A Year in Review

In a GIF:

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2015 has been a wild ride and a half.

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I started the year burned-out, cynical, bitter, and generally miserable with life.

I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I'm living

I knew I would have to do something drastic in order to change the highway to hell I was on. Otherwise, it was only a matter of time before I shut down mentally, emotionally, socially, and in just about every other conceivable way.

Tick tick boom time bomb

So I ditched everything to start living a life I actually wanted to live.

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First, I went to Disney World with one of my best friends. It was my first real vacation in as long as I could remember, and it reminded me what it’s like to have fun. I’d completely forgotten.

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Then, I moved back home to live with my parents while I saved for graduate school.

I immediately regret this decision

It had its ups and downs, sure, but most importantly, it got me to September, when I left the world as I knew it behind to study history in Scotland.

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It wasn’t all fun and games. I’d never really traveled – certainly not alone – or understood what I was getting into in graduate school. I was wholly unprepared for the adventure ahead of me.

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But none of my fears ever eclipsed my excitement to be outside of the painfully predictable, boring world I’d wrapped myself up in.

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And by the end of my first semester, I got the hang of things and emerged virtually unscathed.

Oh, I survived

I even got to visit two new countries!
Breathe that sweet, sexy European air

All in all, I conclude 2015 happy

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And surprised with myself.

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I’m tempted to be sad to leave 2015

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But I’m too excited to see what happens next.

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I’m learning how to be fearless.

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I’m learning not to give a shit.

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Most importantly, I’m learning to love myself.

I like myself, I wouldn't want to be anyone else

So I wish you a very happy New Year from Scotland.

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Goodbye to 2015

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And a warm hello to 2016.

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Haben Sie Gehört Die Deutschebahn?

Iceland was great, but I still wanted to go somewhere for Christmas. All my friends went home for winter break. All my flatmates were away for one reason or another too, and I really didn’t want to wake up Christmas morning in a virtual ghost town.

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I wanted to feel active and take advantage of the fact that I could do something nontraditional, but I still wanted to participate in Christmas festivities, so I decided to go to Nuremberg, Germany. It had history, beauty, a small-town feel, and a large Christmas market. It was one of the most Christmasy places I could find.

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I left less than a week after returning for Iceland, making me feel like some kind of super jetsetter.

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Of course, the only problem with this schedule is that I couldn’t account for the fact that I returned to Scotland with a busted ankle. There was no way I was cancelling and losing all that money, though, so I R.I.C.E.d that bitch like no tomorrow and pumped myself full of as much ibuprofen as I could. By the time I left for Germany, I could walk well enough to get me from point A to point B, and that’s all I needed.

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Of course, it would have been helpful to have a good ankle to kick the PDA couples with.

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I don’t know what it was, but everywhere I went getting to and from Nuremberg, I encountered couples that were very much attached to each other. Hand-holding, cuddling, and kissing is all fine and dandy, but the couples I’m talking about were doing gross tongue things and nonstop make out sessions.

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To make it even more awkward, each of these interactions seemed mostly one-sided. And all of them were within two feet of me – across from me on the subway, in front of me in line, next to me on the train, etc.

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What is it about me that makes people so horny? And why doesn’t it work in my favor?

I'm hopeless and awkward and desperate for love

Anyway, the trip itself didn’t get complicated until I arrived in Berlin. To save costs, I decided to take a train from Berlin to Nuremberg, but because of the way those two trips lined up, I had two hours to get from one unfamiliar location to another with a sprained ankle and a terrible sense of direction.

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Fortunately, I got where I needed to go

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And successfully navigated the intimidating-as-hell Berlin Haubtbahnhof

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In order to make my train to Nuremberg

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With only one hiccup.

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About halfway to Nuremberg, the train stopped and a bunch of people got off. This happened at every other stop, so I didn’t think anything of it until the woman who had been sitting in front of me asked, “Aren’t you getting off too?” (in German, of course). She seemed very concerned when I shook my head, and then she proceeded to explain something to me in rapid German that I didn’t understand but got the message: the train was no longer going to Nuremberg. I looked around and saw that all other passengers were gone and the train number on the screen had changed.

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I panicked. I was sure that I hadn’t missed my stop, but I was also sure that I didn’t have a connection. My train was direct, so what was I missing?

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I decided to shadow the woman who had warned me. She walked over to another platform that had a sign for a train to Nuremberg. I figured I would stow away if I had to.

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It wasn’t necessary, as it turned out, because the new train arrived and had the same number as the one I’d just gotten off of. Sure enough, it took me to Nuremberg and I was home free.

