Apart from some pragmatic reasons for deciding to pursue higher education in Scotland, like it being free for example, I was blindly led by overly adventurous motifs, to the extent they actually ended up preventing me from making the most of my escapade. Some planning for an adventure might not be such a spoiler after all, as it turned out.
I wanted my first step into adulthood to be something more of a leap. I needed to feel like I was embarking on a life-changing journey towards a land unknown rather than simply taking the safe road to a steady and comfortable future. I was ready to experience being truly alone, see what I was really made of. I was going to roam the busy college halls and Glasgow`s rainy streets like the lone wolf I was about to become.
And in this daring spirit, I tried my very best to prepare myself as little as possible. Scotland had to be a book you just open and lose yourself in instead of checking its reviews and contents page first. I persevered against my mother`s appeals and didn`t check anything about the campus, the accommodation halls, the check-in procedures, the studying system or the surrounding areas. Reading from a computer screen about what I was going to experience firsthand was only going to spoil my the authenticity of my experience and turn me into a phony. Do you ever see bikers checking hotel reviews on Yelp before hitting the road? I wasn`t going to do it either. Planning for an adventure of this magnitude wasn’t an option.
In reality, however, it turned out it not only should have been an option, but a priority. First, I walked around with all my luggage searching for the campus for nearly two hours, well past midnight, only to find out it had been right in front of me all along. After that it turned out I should have preordered my bedding sets long before my arrival, and given that I arrived on Friday, I had to sleep the whole weekend with my clothes and jacket on in cold Scotland. But hey, it was all part of the adventure, right?
My exploration didn`t begin as gloriously as I had imagined either as most of it consisted of exploring the campus labyrinth. On the schedule sheet, each room was marked by a letter which apparently stood for the respective building, but why a certain letter corresponded to a building without that letter even being in the building’s actual name remained an unresolved mystery, at least for me. I would already be late by the time I found the correct facility, and still had to look for the actual classroom. I remember running around the halls, entering classes out of breath and interrupting teachers as a sea of students lifted their heads up to give me puzzled looks. I had to look for an empty seat and awkwardly squeeze in between strangers who had already formed groups I wasn`t a part of.
I kept finding out about various things late and I always felt lost, and not in the romantic way I had been envisioning. This started getting on my nerves, I couldn`t sleep all night, then ironically overslept. After a while, I felt too embarrassed to go in classes late and just skipped them. I started falling even more behind, both educationally and socially. There were always assignments due I had no clue of, and all kinds of social events and opportunities I kept overhearing about when it was already too late.
Almost 3 months in, close to the end of the first semester, one of my class leaders asked me why I hadn’t been answering any of his emails.
“But how do you know my email?” I answered.
“Your personal student email, everybody gets one. You didn`t see my emails about your missed assignments and attendance issues?”
“My student email?!”
When I opened it for the first time less than 3 weeks before the end of the semester, I had 122 unread emails. I can still feel the cold drops of sweat on my forehead.
Thankfully, I had my “Get Out of Jail Free Card” to fall back on, which in college is being foreign. It somehow got me out of the swamp.
But socially, I had become the lone wolf all right, and even though it was somewhat romantic out of campus, I howled every time I heard the words “group assignments”. In class, I felt more like an alien and less like a cool and mysterious alpha.
As time went on some things got a bit better, for others it was already a too late. Truth is my most memorable moments in Scotland had nothing to do with university. I guess some planning for an adventure might not spoil the authenticity of your experience, after all. In fact, it might even help you make the most of it.
Living in the moment is great, but it seems to work best with some groundwork which is usually edited out of those inspiring montages we all fall for.