As I sit down with my bottle of port to write another post, several things come to mind when looking over my previous blogs. First, I am clearly a science major; I approach the topic of life abroad in a very factual way. Second is the way I have come to live in the absence of so much that is both familiar and dear to me.
Aside from the blatantly obvious part of being an ocean away from where I grew up and lived my entire life, I’m an ocean away from my immediate family and closest friends. While this was clearly apparent during my last semester’s period of adjustment, I have now come to notice the sort of complacency with which we approach staying in contact. My contact with my parents, which reached an all-time high while I lived in Texas as a research student, has gone from bi-weekly updates on life in Scotland to multi-hour Skype sessions where we discuss internship applications for this coming summer. My friends are busy with activities that I would otherwise be taking part in, meaning that we also have less time for contact. This has helped to shape my mindset here and remind me to continue to settle in rather than depend on home to have my back while I’m away.
Not knowing people has been both the greatest help and hindrance while abroad. On one hand, there’s a certain aspect of devil-may-care about meeting new people, as, should you not get along, you may very well never see them again. On the other, there’s the realization that friendships now absent cannot be replaced by new ones. The combination of these two things, however, has come to help me become progressively more comfortable being myself and seeing how things turn out.
As I switch from my port to my Talisker (it’s been a long Tuesday), I begin to consider how some of the choices I’ve made have affected my life abroad. For anyone reading this and thinking about going to St Andrews, don’t live in Albany Park. I live in Albany Park because I am the very grateful beneficiary of the Timothy J. Sullivan scholarship, which covers the cost of living here. What this means, however, is that I have sacrificed all the benefits of living in the center of town. Conversely, this has instilled in me an appreciation of the quiet night in. While those in town pay more for a better location, spending less on accommodation has enabled me to survey the single malts that would have otherwise been out of my price range (hello, Talisker). Also, since Albany Park is a self-catered hall, I’ve come to perfect a select few recipes, and as a result, I can have quiet nights in with my flatmates.
This evening, as I took a walk along the beach in my new Wellies, it struck me what changes have actually come over me. I’m no longer running from class to class or from meeting to meeting, nor am I spending my time hanging out with friends outside the Daily Grind. Instead, I’m stopping to smell the roses. I’m noticing the finer bits of life that I was missing before I really appreciated how special a time being a student is. As I appreciate an evening walk along a beach, a good whiskey or the new friends I’ve made, I know that the separation from my life back home has made my heart grow stronger. I also know that when I return home, I’ll take that strength with me, but my heart will remain in Scotland.