I’m sipping my last cup of tea in Scotland as I write this, tucked away in a cosy little café across the street from our hotel in Edinburgh. Nostalgia is already setting in and I haven’t even left the country yet. For the past few days, I’ve caught myself reflecting on this past semester, on the lessons learned and friendships made and tiny heartbreaks along the way. Studying abroad isn’t fun 100% of the time (people rarely tell you that) but it is absolutely worth it. And when you’re someone like me who is very all-or-nothing with her feelings (I am ambivalent about approximately zero things) then you’re going to fall hard for all the new people and places and it will hurt like hell when it comes time to leave.
Essentially, this semester was not what I expected at all. I didn’t realize that spending upwards of 2 hours at dinner every night and getting continuously kicked out of the dining hall past open hours would be where I created some of my best memories. That you don’t appreciate a city or a town until you see it from a bird’s eye view (and the climb is always worth it). That cooking together – or having a dinner party in general – is the best way to get to know someone. That long-distance friendships and relationships aren’t easy but it becomes quickly obvious which ones are worth the work. That laughing your way through life is the only way to do it.
Scotland has been incredible and I am insanely thankful that I had this experience. Yesterday, just before we climbed into a taxi and watched St Andrews fade into countryside, I took one final look in the mirror. Without even actively thinking about, the first thought that fluttered across my mind was, “I am a different person.” It’s not just that I look different (myth busted: you get fat on Study Abroad. Wrong! My jeans are too loose and I kind of, sort of, almost have cheek bones. In some lights. When my face is angled correctly. And there’s an Instagram filter) but I feel different. If I’m being honest, a part of me used study abroad to run away; to find what I really wanted out of college and High Point and, I guess, what I wanted out of life in a place removed from all the negative externalities. And while leaving doesn’t always solve your problems, it does make you better equipped to overcome them when you return. I feel more assertive, more confident, and more grateful. I feel like I have a clearer mind and a calmer heart, and yet somehow I have even more passion about life than before. I don’t want to be dramatic and say that I found myself because I never considered myself missing, but I have definitely changed for the better.
So here’s a thank you to my friends, my fronds, my mongeese. For letting me use, “It’s for the blog!!” as a shameless excuse to pause everyone before a meal so I could snap a photo of the food and the table; for assuring me that I don’t have a pointy head but am still a contender for Thumb of the Year; for making me cry in front of the entire restaurant during our last dinner all together with the most thoughtful and heartfelt going-away book; for tolerating my obsession with getting upside down and trying to teach me how to cartwheel; for suspicious furniture and drinks on the beach; for introducing and sharing your families with me; for refusing absolutely to ever let me get away with all the embarrassing things I do for the sake of Snapchat; for liking me even as I moaned my way through cracked ribs; for dancing and singing and never caring what anyone thought; for teaching me that everything is funny if you make it so; for loving me. Thank you so much for everything.
So ends this chapter, just the way it started: with words and feelings and a great cup of tea. I’m not done yet, though. My friend the other day told me I was full of surprises; that she was constantly learning something new about me every time we got together. I’d like to think that I, too, am constantly learning something new about myself. The adventure doesn’t stop here.
Thanks for teaching me that, Scotland.