Scottish spontaneity

At the College of William and Mary, much of what we’re taught as students is learning when to say no to being irresponsible, such as taking a night in to study when you’d rather be out. While this has been an important skill to learn, Scotland has been teaching me when to say yes. The real moment came when a friend of mine from Germany texted me and asked if I wanted to go to the Isle of Skye next weekend. Initially, I thought I should say no since I’m spending this coming weekend in the highlands; instead, I said yes.

Studying abroad, as I mentioned last week, means a lot of putting yourself out there when you’d rather stay in with a cup of tea, warm blanket and your Netflix subscription. To add to that, it almost means knowing when to take off and enjoy yourself — often much more than back home. This is made a lot easier because of the style of homework in the UK; instead of being in Small Hall until 3 AM several nights a week working on the weekly problem set, we have two weeks to work on much shorter problem sets that can actually be finished during the day. A stack of reading makes up for the shorter problem sets, but this is much more manageable and can often be done by the beach while watching the tide come in and hastily google-translating some words from German.

Aside from taking off and running helter-skelter all over the country, saying yes when in doubt has become quite a useful thing. In small group tutorial sessions, being here only for the year means that I really don’t care if I’m judged for asking a possibly stupid question (and accidentally finding out I’ve stumbled upon the idea that the Higgs mechanism works because of superfluidity in the Higgs field). On the other hand, saying yes has allowed me to discover that the local late-night Turkish kebab place can make passable poutine, so it really comes down to what you value as success (hint: I’m squarely on the side of poutine).

Finally, my last two successes in saying yes came publicly and privately, respectively. The first, and by far the more interesting of the two, is that one of my I-think-academic-aunts-but-could-be-just-a-friend-of-my-academic-mum interviewed me for an article about Americans at St Andrews (while only 10% of the student body, it appears to be the loudest and proudest 10%) to appear in The Saint, The St Andrews student newspaper. Lastly, I was in Tesco today contemplating what to eat for dinner, since I’ve got 5 slices of cheese and a bit of cider to my name at the moment, when I was met with what I was sure I would never see again if I didn’t pounce on it immediately: haggis pizza. I carried it home with pride and trepidation and I am pleased to report that it was actually excellent, making saying “yes” worthwhile yet again.


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