Home Away from Home

Dumfries, Scotland Source: Darren Frazer CC BY 2.0. CC0.

Written by  October 9, 2019

It's difficult to find the words to sum up my time in Dumfries. 

It’s been nearly a month since I flew back home from my Master’s year in Dumfries, and I’m only now starting to find the words for it. I'm finding trying to summarize an entire year of ups and downs is nearly impossible; so, to be frank, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to do my best to write down how I feel about all of the experiences that are racing through my mind all at once—so bear with me. 

On Fridays I would take the morning off and go to my favourite brunch restaurant, Mrs. Green’s. The staff would ask if I wanted my usual latté and burger, and I would spend an hour or more sitting outside (on the off-chance it was sunny), reading a book and forgetting about my responsibilities for a while. It may not seem like this should matter much, but I spent each week looking forward to this routine. There isn’t a Mrs. Green’s back in Waterloo.

I bartended and played hockey in Scotland, and to be honest, sometimes it was hard to differentiate which was which. But one thing was universal—my coworkers and teammates gave me some memories that I will never forget. Moving back home, I’m faced with a new team and a new job hunt, just five hours behind, really. 

I don’t want it to sound like my time in Scotland all comes down to the loss of a routine, but trying to answer the question of what I actually did is always easiest in literal terms. It’s a much more difficult version of the “what did I do over summer break” question that teachers loved asking so much: it's easy to fall into the trap of only saying one or two events and then not being able to remember the rest of the summer. This is how I’m finding it: I can easily recall doing something concrete, but the abstract in-between of these events is something that I’m really struggling to find words for.

Maybe that’s how it should be. Some days it rained, other days it poured; sometimes it was a warm rain that you couldn’t help but want to be out in, and other times it was a cold rain that drove you inside. But I think this is why it isn’t fair to just say that it rained.            

So, instead of rationalizing how much of an emotional rollercoaster it all was, I think I’m just going to say that it was a rollercoaster.

So, instead of rationalizing how much of an emotional rollercoaster it all was, I think I'm just going to say it was a rollercoaster. What I can do, however, is write down some of the lessons I learned along the way:

Students are the most resilient people I know.

They somehow find a way to balance all their assignments while worrying about VISA restrictions and import fees; figure out how to mail letters and packages home; and find time for a social life on top of it all. I can wholeheartedly say that it is not as easy as they make it look.

You are going to get homesick.

And when you do, it is entirely okay. It doesn’t matter if it is your first time away from home, or the first time this week, it is always okay to pick up the phone and call home for a while, even if you don’t really have anything to say.

Things are going to happen.

It is important to have an open mind and the ability to be proactive—no matter how prepared you are, unexpected situations will arise. Do your best to take whatever it is in stride. Always remember: it isn’t a day lost away from home, but a day gained abroad. Sometimes that mindset makes all the difference.

Scotland for me was many things: some moments I regret, and others I never will. My year in Dumfries is something that I will never forget, but as I sit here and write this in my local coffeeshop, I can’t help but smile. It’s nice to be home.

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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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