Home again, home again…and highly jet lagged!

Strange, very strange – but not in a bad way.  It’s just the contradiction that’s strange.  It feels weird being where you were before your year abroad, with people who didn’t share your experiences physically with you.  Then again, it also feels so wonderfully normal, familiar and comfortable.  It is like everyone says, you do seem to fall back into things, but you do so being the person who learned so much from your exchange year.

I haven’t even been home for 2 whole days yet but in a strange way it feels like I’ve never left.  In fact, as soon as I saw my parents and a friend of mine at the airport it already felt lovely and normal.  I do, however, have jet lag – which sucks a bit.  LA has an 8 hours time difference so I kind of feel like I’m in a dream, it’ll take a while to readjust I think.  Anyway, now I’m trying to keep up with contacting people I’ve left and I find myself wanting a bit of peace and quiet now that I’m back for a while.  I also, while feeling too exhausted at the moment, am really looking forward to seeing everyone here, but think it will take a few days before I have the energy.

A few things I’m enjoying about being back are having proper bacon, ‘normal’-tasting bread and milk, being in a familiar house and climate, seeing people I’ve missed, rediscovering my old clothes (you forget half of what you had, trust me!), having familiar plug sockets, discovering a few new things around the house and being completely surrounded by Scottish accents J

A few things I’m missing are my friends, the Canadian lifestyle, my bedroom in Kingston, hearing the Canadian accents (and American accents) everywhere, TRAVELLING, being faced with new things all the time…and the sun (it’s Scotland!)

Overall, it’s just another part of the journey of being abroad, and one of the great parts.  I love seeing my family and it’s nice to take a breather after travelling to random places and sleeping in random beds.  And I love getting to know everyone and everything again from a different perspective.


Spring + final exams

Spring in Chambana appears to be amazing. Last months’ temperatures were reaching nearly 30 degrees, making it feel more like a summer. Spring break itself was a success as well. I managed to continue my travels and went with a couple of french mates to Florida. We took a flight to Orlando and then rented a car to go south to Miami. From there we went on a 3 day cruise on Bahamas. It was a very entertainng week, although the very first day for me ended up with a severe sunburn. (People, remember about suncream, always!). Too bad the break was so short (I really missed the one in Glasgow) but still it was very memorable. I’ll put a few pictures on Flickr. Of course profesors at UIUC don’t care about holidays and we had loads of homeworks due just after the break (I admitt I missed a few deadlines, ehh). Anyway, spring break is long over, now exams time. I have 5 of them, this finals week is killing me. Everything is going to fast. You don’t really have time to study that much as you do before the finals back home, especially that you know you are leaving soon and want rather to spend time with your friends to whom you will have to say goodbye in a few days:( That’s the saddest time of the year. I really wish I could stay here a bit longer, although on the other hand the campus is already getting empty as some people finish early, so there would be no one left anyway. Sorry for such a short (and delayed!! post this time), but there is really no time to concentrate on writing. Besides, whoever wants to go for an exchange next year probably already knows where he or she is going , so if you decided to go to UIUC (great choice, btw;p) feel free to contact me by mail or on facebook if you still haven’t. If you are thinking of applying here next year, do so as well! I think the time I had here was the best time in my school years, thanks to all the experience I gained here and the most important of all, the people I met. I’m really depressed right now that it is all over. Next time I write here I’ll be alreadyback  in Europe (still not in Scotland though). First, I’ll spend a few days in Chicago which I will also miss a lot when I get home. Still, I’m happy to see all my family and friends after one year of absence. Well, goodbye America, and hope to visit you soon again!!!

Day 21, 20, 19

This is not going well at all!

Day 21

Started off with HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my brother and was followed by Extravaganza, an amazing music festival which was the highlight of today!!! Music from Super Smash Bros (not that good), Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (amazing band!), Chromio (crap!) and Drake (complete crap, although a girl flashed him, and she did have something to flash I guess!). I can’t really describe the atmosphere at this place. It felt like a mini-Glastonbury, although I haven’t been to Glastonbury but I think it would be similar just with a better list of bands! People smoking everything from cigarettes to weed, cramped in a small space with everyone pushing and shoving to get to the front and just generally trying to avoid people’s BO. First time I’ve done any of this, excluding the weed/cigarettes and it was good fun!!! Not one of those only in Cali moments, but certainly something everyone has to experience at least once! What’s more, I actually heard a band playing live knowing nothing about them and really liking them. Edward Sharpe and his group are legend!

