In year 10 one of my best friends went to America as an exchange student. I thought it was the most incredible thing I had ever heard. When I mentioned to my mum that I would love to do something like that she said, “you don’t even go to school here what makes you think you could do that?” Squashed as I felt as well as extreme jealousy, I stayed put, but the desire to live somewhere else had always lingered.
In 2015 I decided it was the right time. My partner and I were able to study abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland. I stayed on campus at Queen Margaret University with a group of amazing young women, some of whom I have seen 3 or 4 countries with now.
When we arrived it was just after New Year’s and it was cold but not nearly as cold as everyone had warned. Not only was I able to get off the plane without turning into ice, it snowed only a handful of times in my whole semester there.
Edinburgh is so tragically beautiful I felt like I shouldn’t be allowed to touch anything. The castle that sits proudly in the center overseeing its town is unfathomable to someone who was raised in such a young country by comparison. I liked the place and I liked the people I spent time with but this trip in particular was a really difficult thing for me to endure.
My first time being away from home to this extent was already an unhealthy dose of stress. Throw in two close family members dying and you have a downright shit-fest of a time. I tried to have this fantastic experience and just couldn’t. I was trapped in a nasty cycle of torment and grief. We ended up cutting the trip short because I just couldn’t fully appreciate where I was.
I had wonderful days walking Arthur’s Seat and adventuring the Highland’s. I learnt a big lesson about expectations when I was in Scotland. The picture in my head of laughing with friends and college parties quickly disappeared and I had to accept that you just can’t help what happens sometimes. You can try and hold onto this imaginary place but you will hurt yourself by doing so.
When I make it back to Edinburgh I will be present. I mean, I will try to be. And if you make it there before me, here’s a tip: It’s not a big city but it is really hilly so go with sensible footwear. You’ll thank me later.