They say homesickness abroad is inevitable and it finally hit me this past weekend.
I bought a ticket to the Isle of Skye, one of Scotland’s most beautiful islands, where we spent 2 nights and 3 days exploring waterfalls, cliffs, and beautiful lakes/rivers. It was supposed to rain all weekend, but I figured I could tolerate Scotland’s weather by now. Plus, Scotland is notorious for quickly changing weather and I prayed that we would see some flashes of sunshine. Unfortunately, we only saw sun on the last day of the trip.
Going into the weekend, I was burdened with a lot of things going through my head. I was dealing with personal issues from home, figuring out my summer internship, in the midst of planning spring break travels around Scandinavia, and trying to arrange my living situation next year with my roommate. I had hoped that going out to see some of Scotland’s Highlands would help me clear my head. There’s something about being in a spacious landscape that always makes me feel a sense of freedom. It’s like my problems become minuscule when compared to the massiveness of land before me.
Although I saw some amazing views, the weather definitely made it difficult to fully enjoy them. Winds reached about 27 mph and we had continuous rain. Our tour guide said that it was the worst weather he has seen in the island and highlands in all of his 6 years doing the tours. It certainly wasn’t an uplifting fact, but every time we made another stop, I made an effort to brave the storm to see the views. I also got to know a lot of other exchange students simply because of the bad weather. We all suffered the stickiness of wet socks, drenched clothes, and the struggles of taking decent photos amidst freezing, high winds.
However, our tour guides from Haggis Adventures still made the trip a lot of fun. Our two guides – Heather and Andy – constantly joked back and forth and even had us sing along to our favorite ’90s classics, including “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. My favorite part was when they told fun stories about the islands like the story of a river that supposedly makes you more beautiful if you wash your face in it for seven seconds. With them, I felt like I had actually gotten to know Scotland better rather than just seeing pretty views. On the last day when the weather finally cleared, they even took us back to Glencoe (where we were originally supposed to go but had to sacrifice due to the weather) even though it was above and beyond what they were paid to do.
The thing is, I didn’t know anyone on the trip. I was both excited and dreading this fact. On one hand, I was excited to get to know the other exchange students. But on the other hand, I just wanted to be in the presence of old friends where we could have comfortable silence. I’m usually a very outgoing person, but with all the things running through my head and the stormy weather, it was difficult having to “be on” all the time. During the moments when we were just riding the bus with nothing to do, I was overcome with sadness. I missed my mom’s cooking and longed for some warm stew. I wished my friends were here to talk through the problems I was having. I just wanted a sense of familiarity. For the past two months, I’ve been constantly been experiencing one new thing after another trying to make most of my time here. As fun as it is, it is also exhausting and I had reached a point where I just wanted to be in the comfort and relaxation of home. I didn’t want to leave Scotland, but I wish there was a way to transport my house here.
So that I don’t dwell in this homesickness for too long, I’ve been skyping friends from back home. I’ve also made sure to have more meaningful conversations through letters and postcards rather than through facebook messaging. On Thursday morning, I leave again for another adventure to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. This time I’ll be going with my flatmates who have become my close friends and my sense of familiarity in Scotland. Until then, I plan on taking things slow in this race to make the most out of my abroad experience, enjoying my time at Holyrood (Parliament), and finding downtime like my new favorite animal, the Harry Coo.