ASP ABROAD: A MESSAGE FROM GLASGOW, SCOTLAND
By the time you read this, I should be settling into my new life in a new place; a life different than anything I’ve experienced before. Before I dive deeper, let me give you the backstory.
My name is Troy Farkas, and I am a junior at the University at Albany. I am a history major with a United States concentration, as well as a journalism minor. If you’re a big fan of the Great Danes, you may also know me as the WCDB Sports Director, an Albany Student Television producer, or a frequent contributor to the sports section of the Albany Student Press. But this semester, I’m leaving all of that behind.
I grew up in Clifton Park, N.Y., a mostly white, middle-class suburb about 25 minutes north of UAlbany. I was born in Seattle, WA but moved so early in my life that I don’t remember it. The Capital Region is all I’ve ever known. Last semester, after many conversations with my professors and advisers, I decided it was time to leave the area, my comfort zone, for an opportunity elsewhere, one where I could grow as a person on the brink of adulthood. And I don’t mean adulthood as in age 18, when I became one in the eyes of the law nearly three years ago. I mean an adult in the sense of, living on my own, paying my bills, and finding a full-time job.
That decision to leave leads me to the University of Glasgow, a world-renowned university in the largest city in Scotland, where I will be studying this fall as an exchange student with the help of a World Within Reach Scholarship.
For the remainder of the semester I will contribute a weekly column to the ASP highlighting my experiences abroad with the hope of giving a firsthand glimpse to the UAlbany student population into what it’s like to study overseas. For those of you similar to myself that have rarely ventured outside of your comfort zone, I hope I can provide information that can inspire you to do the same, in one way or another.
I’m not saying I’m the first one to ever study abroad or that traveling to another continent is the only way to learn more about yourself. You can join a new club, eat lunch with a new person, or take a new class completely different than anything you’ve ever done before. All I’m saying is, we’re young. This is the time in our life’s journey when we are supposed to broaden our horizons and do things that scare us. Not many of us have responsibilities to anybody but ourselves, so let’s make the most of that precious time. With my time, I’ve decided I want to spend three-plus months attending a school in a history-rich land in the heart of Europe. It’s an experience I’ve always wanted to have, despite always making excuses not to go. My advice to you? Do it. Whatever it is that scares you, whatever it is that freaks you out, do it. And do it by yourself. You’ll learn from it, for better or for worse. I’m not traveling with anyone I know and I have no idea who I’ll be living with, and you bet I’m scared.
To be completely honest, I’m really nervous going over there. I’ve never been outside of North America before. I’ve never lived in a city before. Are pickpockets going to clean me out? Unlike many UAlbany students, I didn’t grow up taking public transportation. Will I miss my train rides and be stranded? What about the language barrier? Yes, English is the primary language, but the Scottish speak a different dialect that can sometimes be difficult to understand. I am scared I will offend people with my American slang or dress. I’ll be living amongst students from all edges of the world, a lifestyle a far cry away from the white middle-class kids I’ve always been surrounded by. But you know what? It’s all something I’m going to embrace. The more well-rounded of a person you can are, the better friend, partner, and job candidate you will become.
We’re all doing this thing called “life,” but I think so many of us forget to LIVE. We’re so wrapped up in our daily lives—schoolwork, relationships, technology, whatever—that we don’t appreciate everyday life in its purest form. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and think to yourself how lucky you really are. I know we all complain about this school from time-to-time, whether it’s regarding the constant construction or the stupid parking tickets (still mad about this), but at the end of the day, we all attend a well-respected institution with the opportunity to learn and grow on a daily basis. Not everyone can be so fortunate. We are provided with many opportunities other kids inside and outside of the United States don’t have the resources for. It would be a crime to not take advantage of what’s in front of me, because I know there are millions around the world who would kill to be in my position.
I’m scared. I’m nervous. But you know what? I’m ready for it. There are only so many opportunities you have to do something like this, and I’m very appreciative to UAlbany for allowing and encouraging me to do so. There will be times where I never want to leave and times when all I want to do is sit by the fountain between classes. I’m ready for all of the ups-and-downs my semester abroad will bring, and I hope you all read this weekly column to share the ride with me.
See you next week
Read more about Troy’s experience throughout the rest of the semester. Articles will be published weekly online and occasionally in print.