I was hustling down the street this morning, on my way to turn in an assignment for class, when I was stopped by an older couple who were looking at a map of St. Andrews. I was in no way presentable—I was clutching a bundle of 15 loose pages, I was still wearing the gray sweatshirt that I sleep in, and I hadn’t even brushed my teeth yet. But, despite being in a hurry and feeling unnaturally gross, I slowed when they hailed me.
“Are you a student here?” the man asked me.
This week has been one of the major weeks for prospective students, so I smiled, figuring they needed help finding a building. “Yes.” Come to think of it, I actually probably wouldn’t be much help at finding building here, still.
Instead of asking for directions, though, the man asked me what I was studying. I responded with “English,” to which he laughed and made the typical joke, “You seem to speak it pretty well!”
After a few pleasantries, the couple told me that they were in town for a visit and for a few rounds on the Old Course, and that they were just curious about the university. I confessed that I’ve only been here one semester, and that I’d be heading back to the states soon.
They were actually even more interested in the fact that I was studying abroad, and they asked me where I was from.
“Well, Washington State,” I said. “But I’m studying in Iowa.”
They both reacted to this. “You’re not a Hawkeye, are you?”
“Actually, yeah, I am!”
The man let out a breath of disbelief. “Our son graduated from the University of Iowa in 2002! We’re huge Hawkeye fans!”
The funny thing is, this isn’t even the first time this has happened this week. In Dublin, my mom and I participated in a literary pub crawl one night and when we started walking, we noticed that one of the guys in the group was wearing a Hawkeye sweatshirt. He had recently finished grad school there, and his family lived in Iowa.
It’s so interesting to me, these connections. I’ve talked before about fleeting encounters with strangers, and I love it. I love that out of anyone this couple could have picked out on the street, they picked me. Pieces of home follow me wherever I go. Rather than highlighting the smallness of our world, it gives me a sense of the enormity of it all—as we grow and travel and learn, so our bubble of existence expands. The more we take part in this world, the larger forces we become in it.
I think that’s beautiful, and I think it’s beautiful that somehow, miraculously, I can pluck the strings that tie me home even from across the globe.
And, of course, as a word of parting: Go Hawks.