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I still don’t know what happened with the first train. I couldn’t understand anything the voice over the intercom said (in German or English), and my return trip took me directly from Nuremberg to Berlin without issue.

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The next day, I took on the crowds of the Christmas market

We need a new plague

The food

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And the language.

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I’m terrible with languages.

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I don’t have an excuse. I took three years of French and four years of German. I learned a tiny amount of Russian and Japanese as a kid, and I can’t really carry on a conversation in any of those languages. And that’s not acceptable to me. I hate it. Especially considering how many years I’ve worked with international tourists.

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But I tried anyway. I was determined to speak as little English as possible…except that the people I encountered weren’t as encouraging.

Just-stop

They all knew more English than I knew German, so even if I addressed them in German, they responded in English. It was a little humiliating.

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I don’t even know why I put so much effort into words in the first place. I got through so many years in tourism because neither the customer nor I focused much on the languages we spoke. We used gestures and numbers, and it was easy.

Don't underestimate the power of body language

Oh well. Next time I’ll be ready.

BePrepared

I also won’t go during Christmas. Not only was everything closed, but I was slightly unprepared for the emotional hit of spending Christmas alone.

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I didn’t want to go home for Christmas for a lot of reasons. Mostly, I didn’t want to waste any time I could be spending traveling or simply being away from the norm. But, honestly, I also didn’t want the family drama that I just got away from. I wanted one holiday season where I could do what I wanted to do.

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And I was 100% okay with this plan until Christmas Eve as I walked around town and saw everyone with their families – no one else wandering around alone – and everyone online posting their “Merry Christmas from our family” pictures. Suddenly, I felt a small stab of…well, homesickness isn’t the right word for it. Being with family is just what you do on Christmas.

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This isn’t to say I didn’t have the Christmas spirit. Quite the contrary. Since the beginning of November I’d been singing Christmas songs and even got a little tree for my desk. I was the merriest of all my friends.

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But I started getting a little cranky as I walked around alone in a city I knew some of my friends and family back home would love.

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not easy

I started remembering all the good things about Christmastime at home and all the ideals that Christmas is supposed to live up to. I wanted the Hallmark Channel perfect family holiday.

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That is, until my parents called from the big family dinner on Christmas Day, and I remembered why I wanted to spend the holidays alone.

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My grandmother fretted over the fact that I was on the phone with them at nearly 1 am my time. My brother was disappointed that he couldn’t ruin Star Wars for me with spoilers since I saw the movie before I left. And my aunt’s father-in-law monopolized the time trying to school me on Nuremberg based on the little time he spent stationed there in the 1950s.

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Yeah…you know what? I’m good now. Thanks for curing my moment of sentimentality.

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I’ll go back to my time alone.

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I’ll see you in a year.

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Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Valhalla Still Awaits Me

I decided to stay on the eastern side of the Atlantic for winter break. Assuming I may never have the opportunity to travel as freely as I can now, why would I give up even a day of it? It’s only one holiday season. I’ll see plenty of my family in the Christmases to come, and truth be told, I’m still full up on my heavy dose of family over the summer.

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Despite all my parents’ insistence and then demanding that I return to the States for winter break, they were completely supportive of me when I reiterated my decision to stay on this side of the pond after arriving in the UK. In fact, they were offended that I thought they would be unsupportive of my decision.

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Then all I had to do was decide where to go.

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I mentioned my conundrum to one of my friends, and she mentioned that she and a bunch of our mutual friends were going to Iceland for a few days on their way home for the holidays.

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Iceland was already among my top choices, so I joined their party and to Iceland we went!

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Not that we saw anything for the first 20 hours.

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See, since Iceland is so far north, in the winter, they only get about 4 hours of sunlight, and we arrived just as the sun set, so we didn’t see much of anything until roughly 11 am the next day.

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So when I returned to Scotland several days later to a rare sunny day, the light was like a kiss from heaven.

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But why couldn’t we see ANYTHING in Iceland? Weren’t there lights? Well, yes, of course. But Iceland doesn’t have a big enough population for those lights to make much of a difference against the pitch blackness.

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None of us were prepared for how desolate Iceland is. I, for one, expected it to be like the highlands of Scotland where the population is small but still enough that the towns and villages are of good size and you still feel like you’re apart of some sort of civilization. Not Iceland. We went around the Golden Circle, and in between each site there was absolutely nothing. We saw one small village. The rest was flat, occasionally rocky, frozen nothing as far as the eye could see.

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It was the first time I’ve ever been afraid of a vehicle breaking down. I’ve driven through some rural, dangerous areas, and I’ve never been afraid of my car breaking down. In freezing temperatures, miles from anywhere, and with so little sunlight, we would have been sitting ducks.

