It was always an awkward introduction when someone asked me what year I was. ‘I’m a second year but its my first year at St Andrews, and I’ll be here next year but then I go back to the states fourth year; I’m in this program you see,’ and it goes on. While the week of May 1st is William & Mary’s finals week, I am in my second week of revision, and my two weeks of exams starts the 8th. So I have a while to go, and I thought I might take some time to reflect back on how the year has gone.
I have never lived outside of the states. I have traveled before, but this is only my second time in Europe, the first being the spring of my senior year of high school. I have never lived this far away from my family, and I never imagined I would be making three homes for myself at 20 years old: one with my family, one in Williamsburg, and one in Scotland. It has been a process making a home here, with the difference in culture and style, but I think I have something solid after nine months of hemming and hawing.
I have a solid group of friends, both from William & Mary and here at St Andrews. I have exposed myself to new things, I have done a little traveling, discovered the joys of milk in tea, and adjusted my slang and my spelling. I have done well in school and done poorly, I have cried, I have laughed, I have run into the North Sea at sunrise in freezing temperatures with the rest of St Andrews.
I have grown, so much more than I thought I could in just nine months. I have learned a lot about myself and about people around me. It has been a process, something I could not or would not change. I know so much more about so many things and I am anxious to share my knowledge with future students joining the St Andrews William & Mary Joint Degree Programme, which I hope grows tremendously. The opportunities are endless and need to be sought out, but await students who are compassionate, dedicated, and willing. This program is about building the student to become what they want to be, which is why it is so much about I, about me, and my journey.
People will say it’s selfish to think so much about yourself. But at the end of the day, that’s what you’ve got when you go to bed, yourself. I study because I want to change the future and help people, but that has to start with me, and I can’t change anything if I’m not ready to change myself, to adapt to whatever it may be, if that’s a new climate, a different teaching style, a new tradition, it’s about being able to test your own limits. Which I most certainly can say I have. My first year in Scotland has been filled with wind, thousands of words on papers, and countless empty chocolate wrappers. I have been able to see so much of myself I never knew existed, and I have been able to change some of my ways to make myself more productive, and maybe even less productive. I lost bad habits, gained new ones, and inducted myself into an entirely new university. I learned that you can belong to two places at once, and it is okay to miss home, but be excited for the future. The mixed emotions are confusing at their best, but it just proves how resilient students can be.
Here’s to being halfway done with me undergraduate experience. Here’s to many more memories, cups of tea, and plane tickets. Here’s to William & Mary and the St Andrews Joint Degree.