Coming to an End

It is so strange to think that there is less than a month left of this crazy Study Abroad experience.  This week is the last week of classes at St. Andrews and, honestly, I can’t believe that it is almost over.  I should probably be working on my essay now, but I have been thinking a lot about this, and, as far as procrastination, this is one of the more productive things I could be doing.

Last weekend my friend and college roommate, Rachel, came to visit for Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately I had a paper due the day after she left, so there was a lot of work that I had to do while she was here, but we made sure to do something every day.  She got here on Wednesday night (Nov. 21) and stayed until Sunday morning (Nov. 25).  On Thursday night, to celebrate Thanksgiving, Rachel, our friend Stacy, and I made our own Thanksgiving feast.  We planned recipes ahead of time (while watching the live stream of the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, of course) only to get to the store and find that there were ingredients missing.  Still, we were able to improvise and had a 3 course meal.  The first course included fig and fennel bread that Rachel had brought from Glasgow, tomato, mozzerella, and bazil on bread with balsamic dressing, raspberries and blueberries, and a salad made with dried cranberries (part of the care package that my mom sent me with lots of Trader Joes goodies for my birthday) and pine nuts.  The next course was the main meal.  We had mushrooms with brie in them, roasted eggplant, and turkey breast baked with potatoes.  For dessert we had a pumpkin pie (which some people in hall made for everyone) and baked apples.  Needless to say, it was delicious and very filling.  On Friday we walked around town and saw the castle and cathedral ruins as well as both the West and East Sands beaches.  On our way back to hall, we stopped in the St. Andrews Aquarium, which was awesome.  We saw a derpy Mississippi Map Turtle, saw seals being fed (one of which was also derpy), saw meerkats being fed, and saw a bunch of other awesome (and some, scary) creatures.  On Saturday we got a late lunch at Northpoint Cafe (where Kate and Wills met, for coffee) and went to the Vintage Fair that was taking place in Younger Hall, a beautiful building on campus.  I got a present for my mom there, but I don’t want to post it in case she sees this.  Needless to say, I think she will like it.

That concludes the update portion of this post.  While Rachel was here, we talked a lot about Study Abroad and our expectations and what our overall experience has been like.  While it is not done yet, I feel like my feelings are mixed.  I really love the beautiful town of St Andrews and being so close to the water if I want to take a walk or just listen to the sea break against the cliffs (my “calm spot” is right by the castle ruins where I can hear the water and see it crashing against the rocks while looking at the beautiful historic ruins).  I know that there will be times that I will miss it here.  I have, overall enjoyed my classes, including the teachers, classes, and subject matter, but they have not been perfect.  Grading has been tough as they expect a different style, so I did not get what I consider to be good grades on the first papers.  I am hoping to fix this in my next essay, but it does feel like being a Freshman all over again, but if it counted for more.  That has probably been the most frustrating part of the whole experience, partially because my grades are extremely important to me.  What Study Abroad has been best for is learning about myself.  Before coming, I felt like I had done that in my first years of college, but this experience has forced me to be introspective in a new way.  It has only enhanced my love for Penn and the friends I have there and has helped me see what my life might be like in a smaller college town.  While I don’t think I will miss Study Abroad every day, there will definitely be days that I will wish I could be back in St. Andrews.  I feel fortunate to have been able to have this experience and I know that, in less than a month’s time, when I am leaving, I will be both happy and sad to see it go.  I hope I will be able to come back and visit some time, but even if I can’t, I will have my memories, some good and some bad, but all a part of who I am and who I have become.

Remembrance and Realization

Several things have happened since I last posted on this site.  To start off, today is Remembrance Day in the UK (Veteran’s Day in the US).  Please, no matter what day you are reading this, take a moment to think about those who have fought, will fight, and are fighting for your country, whatever that might be.  Soldiers deserve our respect for risking their lives to defend others and their rights, and they should never feel unsupported for their work.  Another holiday that passed in the UK was Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night.  As far as I know, not much happened, but I did see a small fireworks display outside the house that my window faces and I heard that there were some beach bonfires.  The other major world thing that happened since I last wrote was the US election.  I, along with my friends Stacy and Panarat, stayed up past 6am watching election coverage and we were thrilled to see that Barack Obama was reelected.  On a less global level, I am writing this after Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast.  While it went right over Philadelphia, they seem to not have been hit that hard.  Meanwhile, my family in Stamford lost power for over a week and missed about a week and a half of school.  It is crazy that, even though they were on the fringe of the storm, they got hit so hard.

Election night was important for me, not only because of the election itself, but because it was also my birthday.  This wasn’t just any birthday, but my 20th birthday.  It is only hitting me now that I am no longer a teenager, and I am in my 20s.  I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to watch Disney and other movies from my childhood.  I know that getting older is not a choice, but growing up is and, as far as I am concerned, I will always retain at least a bit of my inner child.  To celebrate my birthday we (Stacy, Panarat, and I) went to a nice, but relatively inexpensive restaurant called The Glass House in St. Andrews.  It was really nice and the food was delicious.  We were going to see Perks of Being a Wallflower at the movies after, but by the time we were finishing dessert and looked at the clock, it was the time the movie was supposed to start.  Instead, we headed back to Stacy’s dorm and played games and watched Al Jazeera’s election coverage on Youtube.  The internet is really amazing.

I got to see a movie a couple of days later, so it was fine.  My academic family had a trip to the cinema to see Skyfall, the new James Bond movie.  It was cool for a number of reasons.  First, we saw it the night before it was set to come out in the US, so we saw the movie before people in the US did.  Granted, it had been out for a couple of weeks here, but it is still cool to think that I saw it before my friends in the US.  The other cool part, and part of the reason I really wanted to see it while I was here, was that part of the movie takes place in Scotland.  One of the characters has the line “Welcome to Scotland” as he shoots one of the bad guys, so it was pretty awesome to be in Scotland to see it.  The only bad part is, as I told my friends after the film, it made me want to stop working and explore this beautiful country in the time I have left.  It is hard to believe that I have less than 2 months left here.  That is another thing that only hit me recently.  It is very sad for me because I don’t know when, if ever, I will make it back to St. Andrews or the UK in general, but after living here for a few months, I have really grown to love it.

That inspired me to go for a walk today.  I should have been working this weekend so my work is done before Rachel’s visit at the end of the month, but I have not been very productive.  I have found that walking around makes me at least a little more inspired to work or at least helps me feel lucky to be here when I am missing home and Penn, which I have been recently.  Anyway, I originally planned to walk down South Street, one of the main roads, to East Sands, the beach on the other side of town.  All my pictures are from West Sands beach, so I figured I should get some from the other side.  That will have to wait though.  I ended up walking down to South Street along City Road and decided to explore some areas outside of the main town area.  I walked around and took pictures and just enjoyed the crisp weather and the beautiful architecture and scenery.  I didn’t last as long as I wanted because the wind made it feel much colder out and my legs got cold, but I think I got some good shots which I will post later tonight.  Thanks for reading!