

My professor was somber and composed as he walked in the room. In the face of our silence, he began by telling us a story. He reminded us about the devastating terrorist attack which occurred in France last year, and told us what it was like going back to work the day after the catastrophe; facing all of the pain, all of the disbelief. He was asked how he could do it – continue to teach after such awful things had happened – and his reply to that question was that he is a teacher. His job is to teach and to help others to learn, and so, how could he just stop when terrible things happened?

He then turned this question back on us – how do we go on? And the answer, while not simple, is that we are students. We are learning about history, about science, about the world, and we keep learning because it is only through this that progress happens. We are students and we are humans. We learn about each other every day through mistakes and setbacks and hardships. I am often appalled at remembering previous offenses or ignorant remarks, but then I remember that I can be better and fight for a better future. Even in tragedy, my professor reminded us of our purpose. We are students, we are learning, and this purpose matters now more than ever before.

On a personal level, I am mourning. I mourn for the people I love – my friends, my sisters, my mother, my grandmothers, myself. I mourn for victims, those I know and those I don’t know, and I mourn for their fears. Fear should never be encouraged and once upon a time, America actually believed this.

For my friends and family at home, know this: people in Scotland are mourning with us. We are not alone, and even when we feel that people around us have betrayed us, the world is with us. They are mourning for the American people, but also for the powerful precedent which America sets for the entire world. We hold the hopes and dreams of many small countries in our hands, and we affect many people that we may not even realize. They also mourn because America used to represent a change which inspired nations – we were progressive and pushed other countries to follow in our footsteps, so where does that leave us now?

In the face of my sadness, I want to be home more than anything. Despite the support I have felt in Scotland and the satisfaction I have at being in a nation which so closely aligns with my values, I can do nothing here. I want to be at my school, with my people, my dearest friends. I want to offer support and safety where I can, and I want some of the same to be given to me. I miss my community, and I want it to grow in the face of these decisions, not falter. Scotland, in many ways, is able to move on from the results of this election while I cannot.

All I have left to say is that when I voted for Hillary Clinton, I was not voting for an administration or a government. I was voting for the people I love and the people I see changing the world every single day of their lives. When governments fall and corruption pervades every corner of legislation, our people remain. We have suffered a defeat, we are sad and some of us are terrified, but people still remain so we must fight for them, champion them, choose them.

Take my writing as you please, but know that I am standing tall and, with Scotland behind all of us, I’m coming home.


Scotland Semester