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Yup. Just like Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back.

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It was so alien and unlike I (or any of us) had ever seen that we frequently looked at each other, bewildered, asking, “Where ARE we?”

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It extended to the food as well. Icelandic cuisine wasn’t exactly what we had on our taste buds – whale, puffin, shark, etc. – so we had a lot of lamb.

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Of course, none of the foreignness was bad. We saw some amazing sights. Waterfalls, geysers, and the continental rift.

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We went to the Blue Lagoon to take advantage of the fire part of the land of fire and ice.

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It was very nice.

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We saw northern lights. Sort of. We saw what looked like a weird white cloud. It was a bad night for Aurora, but I was happy to see anything.

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And, we saw penises.

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Yup. Penises. As soon as we arrived, we looked through maps to plan out what all we wanted to see in Reykjavik, and we found The Icelandic Phallological Museum.

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It automatically became our must-see. We looked forward to it all week – singing “deck the halls with lots of balls, pha-la-la-la-logical museum.”

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The only problem was that while we were there, a large group of children (like, 5th graders) came in an explored the museum too. It was a tad uncomfortable.

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One of the best parts of Iceland, however, was not something that many of my friends appreciated as much as I did. See, I haven’t seen more than a couple of inches of snow at a time in nearly a decade. Since I moved to the coast, it’s been even more scarce. (We got flurries last year and people lost their minds.) My friends live in New England, so they couldn’t care less about the snow. Meanwhile, I squealed constantly over the snow.

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PhzbRvE

snow-angel-kid

But then the snow turned on me.

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I’d been so good about walking on the ice. Though I haven’t lived in a cold climate in many years, I grew up in the ice and snow, so I’m well-versed in the penguin walk and all that goodness. But for one second I didn’t look out for the hidden devil: black ice.

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I fell flat on my ass.

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Apparently it was a spectacular fall (good enough that a couple took photos of me lying on the ground rather than helping me up – shout-out to those bitches!).

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It better have been good, too, since I badly sprained my ankle at some point on the way down. I just laid there on the pavement while everyone within a block radius with a soul came up to make sure I was okay (not taking pictures).

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That was the evening we went to see the northern lights, though, so I couldn’t stay on the pavement forever.

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I managed to hobble to the bus that took us out of the city, and thankfully, a couple of my friends were tired and disinterested in the lights, so they kept me and my swollen ankle company in the back of the bus where we watched the lights through the window and sang Disney songs. We experienced all the important parts of the trip – we were part of their world – just from the comfort and relative warmth of the bus.

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Fortunately, that was also our last night in Iceland, so the next morning, I limped my way back to Glasgow, where I collapsed with a million ice packs never to move again.

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Back to School Again

I spent my first two weeks in Scotland going through the tedious process of registering myself as a student and temporary UK citizen. I did a little traveling, but mostly I waited in lines and stood in crowds of college students.

How do you do fellow kids

Then finally…

It is time

First day of school, wake up

I packed up my brand new backpack with all my brand new school supplies.

Love backpack

You really would have thought it was my first day of kindergarten, not the beginning of my Master’s program.

Can't wait to learn

I tried really hard to get a grip on myself. I am, after all, a sophisticated, intelligent postgraduate student visiting from another country.

You must demonstrate a sense of dignity

Though I don’t have the best track record of being well-spoken or mature.

Help me not to make a fool of me

All the same, I walked into class.

Excited minions

Only to walk out of the room two hours later needing a pub.

Taking a swing straight from the bottle

See, my first class isn’t so much a class as much as it is a dissertation-writing guide, so the first day’s class comprised of a long, intimidating-as-hell list of responsibilities and expectations for a perfect dissertation.

Crawley rolling out contract

Alright. No biggie.

Mom, can you pick me up, I'm scared

I can handle this.

I just got in way over my head

I didn’t travel 3000 miles to be intimidated by my first class.

It's make your mamas proud time

I love my mama

I pumped myself up and went to my second class.

Let's get down to business

The rest of my classes were much better.

Phew

They contained fun, friendly professors and 5-12 students all sitting around a table in studies with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Kumbaya

I saw it as my opportunity to strike.

I'm not trapped with you, you're trapped with me

It’s time to work my Amy charm

Bird reacts to crazy bird

And meet all sorts of new people!

Friend

Unfortunately for me, we all had to introduce ourselves by our research interests and why we chose the University of Glasgow. I’ve had to repeat this for each professor (including guest professors), and every answer I’ve given has been different because I haven’t the foggiest idea.