I should just note that what I typed about day 22 is partially a lie as I ended up staying quite late with Josh at some random party with neon lights and things. Got quite tipsy and woke up the next morning with no hangover! Go me! For those of you who don’t know me, I can’t drink that much anyway and after the second round I’m usually out and tipsiness is usually not good! Anyway, after the sun stroke from Extravaganza and general tiredness I decided to hit the sack early on that night.

Day 20

Again, boring day with nothing special. It was work day and with a early start, I decided to make an attempt at typing up my critical review. Can’t say I got very far before distractions started, but not bad either. Had a clear idea of what to write about as well as the level of analysis needed. So spent most of the day doing that. Can’t say I noticed any nuances except everyone dressed for winter, just cause the weather had dropped by 5 degress…ridiculous…we brits know how it’s done 😉 I also caught up with my friend Amy after a long time for a frap at Starbucks! How atypically American! But we needed that catch up…we had grown sick of our ritualized 3 sentence conversation “Hi…How are you?” etc. at the library. So that was good…also a 2 mile run was a nice bonus to end the tiring day of intellectual activity.

Day 19

Again a boring day as there was lots of work to be done. Posted things for sale on Craigslist and attempted to plan packing of bags. I also consulted Virgin Atlantic on costs of a third bag. Basically planning ahead for my reluctant departure 😦

Spent more time studying and then built everything up to 9pm. Again 24! What an episode! But can’t be bothered typing about that…show’s getting too much publicity anyway! What I will go on about is how greatful I am to Michelle for giving me the book “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon. An amazing illustration of Aspergers. Agreed the emphasis did show too much meta-cognition that may not be as active in someone with Aspergers, but still a very good book with a lovely message. So thanks to Michelle for giving me the book for my birthday and a pat on my own back for finishing it despite all the other reading left 😀

Between Worlds

Wow, the end of the year already!  I know it’s clichéd when people say good times fly past, but it’s true.  Flying away from Canada today, I remember the feeling of the girl who, 8 months ago, was flying away from home for a year abroad, not knowing what to expect.  That feels like only last week.

I’m actually in JFK airport just now trying to get internet connection, but there’s none so I suppose you’ll get this when I get to my hostel!  I’m sitting waiting for my sister to join me from Scotland and can’t wait since I haven’t seen her in about 9 months – 9 MONTHS!!

Leaving Kingston was a strange, overwhelming bombardment of everything: celebrations, finishing exams and essays, packing, sending stuff home in boxes, saying goodbye to those who left early, tying loose ends here and there, cancelling phone accounts, selling furniture and possessions not likely to fit into my suitcase, good times, sadness and excitement for what comes next.  The most amazing part of being abroad for me was meeting such amazing people who I hope to keep in touch with as much as possible.  Ironically, it’s this amazing part that makes you extra emotional and sad when it comes to parting ways.  The great thing is, though, although it’s hard to say goodbye to the people who have become like a family to you and the place which has become your home, there’s the lovely feeling of knowing what you had together was special and that you have friends all over the world, so you’ve no better excuse to keep travelling.  And don’t forget, there’s also the magical miracle of SKYPE!!!

Everyone left in a scattered kind of way really, whenever their exams were finished or they’d planned their travels.  Most people are going travelling for 3-4 weeks now, most going to the West coast of Canada, some to the East, some to the North, and some travelling around America.  Some people have gone with friends they’ve met here and some have family or friends coming out to travel with them.  I’m one of the latter, and once my sister Lucy and I have spent a few days in New York, we’re heading to Las Vegas where we’re gonna rent a car (after a wee try at a the penny-slots of course…maybe a Poker table or two…) and have a road trip round California for 3 weeks ending in LA, then it’s back to bonnie Scotland for me!

It’s a lot to take in, reflecting on the fantastic times I’ve had this year, as well as some of the harder ones, being sad to leave friends and happy I met them, excited for another trip and also looking forward to going home to see my family and friends and worrying about a kind of backwards culture shock when I go back.  It’s a little strange being in a transition period where I’m travelling, but with family, between being with my friends and home in Canada and my friends and home in Scotland.

If I had to summarise this year, it would be that it was an extremely educational, exciting, challenging, enjoyable, unbelievable, interesting, incredible, enlightening experience, all crammed into only 8 months – It’s like an intensive course on life and yourself, and brings a new meaning to the word ‘cool’.  You find out how you handle yourself in situations, how to be independent, learn about different cultures, lifestyles, countries, languages and look at your own culture and life from a different perspective.  It is a learning experience in every way possible, as well as a chance which gives you such an incredible opportunity to travel so widely whilst living the student lifestyle.  In every way it is worth going.

Personally, one thing being abroad has taught me (amongst many, many other things) is that the possibilities of life are often as wide-ranging as you make them.  There have been so many random things I’ve done this year which I would have never even considered before, like going to Tennessee for Christmas or going dog sledding or cross-country skiing or planning a road trip round California.

