New Year, New Country

Erica Salowe University of Aberdeen, Scotland


January 2, 2017

It seems like we spend the majority of our lives waiting. We wait in long lines, wait all year to celebrate the holidays, wait to break out of high school, and wait for the boring summers at home to pass so we can return to college. There are so many instances when we wish time would speed up so we can get to the “good parts” of life. However, things become problematic when we are so focused on the future that we fail to fully experience the present, which we often view as our “waiting period.”

I admit that I was guilty of mentally squandering this winter break, the two-week interim between my fall semester at Penn State and my spring semester at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. I should have been savoring gatherings with family members and friends who I wouldn’t see for five months; however, I found that my mind kept itching to conduct more research on public transportation routes leading out of Aberdeen to other parts Scotland, flight rates from Edinburgh to Barcelona, and weather patterns in the heart of the Highlands. While physically I was in New Jersey at my aunt’s house for the holidays, mentally I was planning four months early where I would travel for my spring break. This Type A wanderlust could be chalked up to anxiousness about making the most of my time abroad, but I also think it is a classic example of focusing too much on the future and not taking enough time to smell the roses. Before I knew it, my two weeks at home were up and I was about to kick off my New Year by heading off to the land of rolling hills and green glens.

The night before my flight, reality hit that I was leaving everything I’ve ever known to go into a country I had only ever read about. The program I chose was through another university, so I would not be traveling with any friends. It truly felt like I was leaping into the unknown. Suddenly, I felt immense guilt that I didn’t appreciate the presence of my family and friends, who I would surely miss in a matter of hours when I had to board my plane alone. Realizing I could really use some words of comfort, I called my aunt and tried to explain what was going through my mind. I said that the knots in my stomach were a combination of anxiety about embarking on this journey by myself, and fear that I wouldn’t take advantage of every single weekend or free day by traveling to another part of Scotland or another country (either because I could get sick, have too much schoolwork, or just not have the money).

My aunt assuaged my fears, reminding me that I went into Penn State not knowing anyone, and ended up making lifelong friends; she had complete confidence the same would happen during my time abroad. She also said I shouldn’t feel so much pressure to see every inch of Scotland and other countries, because if my travels focused more on covering ground than relishing in cultural experiences then I would not truly be enjoying myself. The whole point of studying abroad was to live in the moment, and create memories I’d never forget—which would be hard to do if I was rushing through everything.

Therefore, because it is a new year and I made an invaluable realization about my mindset during these past two weeks, I think it is necessary to make a New Year’s Resolution. Since I have limited time in Scotland, my goal is to savor each day and not focus or stress too much about how much I should be traveling. Instead of adhering to a rigid spring break travel schedule, for instance, I will take a laissez-faire approach and go where the proverbial wind takes me. I will not, under any circumstances, squander the present moment by waiting anxiously for the future.

I’ve spent enough of my life waiting—now, it is time to live.