Hands up, I don't know

I have a million interests for dissertation, and I picked Glasgow Uni because it was old, looked cool, was highly ranked, is Scottish, and is a top research institute. Basically, it serves my self-interest and vanity.

Me, legally blonde

My problems with focusing on a topic were quickly eclipsed by a bigger problem as classes settled into a routine. The classes’ format was entirely different than what I was used to (and not for the better).

Tell me you're not serious

The method that I am used to and like a lot is lecture style, where a professor teaches us something. I then take the new information, add my own interpretation to it, and run with it. My new classes are “taught” seminar style, and I seriously did not understand what that truly meant. More discussion, sure. But in seminars, professors don’t teach us anything. They sit and listen to what we, the students, teach the class.

Are you out of your goddamn mind

Because, yes, the students are now the teachers. Each week, designated students present a topic for discussion to the rest of the class.

Does professor have one F or two

There’s a lot of pressure to make a logical, unique point that doesn’t overlap with whatever your co-presenters are talking about and that also provides enough fodder for worthwhile discussion in class.

I feel like I should say something smart

All while having little to no experience in the topic at hand. I have to formulate an original thought on a set of reading without ever having learned about it in class or knowing what I’m supposed to take away from it. And apparently, I suck at it. Give me a starting point, an idea to work with, and I’m golden. Off and running. But you really want to know what I think about something? I’ve got nothing.

I know nothing apparently

(Probably because no one’s ever asked for my honest opinion before, which I’d never realized before this.)

Doesn't anyone care what I think

So I find myself pulling my hair out in trying to figure out what the professors and the class want from me.

You're the one with the map, Dora, don't ask me!

I just want to run up to the professor and force them to teach me something. I need to learn concrete information! Teach me what you know!

Tell me

I’m slowly getting used to it. I’ll either learn valuable lessons on analysis and critical thinking or have a nervous break.

Eye twitch

It’s about this point that I’m starting to think I should have quit while I was ahead. But hey, that’s…

School.

I Hopped Off the Plane at GLA With a Dream and a Cardigan. It’s a Party in the UK, Yeah.

So I arrived in Glasgow. The fantasy made real.

Cinderella enter the ball

Scotland is as beautiful as a fairy tale. It really looks like this.

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Double rainbow forming on the western outskirts of Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

The sun shines golden, the greens are greener, even the clouds are a beautiful blue gray, and the wildflowers that grow everywhere are the most brilliant purples, pinks, blues, reds, and whites.

It is magical

Granted, by the time I collected my luggage and found my way to the school shuttle bus, it was too dark for anyone to see the scenery or my spectacular entrance.

Beautiful entrance

Doesn’t matter.

We came to fuck bitches

I boarded the bus bound for my accommodation.

Yeeeaaahhh

Where it took me two hours to get my keys and find my flat.

Itty bitty living space

Which happens to have a view of the highlands and the train. The train makes me especially happy because 1) the last two places I’ve lived were next to train tracks and the sound of trains passing in the night has become a sort of lullaby for me, and 2) the train sounds exactly like the one out of Spirited Away.

Chihiro and No Face on train

It makes me want to watch the movie every time the train goes by, which is often.

Soot gathering candy

Anyway, I naturally didn’t have room in my suitcase for bedding, so I spent my first night wearing half the clothes I brought with me to keep warm and using my jacket as a pillow. Lots of fun.

My tail's froze, my nose is froze...

The first order of business in the morning was to get a real bed. I walked three miles along confusing roads in order to find a store that sold bedding. Streets here are not marked half the time, change names a bazillion times, disappear/reappear, and are not even close to following a grid system.

Definitely lost

What the hell is that

All the same, I found what I needed and everything went well until I was walking back and discovered the shoes I was wearing were not as broken-in as I thought they were. Blisters everywhere. It was bad. For the next week, it felt like I was walking on broken feet. I was still in Scotland, though, so I guess the good balanced out the bad.

Alright, we'll call it a draw

There was no way it was going to keep me from exploring my new reality.

And now for something completely different

Complete with accents!

That's a lovely accent you have, New Jersey

Surprisingly, I only met a couple people I couldn’t understand.

I understand nothing

All in all, I was over the moon.

This is the best

I wanted to see and do everything, absorb absolutely every molecule of the country.

I want it all, I want it now

I wanna know about the strangers like me

Even though almost nothing was familiar.

I have no idea what's going on but I'm excited

When I got to campus, I expected at least a few of the other international students to feel the same way I did.

Does anyone else feel like a rainbow

Instead, I was thrown among groups of spoiled, ungrateful undergrads here for study abroad. They were either completely oblivious of the fantastic opportunity they had before them or they were more concerned with looking cool.

