...is exciting, challenging, and adventurous at the same time. One day I wake up excited about studying in a different country, getting to know the people, culture, and nature. The next day I feel like wrapping myself up in a blanket in my living room, being surrounded by my closest. Home is where your heart is, they say and I cannot agree more, but I think it is also worth creating a homely feeling when you are far away. Then, the two homely feelings, both in my hometown and Aberdeen, are not contradictory for me at all. It is rather about feeling the warmth of belonging.
Let me firstly dive into some memories from last year. As many, I was starting my university journey during the middle of the pandemic. I spent about a month here in Aberdeen, getting to know the city, a handful of people, quarantining and then travelling back home due to lockdown. I remember myself having mixed emotions, it was a new beginning, but felt very restricted. As a person who needs to take time when adapting to changes, I found myself struggling and contemplating my decisions. I am aware that many of us were in the same boat when it comes to such feelings. Therefore, I knew that I needed to calm down and rationalise the whole situation. A pandemic is a pandemic, one cannot do much about that. After coming home early for Christmas, I felt relieved. I felt grateful to have a shield from the strange world. An important moment for me was to realise how much my family supports me, and that I enjoy and am interested in what I study. This was a refreshing feeling indeed, and it helped me to move forward.
I believe that once I had the priorities rationalised, I was prepared to start the journey. I have started a new chapter of life in a different country, educating myself in a different language and meeting people from all around the world. Family and friends from home are not close. They are far away, and I often miss them a lot. The separation period can hurt, and it takes time to learn how to cope with that. It takes time to learn to live on my own. It takes time to realise that I will not be able to travel home every weekend. It takes time to get used to meeting people with different background and acknowledge they behave differently compared to people in my home country. It takes time to get used to different education system. It takes time to develop mechanisms to study, write, and carry conversations in English. It all takes so much time and that is okay. Things may or may not go as we imagine. It is a process, and I am perfectly fine with admitting that I still am learning all of this.
And just like that, having accepted that it still is a process for me, I was able to have the courage and motivation to carry on. It is exciting. It feels exciting to have stepped out of my comfort zone to start this journey. Now, in the second year of my studies, I have spent more time in Aberdeen. I experienced some of my classes on campus, I was able to join the societies and extracurricular activities. I was glad to meet more people and soak up the atmosphere of the city as well as nature. And it is exciting. I think it is exciting to meet people from various countries, speaking different languages. Yet, we all are connected by English. I often found myself immersed in conversations, comparing our point of views or cultural beliefs and habits. I feel grateful to have access to enormous sources of information and support for students. I admire the passion lecturers can radiate. I appreciate that the university cares and know that it opens many doors for those who seek it. I feel very grateful for this opportunity. I value my personal growth.
On the other hand, and in all honesty, it is not all roses. It can also be hard and demanding. The language barrier is challenging. Sometimes, I get the feeling that it is hard to express myself as much as I wish in English. Listening to lectures and grasping the concepts can also be though. I found it especially hard during exam period, combined with stress, tiredness, and homesickness. As an overthinker, it was difficult to find a way to switch off and take time for myself. I did not have my family around. However, I believe the experience teaches me a lot. Without experiencing this, I would not be able to appreciate the love and support I have at home as much as I do now. I appreciate the great education I get. I learned to cheer myself up, find the motivation, and work hard. I believe it all does count and will help me in the future. I learned to spend more time on my own. I think it also revealed which relationships are worth thriving and who really stands by my side. I realised that we often are stronger than we think.
At the end of the day, it is us who we spend the rest of our life with. I understood how important it is to feel okay on my own. I reflected on advantages and disadvantages it all brings to me and weighed them out. Despite the stress and fear of trying to study abroad, I am glad I did. It is scary to end or begin a thing, but one will never know if they never try. I feel the motivation to continue, because studying at a great university and being passionate about it is something that has a great value for me. What also helps, and I appreciate so much, is the variety of people I meet. If I struggle with English or am homesick, people from many countries can relate. We are all here, trying our best and adapting to this all. If I miss my mother tongue, I can talk to people from the same country thanks to societies. If I miss the homely atmosphere, I try to recreate it and connect with my friends. We do study sessions together, hang out, cook national dishes, or tell each other that we should calm down and not stress that much. We complement each other. We help each other. We do miss similar things, but everybody experiences it differently. Local people and the overall atmosphere can also be helpful. Living in a beautiful and welcoming country and hearing a supportive word or two always helps to carry on.
Now that I am at home for Christmas break, I feel very happy and emotional. I experience things more vividly, trying to remember the little things. I realise how much I missed everyone and everything. I do not take it for granted. I also realised that I started writing my own story in Aberdeen and am excited about what it will bring. I keep telling the stories from this semester to my family and friends. I realise how much I have grown. And I do not take it for granted either. Despite the challenging times we are now living in, I am proud of us for trying, for adapting, for studying and pursuing something we enjoy. I am very proud of you, and I am proud of me.