I wasn’t sure what to write about this week. I had a few ideas.
I could tell a story about being shown around Oktoberfest and Munich by a German friend of a friend named Tobias. His aunt graciously let my friend and I sleep on their floor while Toby led us through the festival grounds. Or maybe a story about sprinting up The Old Man of Storr on Isle of Skye with a Spanish man whose name I never caught. We had to hurry in order to catch the bus, but the view was worth it. Perhaps a story about whitewater kayaking in the Highlands last weekend. I took a spill and my friend Jack had to pull me out of the river. Or maybe exploring the castle right here in Edinburgh.
To be honest, those experiences were incredible, but thinking about writing another adventure blog didn’t get me excited. I could sit down and type out the words, but I didn’t feel energized or invigorated to do so.
What has made me feel strong emotions the past few weeks are all the people who made those moments possible. The amazing welcomeness of Toby’s aunt to open her doors to two complete strangers. The spontaneity of that Spanish man. Jack’s awareness of my kayaking ability and his cheerful laugh as he towed me to the eddy.
Those feelings are what makes me smile like this. (Thanks @morgansherry15 for the photo!)
There’s Callie on the top left. She studies at UC Berkeley and is interested in optimization and data analytics of building power usage and IoT devices, with a focus on being environmentally and socially conscious. Morgan and I met Callie on one of our first days in Scotland and became fast friends. She’s part of the Skydiving club here and did her first solo skydive a few weeks into the semester!
There’s my flatmate Morgan to her left. She’s also from UT, and has been a cornerstone in helping the flat bond together. She studies mechanical engineering and has been active in the Canoe Club with me. If you ever need someone to sit and eat ice cream with while you rant about your day, Morgan’s your girl! She has an unending joy for life and is always willing to laugh at the silly situations she often finds herself in.
That’s me to her left. I study computer science and have met a lot of smart people in the School of Informatics here (where computer science is!). I’ve been active in Canoe Club and have made some incredible friends. I’m in Edinburgh because I wanted to explore somewhere I’d never been, and the computer science professors here are some of the best in the world.
To my left is my flatmate Jana. She’s an exchange student from Germany studying linguistics here for a year. She loves beer and is staunchly vegan. She’s been on several trips with the Hillwalking club and has mentored one of our other first-year flatmates who is starting out in linguistics. She’s also slowly teaching me German but it usually just ends up with her singing a German children’s song while I struggle to keep up.
That big teddy bear in the flannel is Noah. He’s Canadian and genuinely one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He just finished a master’s degree and is currently (fun)-employed by playing piano in gigs with the university’s jazz orchestra. He’s an incredible kayaker and taught me how to get down a rapid without swimming. He’s the kind of guy that has a story about everything and will never cease to surprise you!
Lastly is Kiran, the president of the Canoe Club. He’s South African and is finishing up his studies in Edinburgh this year. He has a seemingly insatiable love for dahl (look it up if you’ve never heard of it: easy to cook and delicious!), and gets cold easier than anyone I’ve ever met. He usually wears thermal leggings underneath his pants when going to the library. Kiran always has a smile on his face and was once compared to a happy golden retriever. Kiran was one of the first people I met in Edinburgh who I felt accepted me for who I was.
Looking at all these people, we come from incredibly diverse backgrounds and together have a huge array of life experiences. Our chances all being somewhere are the same time seem slim to none. But somehow we were all willing to invest the time to build relationships together, even though we know our time together is short. That’s something that I think is truly beautiful. This picture was just taken in our living room, but somehow I’ll cherish this picture more than any picture of me on top of a mountain or plunging down a waterfall.
My time in Edinburgh is drawing to a close and I didn’t anticipate having such strong feelings about leaving all these wonderful people behind. The harsh reality is that studying abroad can be hard emotionally. You move to an entirely new place and start to form deep bonds and strong friendships, knowing the whole time that you’ll have to leave before you know it. That’s difficult, but it’s never something I’ll regret.
Studying abroad has presented me with incredible opportunities to experience things I never thought I would, but what’s going to leave a bigger impact are the extraordinary relationships I’ve formed and the friends I’ve made. My time in Edinburgh is drawing to a close and I didn’t anticipate having such strong feelings about leaving all these wonderful people behind. I’m happy that I’ll soon be seeing my family and friends back home, but it almost feels as though Edinburgh has become a second home. I’ll miss the cobblestone streets, the constant threat of a cold drizzle, and the 4 o’clock sunsets.
This post was contributed by Joel Swiatek, a 2018 Global Ambassador. Joel is majoring in computer science and is studying at the University of Edinburgh.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Joel’s time in Edinburgh>>