MAKING FRIENDS: AN UPDATE FROM OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT
It didn’t hit me until I arrived at the airport in Newark, NJ.
I am going to Europe.
Throughout the entire summer I was constantly asked about the coming semester, forcing me to tell the same story to friends, family, and co-workers regarding my trip abroad to the University of Glasgow in Scotland. But it had never really set in until the moment I walked in the doors of that airport, the one where I would board a plane that would take me to a land teeming with unknowns. From out of nowhere, I completely broke down, terrified of what was to come. Will I get lost? Will they hate me because I’m American? My parents did their best to console me before leaving me all alone, and I really appreciate that. Once I calmed down I knew I could do this.
Fast forward to the present moment, and I’ve been in Glasgow for almost a week now. I had no idea what to expect coming in. But to tell the truth, once you get over the thick Scottish accents, this place doesn’t feel any different than an American city. I don’t feel like I’m in a faraway, completely unfamiliar place, which I believe will be a comforting thought over the next few months. The adjustment to the time difference (Scotland is five hours ahead) was very difficult. I think I was awake for 32 straight hours at one point. I’m all set now.
There is so much to say concerning the different things I’ve experienced in my short time here about the city, people, education system, food, criminal system, drinking culture, and so on. I think I will dedicate a piece each week to delve into deeper detail about each of my observations. My favorite part of the experience to this point has definitely been meeting and interacting with all kinds of people from throughout the world. Only international students are on campus right now, meaning everyone here is in the same place as me. We are all trying to meet as many people as we can to determine who we like and don’t like so that we can begin to narrow down a good group of friends to go out, study, and converse with, just like we do in America. I’m starting to find a group already, which I’m really happy about. Like most college freshmen, the majority of my best friends live in my dorm (in Scotland, a flat). We have a really large flat, consisting of 12 men. We all have individual rooms and share between us a couple bathrooms, showers, and a kitchen. Half of us are from the United States, three hail from China, while one from each Germany, Norway, and Sweden occupy our space as well. I like every person, some more than others. I’m a naturally curious person, so I’ve enjoyed meeting the short time I’ve had with these guys because I’ve had the chance to ask them questions about their lives back home, which I will continue to do throughout the semester. I’m a big fan of the other Americans and especially the Norwegian and Swedish guys—they are really cool and I will tell you more about them as the semester progresses.
Now I know this isn’t the proper forum for dating advice, but I’ve met the love of my life. OK, that may be a wee bit of an exaggeration (wee=Scottish slang for “little”). In terms of her interests it’s almost like looking in a mirror. But my sources tell me she has a boyfriend. Classic.
In a nutshell, the city of Glasgow is amazing. I still have trouble believing that I am actually going to study at this school—this ancient university started in 1451. The locals refer to the school as Hogwarts. And let me tell you, this place has that exact feel. The neo-Gothic architecture, the sky-reaching spires, cobblestone walkways…it’s incredible. It’s all of the stuff I’ve read about in textbooks before, but have never seen in person. I’m so thankful to have this opportunity.
This upcoming week is called “Freshers’ Week,” basically a full week without classes for all of the new students to meet each other and get acclimated to the campus and rest of the city. Events during the day will resemble the Great DANEtopia and other welcoming events at the University at Albany. At night, bars and nightclubs all around the city will host events intended to lure in incoming students. Remember the legal drinking age in Scotland is 18, so the nights will feature school-sanctioned social drinking events. Not a bad gig to me.
Like I said, I’ll get into deeper detail about certain aspects of European and Scottish culture in future weeks as I start to learn more, which I am eager to share with you all. I hope everything is well back at UAlbany. Life in Scotland has started out well so far, but I can say with confidence I definitely miss aspects of the United States. For instance, football has just started again and I’m so excited about it. But I can’t even watch it! And no one here cares either. You don’t really know what ‘ya got ‘till it’s gone I guess.