Teenagers, they're really stupid

It was very disappointing.

Nerdy get on my level

Stay here as long as you can, cherish it

It also made me feel uncomfortably old.

Do we look older or does everyone in college look like babies

Feeling old

Especially as I went through orientation things I hadn’t done in five years – paperwork, social activities, tours, etc.

Student ID photo

Touring flamingoes

They were minor annoyances in the shadow of the school itself, though. You see, I go to Hogwarts.

Hogwarts is my home

No, seriously. Hogwarts.

UofG 1

UofG 2

UofG 3

UofG 4

And since the University of Glasgow accepted me where my top school didn’t, I like to think that I was chosen.

But I am the chosen one

There are even magic staircases.

Hogwarts staircases

You’re on the ground level, go inside, go up two flights of stairs, and you’re suddenly outside again on the ground level.

Wicked

I love magic

I was a bubble of nerdy energy the first time I rounded the corner and saw the school sitting on that hilltop in all its glory.

You go, Dumble-dork

Adding the fact that I’d never seen a building of such size or age before, it was beyond comprehension.

Blown away, in awe

It was honestly unbelievable. I sat there staring at the quadrangles for hours, and my eyes still couldn’t adjust to it. Even my eyeballs said, “No way. We got something wrong. Let’s do that again.”

Can't believe eyes

In general, across the city and every second of the day, it’s so hard to believe I’m here. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up one morning in the US in my old room in my parents’ house with my old job.

Wake up and cry

Nah, I'm still asleep

Is all this one magnificent dream?

Perhaps, but for now let him sleep

For in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own

For however long it lasts, I want to enjoy it. Squeeze every experience I can out of my time here.

I love waking up not knowing what's going to happen

The problem with that, however, is that I don’t know how to live.

I like sweatpants and staying home

When I look at Glasgow, determined not to be bored and to push my boundaries, I draw a blank. What do I do? Where do I start? How exactly does one have fun?

No idea

Especially when I factor in the fact that I’m alone.

Oh that's right, I'm alone

Even after classes start, I’ll have four days a week of open schedule.

I've got 2 hrs planned and then darkness and dragons

That’s an awful lot of time for me to spend alone doing things. Being alone NOT doing things like watching shows on Netflix is my specialty.

Rocking the pjs

I wonder what non-pathetic people are doing tonight

Leaving the house is another story.

Outside bad, the sun's scary

It’s much easier for me to be the brave one when I’m with other people, so I guess I could always ask someone to go with me to that museum or pub.

Does anyone want to be my friend

But who am I kidding? I’m about as good at talking to strangers as I am at going out by myself.

I do not have the talen of communicating easily with strangers

However, that could work in my benefit. Without people to talk to, I have no one to ask if all that I’m seeing is a dream or not.

Is this real life

So let the dream continue!

Kuzko I'm so happy

It’s 3750 Miles to Glasgow, It’s Dark, and I’m Wearing Sunglasses. Hit It.

I’ll spare you all the gory details of the last few days before I left the country. In short, I didn’t allow myself enough time to mentally prepare myself for my journey – I only had a day and a half to pack – my brother broke his collarbone, and I had three doctor’s appointments the week I left (one of which was on the day I left).

Chaos

All this basically left me with a few hours to pack as much as I could cram into my allotted luggage allowances.

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Merlin magically packing

Even after cutting out all the unnecessaries, I was still seriously pushing the size requirements. I looked ridiculous next to the simple and tidy business travelers.

Oh, it'll fit

Anyway, as the hours ticked toward D-Day, I started getting nervous.

Nervous chewing

Very nervous.

wO8sYlV

I had a one-way ticket in my hand, and I was going somewhere where everything from the people I saw everyday to the groceries I bought was going to be different. I was ripping life as I knew it off like a bandaid.

Well, this is going to hurt like a motherfucker

I was also putting all my hopes and dreams on the line.

What if it's not everything I dreamed of

And what if it is, what do I do then

But despite the paralyzing fear I experienced, I couldn’t shake the remaining sliver of optimism and excitement.

I'm going on an adventure

I'm excited to sniff people's hair

That’s when a weird, previously unheard from patriotism attacked.

George Washington in a car

American Astronaut

Wanna have a rousing discussion about truth, honor, patriotism

God bless America

I found t-shirts that I was sorely tempted to buy.

Raise your hand if you've ever been victimized by King George III

Or better yet, with Scotland’s independence movement:

If you've got monarchy problems...a king ain't one

Too cool for British rule

Fortunately, I was hyperventilating too much to consider it for very long.

