it really is one step at a time

A few nights ago I returned to my flat from my third trip to Edinburgh. On this final trip, I finally visited the famous Edinburgh Castle, and I’d taken a Harry Potter walking tour, on which I discovered that the street where I’d bought a dress earlier that day was the inspiration for Knockturn Alley. (Apparently it’s changed a lot since the 90’s.)

When I finally made it to my room, I couldn’t sleep. I was bursting with thoughts and desires and prayers and songs, and my memory was full of snippets of conversation, winding stairs and streets, tastes of bread and coffee, and the faces of hundreds of people. Every time I blinked, against the backs of my eyelids were the images of wet green-tinged cobblestone and the intricate skyline of Edinburgh’s Old Town. All of this felt entirely too much to handle, and I sat down with my journal to do a brain dump that ended up being a lengthy reflection on the last three and a half months.

Most of my time in Scotland has been in Glasgow’s West End, and a taxi ride from Queen Street Station back to the uni along Gibson Street is like a massive rewind. I see the shops that were the landmarks on my many walks to the Glasgow School of Art. We turn around the corners I’d stopped on during my solitary rambles to gain my bearings and pass the cafes in which I’ve had many a coffee and long afternoon think.

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I’ve realized, I might not cry when I leave Glasgow – it won’t be that kind of sad in parting. I think a part of me will always haunt Glasgow’s patchwork pavements. Here, I feel as if I’ve shed my shell, let the wind and rain slough it off and the current of the River Kelvin carry it away. I feel like a new person, awoken by days of trekking through Scotland and nourished by fascinating but lonely lectures, hours of reading and writing in cafes, and the many sessions of prayer and learning and laughter in the uni’s Chaplaincy.

But in a way, I shed that shell when I laced up my boots after airport security back in September. I’d straightened my shoulders and pointed myself in the direction of the gate at DIA. At that moment, I could no longer be quiet. I no longer had any crowd to follow. I had to decide what to do and how and why to do it. I proceeded to stride with purpose in the wrong direction. I got lost a few times on my way to the gate. I then got lost at the uni, in the Glasgow Botanical Gardens, in St. Andrews, and in Dublin. I may have lost my way a few (dozen) times, but I found myself.


Alice Major

SCOTLAND – UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW, 2018 FALL

Alice Major is studying at the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland. She is a double major, focusing mostly on music and adding history because history is cool. Study abroad is Alice’s first time out of the country, and she hopes to come home in one piece and with a wicked Scottish accent.

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50 Things I learned While Abroad

  1. Never speak French with Fleming
  2. In the French culture, keep your hands on the table at dinner
  3. Belgian Beer, slow and steady. Slow and steady.
  4. French women definitely shave their armpits
  5. I can’t sing Le Marseillaise but its growing on me
  6. Belgium has 5 governments, and none of them seem to be effective
  7. Protests just happen, because they can (beware of angry farmers)
  8. Trains do their own thing, so roll with it
  9. Pretzels really are better in Germany
  10. Don’t go to the French Riviera after massive floods
    1. But if you do, travel with someone you love
    2. Definitely don’t airbnb anything outside of major downtown cities
  11. Every time you travel somewhere look outside and think about it, there’s probably somewhere very similar in the U.S. and that’s probably the reason those people moved there
  12. If you can’t handle being uncomfortable then you’ll never know what its like to be comfortable
  13. European towels are smaller and thinner
  14. You need an Umbrella, a good coat, and some resilient shoes in Brussels
  15. It’s ok to take a break.
  16. Things in Europe aren’t better or worse, they’re just European.
  17. The U.S. isn’t the only country that follows U.S. politics.
  18. I don’t know as many languages as people in Europe do
  19. Levi’s are cheaper in the U.S. by a long shot
  20. Europe needs more Dad jokes
  21. You can buy Frites-sauce in the grocery store
  22. Sweet, not salty for breakfast
  23. Money comes and goes, you don’t. Some things are worth buying.
  24. Traveling alone or with someone or both
  25. Taking the Thallys train is a beautiful thing
  26. Subways are the equivalent of live YouTube, you’re going to end up watching some weird stuff
  27. Europe has supermarkets
  28. I’m never going to be able to describe this experience in its entirety.
  29. Never try to memorize the types of grapes in the Loire Valley
  30. Lyon is the best kept (not so) secret of France
  31. Terrorists will never stop Europe from being Europe
  32. Kebab stands can solve the world’s most difficult issues of diplomacy
  33. Switzerland is really
  34. Skiing Switzerland really is all its cracked up to be
  35. The real Matterhorn is cooler than the Disney one, although it does not have a roller coaster
  36. I don’t like mulled wine; I gave it my best shot (pun intended)
  37. Applying for residency in Brussels is like to dipping your body in peanut butter and walking around town: you can do it… but why?
  38. Inflated grades in the US may be silly but at least they make you smile more than deflated grades in Europe
  39. American politics are funny to watch abroad until you realize that you are returning to those politics
  40. Most meats at a Buchon in Lyon: just eat it and don’t think about.
  41. Don’t put a $20 bill in the Laundromat coin machine (unless you love .50 coins)
  42. You may not be fluent, but you’re in a good spot if you can help an old lady with directions to the bus stop in French.
  43. Spontaneity is great, but have a back up plan
  44. Amsterdam is wild
  45. Hitler is the reason that Alsace wine varieties are so limited and controlled
  46. Hotels and stars: 1-2 shame on you (stay in a hostel), 3 Russian roulette, 4 good times
  47. Space bags are the way of the future
  48. Cornichon = pickle, not a pointed hat *cue confused professor’s face*
  49. People who say carbs are bad for you clearly have not had enough French bread (it’s a lost cause fighting its seductive delicious powers)
  50. The ladies who clean bathrooms all day probably make more money than I will out of college