It’s been a busy couple of months, but it’s finally the last week of classes here. My last class is on Friday, and then I’m free for a whole month before the exam session begins. Even though it’s been a long time, this semester seems to have flown by. In less than two months I’ll be going back to the States, leaving Edinburgh – the city which has become my home. It feels weird, being around students who are only halfway through their time abroad, while I am at the end of my time. They feel like they have a lot of time, and I’m wondering where it’s gone. I start a three-week backpacking trip on Saturday, and I know the time then will go even faster. Even though I’m ready to come home in a lot of ways, I still want time to slow down. I want to remember each day, and savor it because I know that every day brings a new experience. Even if I watch that experience through my window because it’s pouring rain and I can’t be bothered to go grocery shopping.
I suppose that’s what they don’t tell you about studying abroad for a year. I suppose you get the feeling a bit during one semester, but for a year it’s definitely true. Living abroad gets to be…routine. It’s not all jetsetting and seeing sites every weekend. It’s going to class, watching Netflix, grocery shopping, cooking, doing laundry, complaining about the weather. All the things that you know you have to do, but seem like you shouldn’t have to do because you’re abroad and you’re here for the experience, not to do laundry. And all the classes that seemed so exciting at first become work, and suddenly you can’t take a trip to London because you have a paper due the week you want to go. All the things that are fun and new the first two months are the same things that seem normal and routine by month six. Walking through Old Town is still beautiful, but I don’t feel the need to stop and take pictures, or linger in front of the old buildings, and I forget to appreciate the city I’m in and things I’m getting to do. But then I remember, and everything becomes new and special again. It becomes an experience again.
I recently took a trip to the Isle of Skye, and I was reminded of why I chose to study abroad in Scotland. It’s an amazing country, but in the winter it’s cold, and dark, and a bit colorless. Everything is brown and gray and cold and wet. Not that the Isle of Skye was warm, but it’s one of those places that really is magical any time of year. It’s out on the west coast of Scotland, connected to the mainland by a bridge. Despite being an island, it’s still part of the Highlands, and the mountains are proof of that – they hardly look like they belong in Scotland at all. I was only there for a weekend, but in that time I was able to see a lot of the island, and it’s easy to see why Skye is such a popular tourist destination. There is a lot of hiking, and there are some really scenic drives along the coast. There are little hidden places, like one called the Faerie Glen, that are gems in the countryside. Even with the landscape still in the drab winter colors of olive green, brown, and gray, it was stunning. The mountains even still had snow on them. It’s a place that I can imagine going back to more than once. There’s so much to explore, even though the island isn’t that big. Even Portree, the main town on Skye, is charming.
My most recent trip was to Copenhagen, which was an amazing experience. It’s so different from any other European city, with a surprising amount of bikes. According to the Danish girl I stayed with, there are more bikes than people. Besides the usual tourist stops, I also visited Christiania, which is an old military base that was taken over by hippies and has become an independent commune tolerated by the government. No one there pays taxes, but no new supplies to build are ever brought in, and there is an application process to live there. It’s most famous for its ‘Green Light District’ (no photos allowed), but it’s so much more than that. It’s a place where people live – there are children growing up there. It’s amazing what the residents have created. A place unlike any other. And the attitude is best summed up by the words on the back of the welcoming sign, seen as you leave Christiania: ‘Now entering the EU.’
It’s been a whirlwind couple of months, and it’s only going to get busier, with traveling and exams eating up the rest of my time here in Edinburgh. But it’s been a great ride so far, and I’m looking forward to a great last two months.