I'm so excited, I may vomit

Because I was on my way to the airport.

And here we go

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I don't mean to be emotional, whole life led to this moment

Not that it helped my nerves. I was practically crying on the plane as we waited to take off. My comfort zone was sitting back at home because there wasn’t room for it in my carry-on. I was not ready for this.

Not ready Dumbledore

It only got worse when combined with normal airplane fears. I’m not actually afraid of flying, but the thought that the plane could crash and burn still lurks in the back of my mind.

Identifying your mangled corpse

31-Bridesmaids-quotes

There's something on the wing

There's a colonial woman on the wing

So yeah, sitting on the runway, I was losing my ever loving mind.

Screaming on airplane

But that’s a good thing, right? It meant I was doing something completely different to hopefully change the direction of my life.

The brave don't live forever, but the cautious don't live at all

My fear meant I was doing it right.

It's happening isnt' it

Life is happening

So the plane took off.

Leeroy Jenkins

And I waved goodbye to my home, family, and friends down below.

You're going to miss me by my hair, miss me when I'm gone

After that, all was well.

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I can show you the world

I honestly expected the worst from the other passengers. A Chatty Cathy, a screaming child, someone kicking the back of my seat, etc.

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Instead, it was rather peaceful all the way to London Heathrow.

Peaceful plane

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We landed in London early the next morning. It was cloudy and drizzling. Very British. Not at all like the scorching hot, humid, sunny American south.

London

I appreciated the challenge of navigating the gigantic airport, UK border control, and everything else alone. I hadn’t had new territory to conquer in several years, so it was nice to stretch my legs a bit.

We are the champions of the world

But after I found my way to the right terminal, I realized I was carrying too much stuff to be able to explore, so I picked a spot and sat in it. For eight hours. Suddenly, the ten hour layover that looked so appealing for giving me plenty of time now just looked boring.

This is boring, I'm bored now

Of course, it didn’t help that it was still 3:00 in the morning for me.

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Also, as fascinated as I was by London (from the air) and as much as I still want to explore London and all of England, we didn’t “click.” Charleston and I clicked. It was home immediately, but I didn’t get that from England. It was just England.

Bored Hermione clapping

Like, “This is cool. Can I go to Scotland now?”

Alice yawn

It made me feel better about not choosing any of the English schools I got into, but it also worried me. What if I felt the same way about Scotland?

Emma Stone bored

As the plane descended through the clouds over Scotland, though, all my fears were put to rest. It was love at first sight.

Wow

It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Scotland scenery 1

Scotland scenery 2

Granted, after twenty-four hours on the go, hauling a hundred pounds of luggage, and walking up and down a horrible sidewalk trying to find my flat, I didn’t really have a mind to enjoy it all at once. But hey! I arrived!

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A Glass Case of Emotion

When I moved home and got a job, I didn’t exactly tell my new employers about my plans for graduate school.

Guilty

I needed a job and I didn’t think they’d hire me if they knew I’d be leaving in six months.

You sit on a throne of lies

I’ve never done anything so deceitful, and it ate away at me everyday I worked.

I'm sorry, so sorry

It was such a relief when I finally put in my notice and told them what I was doing (although I spun it in a way that made it sound like it had come about all of a sudden).

And the truth shall set you free

Of course, when everyone in my life knew that I was going to Scotland, I didn’t have anywhere to hide and pretend it wasn’t happening.

Well now they know

This is when the mood swings really started getting crazy. I started living in extremes.

Rapunzel mood swings

Some days I felt like I was on top of the world.

I will face the world fearless proud and strong

Why should I worry

Everywhere you look I'm standing in spotlight

Others…not so much.

I'm not cool enough to be at this party

I'm sweating like a sinner in church

One moment Scotland would look like a beautiful, enchanted land where all my dreams would come true.

Come with me and you'll be in a world of imagination

The next, it would look like a dark, scary monster ready to eat unsuspecting idealists like myself.

There's no earthly way of knowing which way we're going

The more attention I got, the more my ego skyrocketed.

Over falsity of confidence

I can't help that I'm popular

I eat success for breakfast

I'm brushing up on looking down

I haven't seen this much love since narcissus

Which only made my little negative voice more annoying…

I object, overruled

And made it harder to keep up my game face.

Wipe face and smile

But for me, my game face was pretty muted.

Ron muted happy

At best I was happy.

I kind of feel good

I didn’t want to be “that person” who never shuts up about all their fantastic opportunities. Even though on the inside, I was bouncing off the walls.

Running fist pumps

As I got closer to leaving and the reality of it all set in even more, I started to panic again.

