In the weeks and months leading up to coming to Scotland, I had quite a bit of “goodbyes.” There was the goodbye to my home university, at which I know every building, the best study spots, and my favorite place to sit outside for some sun. There were goodbyes to friends who I’ve gotten so accustomed to seeing every day that it’s hard to imagine not being so connected with their lives in person. And of course, there was the goodbye to my family, who are the ultimate and most overwhelming sense of “home.”. But without them, I wouldn’t have ever been able to fathom studying abroad in the first place.
When I was at the airport about to fly five-thousand-miles away from home, I first felt nervous, anxious, and terrified about my decision to study abroad in a new country for the next several months. I was saying goodbye to comfort, familiarity, and security. So I had to take a second and remind myself of why I’d been so excited to study abroad, and why although these goodbyes had been tearful and difficult, they would lead me to the most exciting “hellos.”
I’m here in Scotland to experience a culture different from my own, meet people from different cities, countries, continents, broaden my view of the world, and at the bottom line, push myself out of my comfort zone. With that as my mindset, I’m comforted by the fact that my most rewarding experiences have been the times where I’ve pushed myself the most. I was uncomfortable but was challenged to find security, and in turn, found out so much more about myself. I’m looking forward to challenging myself and finding out what “home” will mean to me.
One week ago today, I was on a plane flying across the world. Now, I’m sitting at my desk in my dorm room in Glasgow. Outside my window are two green and purple trees - that remind me of romaine lettuce - blowing in the wind. The sky has been gray all day, which surprisingly, is the first day of the past week that it’s been like this. I was certain I’d also said goodbye to the beautiful blue sky in Northern California last week, but luckily, I was wrong. We’ve had plenty of blue skies in Scotland - which means I’ve been overestimating how cold it will get. I brought so many sweaters and was ready to pair them with gloves, hats, and scarves, but I’ve learned I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks. I’ve been going out in jeans, boots, a top, and a jacket, and that’s really all I’ve needed. I find myself constantly taking off my jacket and putting it back on. It gets so hot inside, or I get hot quickly if I’m walking a lot. Which I’ve been doing quite a lot of. We’re in a city, after all!
For two and a half days, I stayed in Edinburgh with the Arcadia program. For these first couple of days, we stayed in a hotel close to Arcadia’s office on the University of Edinburgh campus. Our orientation consisted of learning about the current political situation in the UK, differences between the American and Scottish university systems, a lecture on Scottish identity through film, and some travel “do's and don’ts.” We also tried “Irn Bru” which is a Scottish carbonated soft drink. It was a bit too sweet to me and tasted like bubblegum and cough syrup, but I can still see the appeal. Apparently, Irn Bru is known as Scotland’s other national drink, after whiskey. Scotland is also one of the only countries where the most popular soft drink is not coca-cola, but Irn Bru. Here’s to it growing on me.
On Wednesday (11 September 2019), we took a coach to Glasgow, which was about an hour drive. I moved into my dorm, and with the help of a friend, we carried our 50-pound suitcases up to the third floor. I was finally able to unpack all of my clothes, organize my room, and put my pictures up. This always makes a new place feel like home.
In the past couple of days, I’ve begun to explore the city. Most of my first outings were walks to the subway to get to the city center. I had “housing” purchases to buy such as dish towels, extra linens, hangers, etc. (Fun fact: I bought some of these pieces at “TK Maxx.” No, I didn’t misspell a letter! Glasgow has a TK Maxx, while in the U.S., I’ve only ever known TJ Maxx.) Yesterday, however, I finally had some time to explore outside of the city center. Two friends and I took a walk past the university towards Byres Road and then a bit further to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. We walked through several glasshouses of colorful plants and cacti and then sat down on a bench outside, overlooking the grassy area where families were enjoying picnics or people were letting their dogs play. It felt very peaceful, and I’m happy to know there’s a place of serenity in such a large city. I’m thinking, however, that I’ll find a lot more of these places while I’m here.
Glasgow is a beautiful city, and not just externally. Amongst all of the buildings that seem to look like majestic castles or the gorgeous spots of nature tucked away, Glaswegians are just extremely friendly people. Several times while I’ve been walking through the city and need to ask for directions, I’m either offered help before I ask, or someone is more than happy to be of assistance. When someone bumps into me walking out of the Subway they apologize or say “cheers!” which always puts a smile on my face. The locals I’ve met have been excited to meet me and are open in sharing about themselves, the city or the university. While not all of these are the most significant interactions, it reassures me that I made a great decision in coming to study abroad here.
Tomorrow I have plans to attend the Freshers’ Fair at the university. On my walk through the park, I know I’ll see the slogan “People Make Glasgow” pasted on a bench. It’s not a cliche to me; it couldn’t be more true. With the blue skies, crisp air, and warm, friendly faces, I feel that Glasgow has welcomed me with open arms. I’m excited for what’s to come, and I’m looking forward to what or who I’ll get to say “hello” to next.