How One Semester Changed My Life

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It’s crazy to think it’s been a year since I left for the most magnificent adventure of my life. On one hand, it feels like I was just there, but on the other, I am acutely aware of the passage of time. With each day, it feels like my friends from abroad and I fall just slightly more out of touch, it becomes harder and harder to hear a thick Scottish accent in my head, and I begin to question if those four months were real or just a beautiful dream.

It’s hard to really mentally prepare yourself for such a remarkable experience, but it’s infinitely harder to prepare yourself for the return. I still remember that feeling of landing in JFK airport. There was this omnipresent, palpable sting that kept reminding me it was all over. It wasn’t really the fact that it was over that got to me, rather, knowing it would never be as it once was.

I fell in love with Scotland, I fell in love with the University of Edinburgh, and I fell in love with the wonderful people I met.

Sure, in a sense, Edinburgh will always be there. I can always (well, time and cost permitting) hop on a plane and fly right back over. But my exchange will not always be there, in fact, in won’t ever be there again. And trying to come to terms with that hasn’t always been and isn’t easy.

I fell in love with Scotland, I fell in love with the University of Edinburgh, and I fell in love with the wonderful people I met. Most of my friends were from all over the world, save the few from the other side of the country, and they taught me more about life and myself than I could have ever thought possible. Edinburgh was a truly magical city, but all my memories are forever intertwined with the people I shared it with. Of course I’d love to go back to Edinburgh and walk through Grass Market, run along Arthur’s Seat, and golf at Duddingston. But, that doesn’t change the fact that I’d rather go back to Edinburgh and walk through Grass Market, run along Arthur’s Seat, and golf at Duddingston all while being enrolled at the University of Edinburgh and living with my friends in Masson House.

I find it quite unsettling to know how easy it is, even after a semester of traveling, adventure, and exploration, to settle back into a routine. When I got back to campus last spring, I felt changed. I felt like an alien in my once familiar and comfortable surroundings. And then, around three weeks later, I was back to the daily grind; going to class, going to practice, stressing over midterms, barely sleeping, and doing it all over again.

 

Some friends enjoying the rare Scotland sun

Some friends enjoying the rare Scotland sun

Flash forward to now, one year later, and sometimes it’s hard to remember what it even felt like to be in Edinburgh. It’s hard to remember the vibrant green of Holyrood and the rustic castles. It’s hard to remember the sound of bagpipes from afar. It’s hard to remember what it felt like to shop at Tescos and pay with the pound. Cars drive on the right side of the road and it doesn’t rain quite enough. My library is only three floors and I can’t hop on a train and play some of the greatest golf courses in the world. Sometimes, it really does feel like it was only a dream. Facebook messaging my friends across time-zones has a different effect than strutting through the streets of Madrid and Amsterdam with them– I can’t argue with that. I hate the fact that my friends are across the sea and that my current dining hall doesn’t have muesli.

But then I sit back and remember that corny cliche, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” and I smile. Because it did happen. I certainly have the photos to prove it, I have a surplus of instagram followers to prove it, but most importantly, I have the memories of a lifetime to prove it. I went to a remarkable city with remarkable people and in those four months learned more about the world and what it meant to live than I had in the past 20 years of my life. It was a hard chapter to close, but my book is forever better for it.

 

Sara Ressler is a student at Amherst College and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Article by Sarah Ressler