Stewie rocking back and forth

Remember that guy from Brave that no one can understand?

Scottish accent

That’s a Scottish accent. A real Scottish accent that I will probably have to understand at some point.

I'm fucked

Furthermore, I’m a dreamer and an idealist. I talk about doing things like this while complaining about my life and eating cookie dough on the couch. I don’t actually do it! I’m not qualified to make those kind of decisions! Who let me do this?

I'm an idiot, ask anyone

Stupid kid on glass

I have the survival skills of a poodle

But hey, at least I know where Glasgow is.

Sarcastic yay clap

You’d be shocked by the number of people who think Glasgow is in Ireland (if they have any clue at all where it is). Well, just in case, here’s a map:

Map of Scotland

The more you know

When Shit Gets Real

So I have a slight fear of commitment.

Fear of commitment

It doesn’t come out often. I’m very good at making small decisions like in buying clothes or picking restaurants, but when it comes to things like signing a commitment to attend a school I can’t afford on my own in a country I’ve never been to for a degree I may never use, I get a bit anxious.

Nervous laughing

The honeymoon period of applying to and getting accepted to schools came to an abrupt halt as my cursor hovered over the button to accept my university’s offer.

Shit just got real

This is it don't get scared now

Except scared is exactly what I became. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure of anything.

I am 0% sure of what I'm going to do

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I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know where I'm going

I grew painfully aware of all the consequences I overlooked, all the insecurities I ignored, and all the ways I could fail in epic proportions. My bliss went up in a puff of smoke.

Realizations are the worst

Rather than a strong, independent woman taking charge of her own life, I felt like a dog walking around in human clothes barking, “Hur hur hur. Look at me, I’m a grad student. Hur hur.”

Dog on the computer

Or worse, that my fairy tale year was really just a massive joke that I was the butt of.

Weird Cinderella

When people asked me what I was going to study and why, I never knew what to say.

I don't know how to answer that question

I don't have a good answer

Sure, I have tons of reasons, and they’re valid. I have an interest in becoming an academic librarian, which typically requires a specialty degree (history for me), but since I’m not married to the idea of librarianship and would like to experiment in other history-related professions, it makes sense to get my history degree before my library degree. However, that’s really just what I say to justify my actions. I honestly just want to study history and travel – it barely has anything to do with my career – so I live in fear of someone calling me out on my shit.

That is bullshit

Since I’m not going into it with a specific career in mind (hell, I don’t even have a specific thesis topic yet), I feel like I’ve already set myself up for failure.

Horrible decision really

I've made a huge mistake

I still don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. What if I get a Master’s degree and it doesn’t get me a better job? What if I end up exactly where I began, only with more debt?

Crying over useless master's degree

Or what if I get my degree only to get a job that wants me to have a different degree?

I might not have been right

I also have the hopes and dreams of my friends and family riding on my shoulders. My parents especially are so proud that I’m doing something they never did and am taking my life into my own hands. But what if I fail?

I don't want to get peoples expectations up and then disappoint them

Lower your expectations

What if my thesis isn’t good enough? That I pale in comparison to everyone around me and end up spending my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as an international laughing stock?

I'm afraid of not being good enough

And I’ll do it all to satisfy my own whimsy.

Help, I'm being spontaneous

Who am I to do that?

It's madness

What are my alternative options, though? My safe plan of working my way up through some small public library?

Life's full of tough choices

People say life is full of choices but no one mentions fear

That’s when I snap myself out of it.

Pull yourself together

What is my sense of self, confidence, and happiness worth? Priceless, right? Even though I’m not doing this for the “normal” reasons as part of a well thought out career and life plan, I’m still going for good reasons. Doing something I love is a good reason. Is it so bad to do something just because it makes me happy?

Don't let your dreams be dreams

My life is mine, and a life of safety and stability comes with the price of boredom and predictability. I’ve been to that side, and I was miserable beyond words. Now I pay for my thrills with unpredictability, which scares the snot out of me, but I’ll gladly pay the price.

It isn't going to be easy

If you can dream it, you can do it

Besides,

The beastie boys fought for my right to party

So the better question is, who am I to deny myself such an adventure?

Just do it

Little Miss Popular

It took a little over a month after I finally submitted my applications to hear back with the results.

One eternity later

But first, some of the schools had to ask extra questions or clarifying information…you know, just to get my hopes up when I got an email from them.

Anticlimatic

The worst one was where a school needed me to prove my identity because I spelled it wrong on the application. I shit you not, I misspelled my own name on something that was supposed to present me as a competent, sophisticated, impressive prospective grad student.

blink

I'm a unitard

Anyway, I did eventually get an email that contained the words I really wanted to read.

