Bittersweet. That’s the word that describes coming home after an amazing semester abroad. Yes, at times I wanted to snuggle with my pets, had cravings for Chick-fil-a, and had twinges of jealousy when I saw pictures of friends at home, but the closer my departure date came, the more I wished I could stay a little longer. While abroad I recognized I was in a unique situation, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Being so far out of my comfort zone was (not surprisingly) uncomfortable at first. Trying new things is an unavoidable part of spending a semester in a foreign country. I gave a shot at driving on the wrong side of the road, navigating with real, paper maps (gasp!), planning/booking my own trips, and even tasting octopus for the first time. My semester abroad expanded my comfort zone to make the uncomfortable situations not only comfortable, but something I grew to crave. Don’t get me wrong, I never wanted to be in terrifyingly difficult situations, but I enjoyed pushing myself to see just what I was made of.
As a history major, I signed up for two history classes and an art history class for fun. Specifically, I took a history course on Medieval Europe, a history of art from 1700-1900 course, and an American history course. I laughed, too, when I was placed into the latter and thought, “oh great, this will be boring, why couldn’t I have gotten into something else?”. But I gave it a chance and the American history class ended up being my favorite class, in part because it offered a new perspective on a subject I’ve been hearing about since I first heard about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. The lesson I took out of my academic experience is to give everything a chance, and to cherish learning. For the first time in my college experience I got to learn for the sake of learning, not because a course was required or I had to make a perfect grade. This allowed me to really appreciate the opportunities given to me to study at the university level and at such a renowned institution.
Coming home where everything is familiar really was a culture shock when I realized that though everything stayed exactly the same, I had changed. The change isn’t obvious on the outside; I didn’t join a clan and start wearing their tartan pattern or go on a haggis, neeps, and tatties-only diet, but it’s obvious to me on the inside. I hope that I can take what I’ve learned: the independence, the ability to push myself, and learning to appreciate the moment, and use the aspects of myself that have changed to benefit myself in my next endeavors and in the way I approach my day-to-day life.
Returning after a semester of incredible travels, memories, and lessons is an adjustment. But Scotland and my semester abroad gave me an unbelievable experience and for that, I am forever grateful.