Friday, March 7, 2014

Day 187: Halfway (and What Six Months has Taught Me)

Day 187. This past Monday, Day 183, was the halfway point of my time in Europe, exactly six months after my arrival in Scotland.

It’s odd to be halfway done (or two-thirds, if you’re only considering my time in St. Andrew’s, and not the three summer months I’ll spend in Europe.) It feels like I’ve always been here. I can’t imagine not knowing my way around St. Andrew’s, not using the word ‘biscuit’ correctly, not hanging out with all the amazing people I’ve met… St. Andrew’s has become home.

Sunset at Caulk Abbey, near Nottingham.
When I attempted to write this post yesterday, it descended into a sort of mope-fest about how I didn’t want to leave. So, today, I decided to take a more positive direction, and share five things I’ve always known, but that my time here has really cemented in my mind.  

1- The world is a big place
Canada may be a big country, but there’s just so much more out there in the world. There’s more to life than travelling back and forth between PEI and Ontario, more to do than sitting in my room writing essays. I used to love the idea of the ivory tower academic, sitting alone amidst books and papers, but after seeing more of the world I could never cut myself off from it.
Phone booths in Cambridge

2- Everyone’s got a story
My favourite thing about travel is meeting people, whether that’s a friend I’ve become super close to here in St. Andrew’s, or a random guy I chatted with on the bus. Everyone has such unique experiences and I can learn so much from them. Meeting so many new people has helped me to stop talking about myself and to really listen to other people.

3- People are worth investing in
Amidst the craziness of essays and shows and exams and events, people have to come first. I can’t let myself get too busy to chat for an hour on the streetcorner, or to pick up a family’s children from school, or to ask a friend “How are you?” and mean it. I’ve been really privileged recently to have some close friends share difficult aspects of their lives with me, and taking the time to listen and pray with them was 110% worth it.

4- I can be a friend
Too often I’ve been afraid to get close to people because I thought they wouldn’t want my friendship. I’ve waited for them to ‘make the first move,’ and, if that didn’t happen, I just let them drift away. This year I’ve been much more confident in my abilities to be a friend—I’ll ask people over for tea, or go up to new circles at church, or give random hugs. Sometimes people don’t reciprocate, and that’s alright, but most of the time I’ve gained new friends.
Overlooking the Danube, Budapest.

5- Say Yes
My drama coach taught me this years ago, and it’s finally starting to take hold in my life. Saying Yes means taking advantage of the opportunities that life gives you. It means visiting an ill friend when you should be writing an essay. It means waking up at dawn to dance on the pier. It means bussing all the way to London to see Coriolanus. Saying Yes isn’t an excuse for being irresponsible, but it means not missing out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

That’s what I’ve learned in six months on exchange. Maybe my list is a little sentimentalized, but it’s all true. My time in St. Andrew’s has been (and will continue to be) a life-changing experience, in so many ways. 

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