Yeah ok

No really! A real, not-at-all-being-punked acceptance to a graduate school in the UK!

Wide eyed

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Winning the price is right

I applied to five schools, and naturally, the first school I got into was at the bottom of the list – the school I figured I had the highest likelihood of getting into. Although by no means a bad school, I mostly wanted it to boost my ego.

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After that, everything came together within a week. A few days after my first acceptance, another one came, then another, and then another.

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I also got letters from the two other schools – including my number one pick – but those weren’t quite so fruitful.

I ain't even mad

Honestly, I was only slightly disappointed by their rejections. I’d already gotten farther than I ever expected.

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You love me you really love me

Thank you - eye flutter

I also didn’t care that the schools who wanted me only wanted me for my weak American dollars that pay their international tuition.

He got money

All I had to care about was which of the three schools to attend, if any of them.

I don't know, I didn't think I'd get this far

One school (the first) was pretty generic and not worth the cost of attendance for me. The other two schools were both great, but for different reasons. One was a more expensive, highly ranked school that covered more of my areas of interest while the other was cheaper and had wonderful resources in one particular interest of mine.

There can be only one

After some deliberation, I made my choice: the University of Glasgow!

Sheep applause

Now back to paperwork!

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Yup. Arranging financial aid, accommodation, health insurance, deposits, plane tickets, bio-metric information – to name a few – and my personal favorite: the visa! Government jargon is wonderful.

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Fortunately, apparently being American works in my favor in a huge way. It seems that the UK doesn’t think Americans pose any great threat of terrorism, being broke, or bringing deadly diseases into the country. We’re all rich, healthy people with no tendencies toward violence or extremism as far at the visa committee is concerned.

Colbert and American flag

Hey, I don’t care as long as it gets me to Scotland.

Everybody dance now

Dancing pony

Waving arms dancing

Fat dancing

Katy Perry dancing

Dolla Dolla Bill, Y’all

I’m trying to set myself up for a Cinderella moment – my beautiful year-long ball where I will dance with opportunities I can only dream of.

What's the catch

Will the clock strike midnight?

At the stroke of 12 the spell will be broken

You bet your sweet ass it will, and then the fairy godmother will be back for repayment with interest because shit ain’t free.

Counting money

In fact, school is rather expensive.

It's very expensive...

Just one limb for every academic year

Add on the debt I’ve already racked up in undergrad as well as all living expenses I’ll have over there – apartment, food, and new shoes (because a sheep will inevitably eat one) – because I have a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting a job there or even having the time outside of school to work.

Did I hear that correct

And add as much extra money as I can reasonably loan because I’m a “just in case” kind of person. Also because once I return from this adventure, I will have sold my car, moved out of my apartment, and quit my job. I’ll be returning to nothing.

Throw up a little

But hey, at least I’ll have my Cinderella moment. For one year, I’ll live the relative high life.

Gatsby toast

I’ll travel…

pokmon-lol-im-rich

Maybe I’ll find out what it means to be cultured…

Money fan

And I’ll have a great story to tell people when I come back.

Good news, guys, I spent all my money

Which is good, because after this, I’ll need those stories to entertain my future homeless brethren.

I declare bankrupcy

In doing this one year of graduate school, I am undoubtedly signing myself up for a lifetime of indentured servitude to student loans.

Ariel signing contract

All the same, thank you federal loan system for graciously accepting my offer of servitude in exchange for money.

Thanks, Satan

Here’s hoping I can seduce someone with my charming awkwardness.

My only job is to marry someone with money

Adjust boobs

Otherwise, well, I got nothin’.

Pay my bills, cut the cord

I’m not expecting a better paying job just because I’ll have a Master’s degree. I honestly haven’t seen that financially benefit anyone else around my age, so I’m only going to safely assume I can get the same part-time hourly positions I’ve had to pay off a crippling amount of debt.

Damn this is some scurry shit

There IS a small little voice in me reminding me that I’m living on Monopoly money and that someday the bubble will burst.

Wait, I totally forgot, this is real life

For the meantime, though, I’m comfortably enjoying denial.

I'm currently in deep denial

Doubtfire_Babs

Well, more like blatantly ignoring it.

I can't hear you

I can't hear you, I'm going through a tunnel

I'm a fan of ignoring a problem until it goes away

My parents’ reactions when I gave them the total sum for my Cinderella moment is something I’ll never forget.

Eye popping

Start panicking

But it will all be worth it, right?

You're going to suffer, but you're gonna be happy about it

Laugh to cry