I am not as brave as I pretend to be. When many of the people I encounter in my secluded Midwestern community applaud me for my courage to study overseas for four years, I really struggle to swallow the trepidation, anxiety, and genuine fear I actually feel. The last month of summer I spent at home was a tumultuous one: if I am to be completely honest with my audience, I had a general feeling of not wanting to return to St Andrews for my second year. I was scared. I still am scared.
In many ways I believe that returning for second year is harder than removing myself from the comforts of my home to begin this journey. I am perhaps the world’s biggest homebody: I love the comforts of the familiar, I adore my parents, and I Bear is the keeper of my sanity. Yet the terror of severing these ties for a life in the beyond is often numbed by the general newness of being a first year. However, second year has relegated me to a sad and confused limbo.
Oddly enough, the realization that I am so far from home has finally hit me, despite the fact that I began university a year ago. Getting to spend time with the people and places that I love so dearly has really opened my eyes to just what I am leaving behind. This thought has made me quite sad for the past couple of weeks, and I also feel very conflicted because of it.
On the one hand, I know that I should be entirely grateful that I have the opportunity to participate in such an incredible academic community. I have seen places that I once thought were a mere fantasy, have met so many wonderful and engaging individuals from across the globe, and have received a remarkable education in subjects I am wildly passionate about. Yet the timid homebody I so cruelly abused into a corner of my heart has finally found her voice, using it to force doubt into my thoughts. I miss home: apple orchards in the autumn, the fiery hues of autumnal trees in the North Country, kayaking adventures, solitude, wide open spaces, and Bear. I miss not having my accent analyzed for its “barbarism” multiple times a day. I miss the freedom of having a car so I may travel anywhere I wish. I miss my parents, the two people I truly feel understand and love me for me.
I acknowledge that I still am very much a child. Making the decision to study abroad for my undergraduate degree is both parts the best and worst I have ever made, due to this fact. Youth is the time to explore the world and change one’s perspective to be more globally aware, yet how can anyone with any certainty decide to do such a thing when they are a mere eighteen years old? This summer has really given me time to meditate on these thoughts. While I committed to this venture completely, there are parts of me that, at times, wish I really knew myself more and chose somewhere closer to home. Can anyone really know themselves at that age, though?
I do not doubt that once I settle in to my studies, all of this negativity shall diminish. I do love school and am looking forward to some of the modules I have selected, like Medieval and Renaissance Texts. I feel as though I am now beginning to take steps toward my ultimate goals as a scholar. However, this summer was a really critical one. It has made me rethink some of my spontaneous decisions. At times I feel I can truly relate to Bilbo Baggins, who impulsively ran out his door to catch the carrot Gandalf teased him with, yet finds the road more perilous than he anticipated. I have certainly come to appreciate my home a great deal since spending the summer there.
Though my thoughts may change once I am actually at the next threshold of my life, I feel myself beginning to think that I want to return to America permanently. The United Kingdom is a wonderful place and I have had many a wonderful adventure (and will no doubt have many more in the future), there truly is no place like home. What I feel I am missing in my life, at this point, is my own little haven to call home. My experience at university so far has cemented my status as a home body. While I am committed to St Andrews completely, I do feel less brave than when I began this journey.
Yet I am still open to unexpected surprises. I cannot say for certain where I shall end up once this undergraduate experience is over. I may be called to a new and unknown destination to continue my education, I may meet someone special and journey with them into the future, or I may return to where my life began, recharging until that wanderlust tugs at my heart once more. Hopefully second year here at St Andrews will turn out even better than I anticipated, and I will have an even better time than first year.
Roads are rarely ever perfect. At this point, I feel as though I have encountered a treacherous hole. Yet I am optimistic, and as I look up from this wreck I find myself in, I see a smoother path ahead.
Originally written 12 September 2013