In my first weekend at Iowa, I had a very brief and bizarre thought about my life.
I had the room to myself for a few days, and the only times I ventured out were to go to the dining hall or to attend one of the mandatory orientation events that precede the first week of classes. One night, as I sat at my desk, organizing my new room in my new home in a state 2000 miles away from everything I knew, I wondered bemusedly: if someone snuck into my room and murdered me like in a cheap horror film, how long would it take people to realize I was missing?
Not to start this entry off on a morbid note; my friends and I have laughed about it multiple times in the following years, partly because it’s a bit of a strange curiosity, and partly because they experienced similar emotions in that first weekend alone in their own rooms. Part of the thrill of moving to a new place is the uneasiness of being a stranger to everyone, and feeling like you’re invisible in your little bubble—the thing is, everyone was a stranger concerned with their own invisibility.
I recently started a new semester in a brand-new place. Now, instead of halfway across the country, I am halfway around the world, and, without a roommate, I am more isolated than ever. Flashbacks of freshman year have come in full force these past few weeks. Meeting new people is exhausting, and everyone I’ve talked to has expressed the fear that they don’t even remember how to make friends. It’s been so long since freshman year, we can’t remember how we managed to make the friends we did. My script has been rehearsed and repeated constantly. Chelsea. Washington State. University of Iowa. JSA. Studying English. Yes, it’s beautiful here.
I won’t lie, it hasn’t always been easy, and I’m finding myself challenged every day by new things. I am generally not an outgoing person, so my full-time job has been pushing myself to be social, going to new places and events, striking up conversation with strangers. It is comforting, too, knowing that there is a group of other study abroad students who are going through similar experiences, trying to figure out this new life abroad.
And I must say, despite there being enormous amounts of uncertainty and fear in the process, there is also freedom in having no strings, the opportunity to establish a new life, and each time I leave a conversation with a new person I feel that thrill of accomplishment.
That’s the thing about exploring, is that it forces you to make these new connections. Too often we get caught in old routines, with familiar faces. Meeting new people is unrelentingly difficult, which is why once we find that new niche, we often pull away from the risk of actively engaging with as many strangers as possible. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being somewhat stranded here in this strange city in Scotland, it’s that you have to be involved in your pursuit of friendship, connections. You have to make that commitment every day, even if some days you only have the energy to lie on your bed and stare at the ceiling (an activity I will admit to engaging in once or twice here).
I dare you, as much as I dare myself, to talk to people, to go outside of your comfort zone, to put yourself in a situation where you don’t yet have a name. It’s terrifying, and it might not always work out—but you never know.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go hang out with some new friends.
Yes, some of that energy and focus has taken away from my motivation to blog in a timely manner. Thanks for asking.
I’ve been warned against being a pretentious study-abroad blogger, but, in addition to the normal programming, this space will be where I document some of my adventures this semester. I’ll try to keep pretention to a minimum. But, hey, St. Andrews is beautiful.
I hope you’ll join me these short four months as I struggle to reconcile myself with haggis.