Columns, Opinion

SMITH: Reflection on my time at the University of St Andrews

The space between oceans, over mountains and across plains has a magical shrinking quality when one travels extensively across all three entities. It’s not that the space itself is minimized in any way. In fact, one feels incredibly small after traveling more than usual.

It’s just that as one packs so much travel into the short course of several months, spaces between cities and countries become very small. Part of it may be a newfound sense of adventure, or perhaps just a need to take advantage of an amazing opportunity.

Whatever the motivation, the ambition behind the extensive traveling is just another byproduct of embracing what I’ve found to be a more intrepid side. I say intrepid, but I’ve also found myself to be more in tune with what I really want to do, rather than have to do.

Intrepid? Sure. Indulgent? Most definitely.

As this semester dwindles, I reflect on what I’ve actually achieved. Contrary to other study abroad programs who give the students all of the tools necessary to succeed while maintaining a ridiculous travel schedule, I was treated identically to other full-time University of St Andrews students. Therefore, I also completed a full-time student course load. When considering this, my time was not entirely spent indulging myself with travel and relaxation, but compared to my previous semester at Boston University, it certainly felt like it.

I should also clarify what I mean by indulgence in the context of studying abroad. It’s not as if I was splurging on trips to Paris every weekend (only one weekend), or spa visits or grand shopping excursions. By indulgence, I mean the ability to slow down and take advantage of the opportunities in front of me.

Though I love being at home in Boston, and I’m honestly counting down the days until fall semester begins, even if it is my last year, I catch myself more often than not being swept away. I don’t pause enough, or take advantage of how close I am to various New England locales or just go for a hike.

Here, I’ve been able to attend additional lectures, spontaneously go for a walk and actually convince people to take a weekend trip with me. Semesters spent studying abroad are often coined “the most amazing semester of your college life,” but it only takes on this connotation if you ensure it. For different people, that may mean different things, as I’ve already discussed.

However, for those considering going abroad, my only advice is to allow yourself to be indulgent.

If your ideal weekend is spent sitting next to the sea with a good book, then do it. Find the best environment that can provide such an opportunity and jump on it. If your ideal weekend entails constantly moving about, then I would suggest a city.

For me, being at St Andrews has been a unique mix of both experiences. I’ve had afternoons where all I desired was the opportunity to be alone and draw in the silence around me. If I had studied in a city, I wouldn’t have been afforded this indulgence. However, there have also been weekends where I needed to experience a faster pace, so I hopped on the bus to Edinburgh and toured around for the day.

The idea behind what you do with your time is arbitrary, as long as it’s exactly what you want. For me, my ultimate challenge with ensuring that I achieved this goal came from limiting myself.

In past semesters, I had spread myself so thin that I would return home to my dorm late in the evening and collapse into bed immediately. It was stressful, and I felt as if I was achieving quite a lot, but it was certainly not indulgent in any regard.

If I’ve learned anything about this semester, it’s that I wish to bring the lesson of indulgence home with me. It’s not about “treating yourself” at every corner, but about taking care of yourself and making sure that you enjoy your time as well as work hard.

Though I continue to struggle with the balance, and the temptations of being abroad still persist, I hope to not swing in the opposite direction upon returning to Boston. Indulgence is not to be looked down upon, but rather embraced, especially in university.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the University of St Andrews as the University of St. Andrews.

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One Comment

  1. Interesting account. Minor typo: University of St Andrews, not St. Andrews