FIFE, SCOTLAND — I never thought studying at St Andrews would be a rude awakening. I was wrong. Hearing stories from Elon students who had previously studied abroad colored my ideas of what studying abroad would be like.
I thought, for example, that I would find amazing, fashionable and worldly international friends who could educate me on topics I could not find in America. My friends at home and I took immense pleasure in imaging me meeting my own prince and falling in love before I came back. St Andrews, after all, has had a reputation for decades as the place where people find their spouses. Over the summer I made a list of countries and cities I would like to travel to while studying abroad. I pictured independence, joy, and new experiences on a daily basis. Not unreasonable, right?
My expectations did not meet my reality. The friends I have at St Andrews are all American, save two from the Seychelles and one from England’s Lake District. I have frequently been the source of jokes for simply being an American. Instead of traveling to Paris or Copenhagen on the weekends, I study for 8 to 10 hours in addition to studying on the weekdays. St Andrews expects a lot from its students, whether they are studying abroad or not.
Just the other day I was wallowing about how flat my expectations fell from reality. As I sat in my friend’s room thinking about my other Elon friends studying abroad who have visited Rome and Barcelona and Switzerland every weekend, I happened to glance out the window.
Framed by the ruins of the Cathedral tower, with the clouds in the background and the sun shining on the weathered stone, stood a rainbow in the sky. I am not a superstitious person, but I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the rainbow framed so perfectly. I realized that there wasn’t anywhere else I would want to be at that moment. I am living in a dorm where a girl fell in love with her prince. I am surrounded by 600 years of living, tangible history, which, as a student studying history, couldn’t be a more perfect situation. And at the same time, I am not sacrificing anything. My friends at Elon will still be there when I come back. My parents will save an ornament or two for me to decorate our Christmas tree. And although I occasionally crave Simply Thai and wish I could hold my dog, St Andrews is where I need to be right now. I only needed a rainbow in Scotland to remind me.