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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Spencer Kalan

How I'll remember my time studying abroad. 

It’s been a month since I arrived in Scotland, and I can’t believe it. It didn’t occur to me that it really had been a month until my professor opened our lecture with a cheery "we’ve made it halfway through the term" message. The thing is, I am having a difficult time remembering what I’ve actually been doing; a month is a long time, but I can’t remember doing an entire month’s worth of things. Frightening, isn’t it?

I haven’t been keeping a journal. What I do have, however, is a collection of pictures. 

I haven’t been keeping a journal or anything like that, which although that would’ve been very helpful right now it was never something I made the time for. What I did have however, was a collection of pictures that I had taken—some good, others less good, but either way they helped me to remember.

Picture 1: Peter Pan

For one of my classes, we drove west to Wigtown for their annual literature festival. I was able to sit in on a discussion with Amanda Thomson, author of A Scots Dictionary of Nature, but that isn’t what this photo reminds me of. This photo reminds me of getting lost in the spare time that I had to wander: Through a tiny alley off of the main street and down a forest path, I came across Byre Books—what essentially felt like finding a witch’s cabin in the woods.

Against the backdrop of a lady click-clacking away one key at a time on a computer, I found this book and escaped without being baked.

Picture 2: A Stone Carving

On a tired Saturday morning, I meandered my way up High Street searching for caffeine in a very similar way to something out of a zombie movie. As it happened, exactly at 11am—exactly when I had decided on getting a latté from The Stove Cafe—a group of stone masons emerged and brought me right over to their workshop set up outside.

Mistaking my surprised grunts for enthusiasm, I was handed a mallet, chisel, and some kind of local stone slab, and was given the go-ahead. After a straight four hours in a hyper-focused state that I didn’t think was possible, I finished carving the first (adequate) landscape portrait they had ever seen done in this setting.

Picture Three: Rain

On some days there is sun, but here, like the vast majority of other days, there was rain. Yet despite of how unmemorable the weather really was, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that Tuesday afternoon. It had rained all morning, and as my dripping hair would attest to, it didn’t let up before my 2pm lecture. The lecture was on landscape and the sense of being both within one, but also outside of it as an observer (welcome to my program). Exactly at 3:30pm however, the rain stopped for about 10 minutes, and we all just stared out the window of our classroom as the rain slowly covered the horizon in shades of grey, watching the rain move closer to us with each minute.

As I’m sitting here typing these things down, latté in one hand and phone in the other, I’m starting to realize that the image of rain slowly obscuring the horizon is a surprisingly good analogy for travelling as a whole: there is no way I will remember every rainy day, but whenever it does rain, wherever I am in the world, I have a feeling that I will be able to remember watching the rain come in on that particular day.

I’m not going to remember what I heard discussed at the book festival, but every time I think of Peter Pan, my mind will wander to the day I found a witch’s cabin in the forest.

I’m not going to remember every clank of chisel against stone, or even that I looked like I had raccoon eyes under the safety goggles, but whenever I pass by that café at 11am, I will remember the almost upright windmill that turned out much better than I had expected.

I’m not going to remember everything I have done and will do until next September in Scotland, but what I will remember are these collections of pictures, and the stories behind them that made my trip here memorable.

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Spencer Kalan

Spencer Kalan is a Canadian MLitt. candidate at the University of Glasgow’s Crichton Campus. He is an aspiring writer, avid photographer, and occasional gym goer that is making the best of this experience every step of the way.

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