By: Sarah Plant
I have fallen in love with Scotland; its landscape, people, culture and history are so unique and interesting, and I’ve come to miss each of these aspects since leaving. It’s a bit cliché, but my exchange really did push me outside of my comfort zone and now I know more about myself, my needs, and my interests than I did before. I felt at home in Scotland. It was a unique travelling experience that I will hold onto for a long time. I know I will return to my second home, Glasgow, in the near future.
Feeling like a Glaswegian didn’t happen overnight, and a couple of different aspects contributed to this. When I first arrived, I was constantly learning new things and meeting many new people every day along with figuring out my basic needs. I was exploring and discovering more about Strathclyde, Glasgow, and Scotland each day. Everything was new and exciting and previous fears about the semester were disappearing, however, I still felt like a tourist. Classes started and I learned more about the city while still having a fairly regular and structured routine. During this time, I did lots of travelling around the beautiful Scottish Highlands and in neighbouring countries. After regular classes finished for the semester, I had almost a month off before exams, so I decided to backpack around mainland Europe for a majority of this time. While this was an amazing experience, I found myself yearning to return to Scotland. As I walked back to my flat from the train station after my month-long trip, I felt more like a local weaving through the busy streets without the need for directions.
For me, knowing my way around an area is what makes me feel at home and less like a tourist, though this isn’t the only factor. Being a part of a community allowed me to feel at home in Scotland. I became a part of an international student community comprised of people mostly from my flat. This created a greater sense of belonging and an increased resource for support in hard times including homesickness. I didn’t fully realize the benefits of this community until many of my friends finished their exams and began to return to their home countries. My exams ran later than most and I found myself lonelier once they left and less attached to Scotland even though I knew my way around better than ever.
Travelling and exploring a variety of new places is an amazing opportunity that I feel very lucky to have experienced. While visiting many different areas of the world can be exciting, living in one place for a longer period of time allowed me to gain a greater depth of understanding of the local community and culture, resulting in a greater sense of belonging and personal happiness.
Sarah Plant is a Kinesiology student, in the Faculty of Science at McMaster University. She spent a single term abroad studying at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland.