From his plane to the U.S., Troy looks back on his semester abroad.
I remember the weeks when I wanted so badly for this day to come. But now that it finally has, I wish I could put it off a wee bit longer. I’m not ready for it to end yet.
I’m on a United Airlines plane bound for Newark, N.J. My semester abroad is officially over. It still doesn’t feel real. It feels like just one of my weekend trips to another new place in Europe. But this time, it’s not. I’m going back to the United States and I’m yet to be excited about it.
I cried when my plane hit the runway.
I experienced some tough weeks in October and all I wanted to do was go home. I missed the University at Albany. I missed the routine of my daily life. I missed my friends and family. And I just missed the greatest country in the world. I envisioned myself kissing the ground of the U.S. when I arrived. But then I realized I’d be kissing the ground of New Jersey, and that’s just nasty.
So that won’t be happening today. Instead I kissed goodbye to the door of my room in Glasgow where I’ve lived for the past three and-a-half months.
Saying goodbye is never easy. I’ve spent the past few days reminiscing with my new friends who also were preparing for their trips back home. And just like that, I had to hug them goodbye knowing there is a good chance I will never see them again. I hope it doesn’t turn out that way, but I know how life works. I may never share another laugh (or another beer) with the people that I just shared some of the greatest times of my life with. If any of you are reading this, (Sasha, Brad, Jake, Jonas, Malcolm, Ares, Alex, Leah, Setonji, and even Sam) I thank you all for helping make my experience something I’ll never forget. I learned something about life from each of you; I only hope I could do the same for you. And to Jake especially, thank you for being the life of the party and for always going out of your way to make sure people have a good time.
With that said, I promised last week I’d give you all the answer to the question that I will inevitably hear every time I see someone over Christmas break.
How was Glasgow?
I wrote last week that it’s a tough question to answer. And it still is. But to try and gather my thoughts I want to return to why I hoped to study abroad in the first place.
I first received the inspiration to go to Europe in ninth grade history class when I learned about the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, Renaissance Europe, and the modernist 19th and 20th centuries. I’m a history nerd and Europe offers a much richer history than that of the United States. I talked to so many friends and teachers who had also gone to Europe; every one of them viewed their trips as a positive experience. None of them regretted going. For so many years visiting Europe was idyllic, something I wanted to do but didn’t believe I had the means to accomplish. I didn’t think it was possible for a kid from a suburb in upstate New York to stand on the Cliffs of Moher or in the ancient ruins of Rome. But I did those things. I made it happen. I took the initiative and believed I could do it. And honestly, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve developed a soft spot for traveling and I know this isn’t the last Europe will see of Troy Farkas.
Secondly, I wanted to challenge myself. I always regretted choosing to attend the University at Albany because of its proximity to my hometown of Clifton Park. It’s nothing to do with the school—I love UAlbany and I’ve thrived at it. But most of my friends went off to places they had never been before, creating new lives in the process. I never received that chance. I feel like I chose the easy way out and that I subconsciously chose UAlbany because it would allow me to stay close to home.
Studying abroad presented the opportunity for me to go away from home. It forced me to adjust to a completely different world, one full of new people, customs, food, measurements, transportation, as well as a different educational system. It may have taken awhile, but by November I completely adapted to life in the United Kingdom. It felt like home. That’s why I’m sad today—I feel like I’m moving. Forever.
And lastly, I just wanted a college experience. My lack of one thus far has nothing to do with UAlbany–it has everything to do with the person that I am. Back home I don’t spend Fridays and Saturdays recovering from the night before so I can prepare to go out again that night. I don’t procrastinate on my work by watching Netflix or grabbing a bite to eat with my friends. At UAlbany, I only know one way to live. And that is just putting my head down and working. I’m a college student and I’m at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to the real world, which is why I’ve worked so hard over the last three years. I’ve been trying to emerge from college as the most prepared graduate any employer has ever seen.
But that has come at a big cost: I’ve made few memories at UAlbany. I don’t have any crazy “When I was in college…” stories to tell my kids. I’ve hardly done anything stupid that I regretted. I have good friends but none of them will be ones I keep for life.
I wanted to go to Glasgow so I could make those memories and do those stupid things. Being who I am, obviously I didn’t do anything too crazy nor did I completely avoid responsibilities. Compared to the average American student here I’m sure I lived a pretty mellow life. But for me, I stepped over my boundaries this fall. I wasn’t as disciplined as I normally am. I allowed myself to have some fun. I allowed myself to eat and drink excessively from time-to-time. I knew I’d go back to the rigid lifestyle once I returned to the U.S. so I had to get it out of my system there. And because I did so, I made a lot of memories in Glasgow, way more than I’ll have after two and-a-half years at UAlbany. I’ll never forget that morning in Florence. I’ll never forget my first and only GameDay experience. And I’ll never forget the lifelong friends I made here. Who knows if/when we’ll see each other again, but we’ll always have this unique experience to unite us all forever.
So to answer the question, my semester in Glasgow was everything I hoped it to be. I can honestly say I have no regrets because I did what I came here to do. Despite not caring very much I received decent grades at a world-renowned university. I traveled to a few of Europe’s major cities—Edinburgh, Dublin, Amsterdam, Milan, Florence, Rome and Berlin—and had an awesome time seeing the sites I grew up reading about in my history textbooks. I lived a new life—although temporarily–and made so many small adjustments along the way. However, I can’t quite say yet what I learned about myself and the world from my semester abroad. I don’t think I’ll know until I get home and talk about it. I think it will take time before I realize the trip’s full impact on my outlook of the world.
Like I said, I did what I came here to do. I’m not emotionally ready to leave Europe, but I know that it’s time.
It’s been real Glasgow; I’ll never forget you. You took me in and made me one of your own. You gave me the opportunity to live in a city, experience college on another continent, and learn more than I ever have in any given three and-a-half month span of my lifetime. But sadly, all good things must come to an end.
Thank you to those of you who have read this thing weekly and offered words of support to me as I experienced a rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout this semester. I especially want to thank my friends Corey, Shannon, Tori and Laura. You guys will never realize how much your constant support meant to me. And thank you to Stefan and the rest of the Albany Student Press team for allowing me to talk about myself every week. I can’t wait to join you all next semester as the new sports editor of the student newspaper.
But until then, I’ll enjoy the holidays with my friends and family and slowly adjust back to life in the U.S. I know I’ll be happy that I’m home but I also know I’ll be wondering what’s going on in Glasgow and what I would be doing if I were there. After all, it was my life for three and-a-half months. Scotland will always live inside of me. I’ll dream of the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond and seeing green landscapes everywhere I go. I hope to return someday—I just don’t know when. Things happen.
If I never do, at least I’ll always have the memories.
Thank you everyone.