The pilgrimage to Scotland
Written by Matt Heffernan|
September 11, 2014
The pilgrimage to a new home in a different country is reminiscent of that first drive to Williamsburg on an all-too-hot August day. In my case, that first trip to Williamsburg was a three hour drive with my parents — while my trip to St. Andrews was a five-hour flight to Reykjavik, a six-hour tour of Iceland from a traveling candy salesman, a two-hour flight to London, four days in London, and a five-hour train ride to Leuchars, where I then took a bus to St. Andrew’s. In its own way, this pilgrimage represented the next logical step: The first step was away from the home I knew my whole life and the second was from the country I grew up in.
I had always heard about culture shock when adapting — and no, not just making the sad discovery that people in the U.K. don’t use the word “ratchet” — but I hadn’t expected it in the ways it manifested. The most jarring experience was in London. I had spent so much time traveling alone that when I finally heard myself utter a sentence, my own accent felt out of place. Eight days later, it’s just starting to feel less out of place in the ocean of accents at a university as international as St. Andrew’s. Even though my own voice is less dissonant, I still find myself explaining why people who live in D.C. can’t vote for senators, why the drinking age is 21, and why the electoral college exists.
On the other hand, St. Andrew’s might become more international than I had initially bargained for.
Usually when people study abroad, the country the university is in doesn’t change, but that’s not the case here at the University of St. Andrew’s. While, in the event of a “yes” vote, Scotland wouldn’t gain full independence until 2016, such national upheaval usually isn’t near the top of the list of my everyday concerns.
On top of all of these concerns, I’ve had to reconcile myself to the idea that, once again, I live in a city in which I’d get lost without Google Maps — a feeling I didn’t miss from freshman year. It has just reminded me that rebuilding an identity doesn’t get easier with practice. What I have learned again is that joining in full force is the only way forward. Expect to see me walking to class past the ruins of a cathedral, down a pier wearing a red academic gown or getting measured for a kilt — anything else would be “glaikit.”