One of the things I liked and laughed about most was the difference in colloquial lingo.  Words like ‘gutted,’ ‘chuffed,’ ‘ned,’ ‘numpty,’ ‘hoodie,’ ‘trousers,’ ‘fresher’s week,’ and ‘bin’ all caused a great deal of hilarity for me and Canadian or international students.

I think the hardest part for me was being away from my support network.  It was challenging to deal with stresses or worries without my family at hand.  But, I have to say that Skype is a brilliant fix for that problem.  It’s fantastic and so easy and cheap to use (it’s free unless you call phones which are extremely cheap anyway) and has helped me to get over these difficulties.  Also, you’ll realise that you build a family wherever you are as well, so when I needed someone there were plenty of people here willing to help out or listen or give me a hug and understand.  All in all though, I think I was very lucky with my time here as the hard times were very rare; and kind of overshadowed by the extent of the good times.

Right, well, I’ll give an update on my travels as soon as I can get some internet connection, but for now, I’ve got to meet my sis coming off her plane…6 minutes and counting – WOO HOO!

6 weeks left!

6 weeks left and I honestly can’t believe how quickly the year has gone. It seemed like only yesterday that I set out as a wide eyed Glasgow boy not having a clue what to expect. I would say this semester has been much better than last (maybe it is because I know what to expect). Student life is brilliant out here. There is always something to do and there are so many like minded people who just want to make the most of their time out here.  I’m not going to lie that you have to work hard out here if you want to do well and you shouldn’t expect it to be a holiday all the time. However, when you do get time off it pretty much is a holiday and a great one at that.

I still have another 6 weeks to go (3 weeks of teaching then 3 weeks of exams) so you do have to get ahead with your work but to be honest I can’t imagine any better place to come and study. The way of life is just so chilled out over here and I fully recommend Australia and Brisbane in particular.

If anyone is coming to Brisbane soon or is thinking about Australia feel free to get in touch. Hope all is well with everyone and all the other ambassadors are having a great time too.


Day 25, 24, 23, 22

I told you! It’s just not me to record every day…too many visual stimuli as well as too much work and fun to keep up with!

Day 25 has to get a mention as it was my flatmate’s birthday! Despite having an exam and various other things to do, we, as in me and our common friends had organised this surprise dinner for her. But as ever, she was late! But being the good friends that we are…we waited while she staggered for dinner with too much Sake and beer. Nora had made this amazingly healthy pizza while I had dreamt up the idea of cinna-bread pizza as a birthday cake! I decided to annoy her by buying candles that can’t be blown out easily! She kept blowing and they kept coming back to life…serves her right for being late 😉 If I had typed this up earlier, I guess I would say, I hope she enjoys the plan…but given the event has come and gone like most events and with the knowledge that she loved the whole evening, I was content with my ability to co-ordinate on some level 😀

The day did have a slightly sad bit of news, which has to be said for my own memory. My 6 month old second cousin passed away on 11th May. I had met her and played with her during my visit to Chicago and the news that I received while listening to some tripe about Border-line personality disorder,  was just inexplicably shocking. There is so much that one can say about the nature of life, that even philosophers haven’t quite come up with an eloquent way of verbalising the fragility of it. But I guess, that’s where the “rub” is. If there was an answer to the issue of the human condition, whether it be some kind of philosophical/religious/psychological/neurobiological explanation, life would be boring – don’t you think?

So day 25 was tough!

Day 24 may as well not count as I spent all of it revising and having finished revision treated myself to a the thai bistro place 😛 so doesn’t really count for much! I should just mention, the seemingly odd bits of Cali life – expressiveness of guys. Please don’t take this the wrong way and yes I realise I’m a guy myself, but Californian guys really do seem to be quite expressive about their “feelings”. I know how odd this sounds, but seriously when you hear a guy complaining about how harsh his girlfriend is and how annoying she is, without being drunk and quite literally bitching being her back…I couldn’t help but laugh! I mean, I can’t imagine any of my friend back in the UK talking that much and more importantly in the whiny tone…grrh!!!

