Here and now, in a different part of the world, there are always things that I promise to do, trips to slot in to my our busy schedule, and places that I vow I won’t miss. Being in Edinburgh, I sometimes think of the countless adventures that I haven’t had and the sights that I have not seen. There is simply too much to do—even simple things, like visiting every street and seeing every monument. With limited time in a new and fascinating city, I at first felt like I should be traveling constantly; everyone else I knew who was abroad was in a different European city every weekend, blogging about new places and new people. Meanwhile, I was forming close friendships and becoming a regular at local coffee shops. While at first I felt guilty for not taking advantage of the great European continent at my fingertips, I started to realize that I was getting the most that I possibly could out of my city and my university. Other students studying abroad aren’t doing it wrong if they’re not doing it like I am—every JYA experience is different—but I’m doing it right in my own mind. Creating my own little life in Edinburgh was my perfect study-abroad experience.
If there is one thing that I don’t want to be, it is a typical American tourist. I do love sightseeing, but I would much rather get to know a city for its details and unknowns than for its fame. Edinburgh is an ancient city; there are parts of this metropolis that are centuries older then my home country. It is full of underground chambers, archaic pubs, medieval castles, and time-honored traditions. As a country, Scotland is like a prehistoric wonderland. It is a naturally gorgeous region filled with timeless stories and places. From the cities of the lowlands to the wilderness of the highlands, this country has so much to offer. I have seen a generous amount of unforgettable aspects of Scotland—the rocky, windy coast; the sheep-spotted countryside; the nightlife of Glasgow; and the many-layered beauty of Edinburgh, where I live. But after visiting these key places, I have discovered that what brought me closest to this new place was actually living in it. I feel like I have become a part of this city, and while I may not have traveled all over Europe, I am much happier knowing that I am close to one place than merely friendly with a dozen more. I spend my spare time walking around streets nearby my flat and trying new restaurants. I have gotten involved in a couple of societies (campus organizations) and spent adequate time in the library. I have made close friends and gotten to know people from all over the world. I have gone to the movies, out for American food, and to concerts. I have done everything that I would do at home, but from a Scottish perspective. My goal was to live life here like I would if I were from here. With a few touristy extras, I feel like I’ve accomplished this.
Some of my favorite memories from my time abroad have come from everyday happenings: people-watching from the window of a coffee shop on a Saturday night; movie nights with my flatmates; weekly, rainy trips to the Castle Terrace Farmers Market; reading a book in the Princes Street Gardens; going out for a beer at the local pub; and eating my first deep-fried Mars Bar with three other Americans. These may seem like insignificant memories compared to the far and wide travels of some of my other Vassar friends, but to me, they make my study abroad experience real. These memories have made Edinburgh a home, a place to which to return, and a place that I know like the back of my hand. That, more than anything else, can never be replaced.