Day 23 was the day of the midterm exam! Should I bore you with the details of midterm…I think not…but can I complain about how difficult it was…almost definitely! It wasn’t actually too bad, but some of the wording on MCQs was slightly ambiguous. But having finished the midterm, I decided to embark on a bike ride to Trader Joes! Just another Sainsbury-like place which is in fact much better than Albertsons! I splurged on good and quite cheap food like Mandarin chicken, noodles, maple and pecan cluster cereal etc. This blog could become very foody, so I risk suffering cognitive dissonance if I continue to talk about food. Point is, it sucks it took me that long to shop there! After that, I went over to Amanda’s place so that she could give me a hand with Photoshop. By God, she’s good! I was thoroughly impressed by the way she created the layers and made the perfect EAP photo that I’ll be sharing soon enough…just a few more corrections! I should point out this photoshop tutorial took just over 3 hrs and was followed by Nora’s delicious Rhubarb crumble as well as the movie “Amilie”. Somehow, Amilie reminded me of Harold Crick in “Stranger Than Fiction”…I would like to explain how but that could take ages and the it would probably be considered as a deviation from the aims of this blog. Then again a lot of what I’ve typed has deviated grossly! So let’s not add to more deviations!

Day 22 – Well today, typed this blog 😉 But had a nice morning with gym, biking and a few more healthy bits and bobs. Is it a phase? Do we like having on and off healthy periods?! One more quark of Cali life, you are certainly going to become more vain as you spend more and more time amongst the bliss of amazingly “fit” people here! It is the LA effect and a lot of people do suffer from Anorexia/Bulimia so be careful…but just thought I’d point out, that people may not be as perfect as they seem! Anyway, back to today…not a whole lot…went for our ritualized coffee hour, enjoyed catching up with Amir and various others (sorry others!) and came home for an early night as tomorrow’s EXTRAVAGANZA!

Its Been A While….

Wow. I cant believe how quickly time passes when youre having fun.

So, last post, I was preparing for Spring Break. How long ago that seems now…Spring Break is another name for Easter Holidays and is one week long. I went to Miami, Florida for a week. Check the studentuniverse website for really cheap deals; i got a a round trip to miami from JFK for $180 inc tax. Amazing. Miami is beautiful. If you want culture shock, go there. Its funny; I didnt experience any form of culture shock when I came from Glasgow to New York, but going from New York to Miami was so different. Especially in the city, everything is ‘go go go’ but when i reached Miami, everything is so relaxed. People walk so slowly on the pavement, instead of rushing past you, you just go and sleep on the beach, maybe play volley ball or something, get an iced beverage instead of a scalding coffee…It was a perfect holiday. Every year in Miami, they host the Ultra Music Festival, which is a 2 day festival dedicated to dance and rave and dubstep, and it is RIDICULOUS! One night, I got on my friend’s shoulders and just looked around. The park was filled with a crowd of 80 000 people, there was lights and flame throwers and speakers as big as buildings and the atmosphere was just AH-MAZING! if you can go, i’d heartily recommend it. I spent the rest of the week recovering on the beach by day and drinks and clubs in the evening. Be prepared to spend money around the time of the Winter Music Conference; a friend and i went to a club called Klutch and it $50 to get in….

Before returning to Albany, I spent the weekend in the city (as I do at any opportunity). This time I stayed in Brooklyn, which is an up and coming area with regards to culture and food and club scene, and I had my first taste of sushi, and I also got the D train all the way to Coney Island, a famous, run down but fantastically shabby chiq fairground and pier. I went on some of the rides, including the famous ferris wheel, and while I was strolling down the pier, I tried my first ever corn dog. Ha ha I always wanted to try one; they epitomised my idea of America when I was younger. For those of you who dont know, as I didnt, its a sausage wrapped in a cornflour based batter. Theyre actually ok but you have to eat it with mustard and ketchup!

I was warned at the beginning of this semester that it passes by really quickly, and I wasnt lied to. It felt like I was only just back in classes when I was being given final tests and essays…

Well, you will all be glad to hear that I have at last finished my scarf!!! its taken me the whole academic year but it is at last complete! i love it and feel like a sown a memory into each knit and pearl…

The fashion show was a huge success. We had been practicing all semester and our hard work finally paid off. It included 5 designers from the city and featured acts from student groups on campus. The clothes were great too.

The weekend after the fashion show was the dance show. The show goes on for two days and is a lot of fun. You really get to bond with the people in your group and the show gives you the opportunity to see everyone’s routines, which are fantastic.

And now we’ve all just had our final exams. I had my last exam on tuesday and im still in a state of shock that my time at SUNY Albany is over. My study abroad experience has almost come to an end. And with the end of exams, all the other students are going home and slowly, the friendship groups you have made break apart. The international students from the UK, or the Brit Clique  as we are known around campus, have formed a really tight bond because we have all been going through the same things and explored new territory together. Thats not to say we only hang out with each other! But its nice to hang out with Americans and  come back and talk to people who know what a rich tea biscuit is! I am going to miss everyone, American, British and otherwise, so much. THANK GOD FOR FACEBOOK!