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A Flight Outside My Comfort Zone: Adjusting To Living in Scotland by Myself

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Living in the U.K. has always been a dream of mine — one I never thought would be possible. When my junior year of college came and I had to decide whether I was going to take the leap and study abroad, I crossed my fingers and went for it. From my shaking hands on the plane pressing play on my years-old Spotify playlist titled “someday I’ll live in the U.K.,” to then crying in the Edinburgh Airport six months later in denial that I was leaving — I couldn’t have possibly made a better decision.

After arriving at the airport hours early and finally boarding the plane, the adrenaline mixed with anxiety kept me awake the whole flight. When I landed for my layover in Dublin, I immediately called my mom in disbelief of what I was doing. I then searched the entire airport for an outlet to charge my phone, and ended up camping out on the floor while texting the few people still awake in the U.S. Admittedly as a book lover, my first real culture shock was all of the U.K. book covers at the airport stores — it was the first moment it actually felt real that I was going abroad. I sent my night owl brother pictures of the different covers until even he fell asleep, and with still a few hours until my next flight to Scotland, that’s when I really started to feel alone.

My first day in Edinburgh was filled with a bunch of orientation events, giving me no time to think about the reality of it all or get caught up in jet lag. The first time I walked through Edinburgh with my study abroad group was a moment I’ll never forget. It was my first time in another country, and I was surrounded by castles, cobblestone, and buildings that looked like they belonged in a fantasy movie. It was an absolutely unreal feeling, and it was my new home for the next few months.

When it was finally time to head back to our flats for our first night, that same new feeling of loneliness I felt in the Dublin Airport set in once again. My new room was cold, bare, and silent. The floors creaked with every step I took, and all I could hear outside my bedroom window were thick Scottish accents and heavy British winds.

Even in a country so similar to the U.S., everything felt slightly off at first. Simple tasks like buying groceries was a learning curve, and finding my way around the city naturally took quite some time. The first time I took the bus by myself, I got on the wrong one heading the opposite direction, forgetting that they drive on the other side of the road. I had a fair amount of trial and error during my first month abroad, which initially had me feeling lost.

One day I stepped outside my flat after wrestling with the front door due to the uniquely old U.K. accommodations (that I eventually grew to love). Birds circled above me, and sounded notably different than the ones at home. The trees around my accommodation looked different, and everything just felt different. I had a moment where it started to really hit me that I was in a country far from everyone and everything I have ever known. Though the birds felt somewhat poetic, this small moment triggered a switch in me where I learned to savor my time there, while also allowing myself to miss the comfort of home.

Despite my initial mixed emotions, Edinburgh eventually truly began to feel like home. After traveling to many different countries while studying abroad, landing back at Edinburgh Airport felt like I was back where I belonged. I couldn’t wait to get back to my flat and see my friends. I couldn’t wait to go to my favorite coffee shops, sit in the Meadows, and go book shopping at the local bookshops. I eventually learned my way around the winding streets of Old Town, where the best meal deals were (team Sainsbury’s always), the best study spots, and my favorite pubs. Walking through the charming streets of Edinburgh with my go-to latte from Costa Coffee just felt right.

Now looking back, I can’t believe I ever had any hesitation that study abroad, or Edinburgh, was right for me. I grew as a person more than I could’ve imagined and saw all different parts of the world. The best six months of my life flew by before I could even believe it, and when it came time to leave, it felt like I was leaving home all over again.

To the most magical city of Edinburgh that will forever have a huge part of my heart — thank you for being a dream come true.

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Elizabeth Tait

U Mass Amherst '24

Elizabeth is a senior editor and content writer at UMass Amherst, double majoring in psychology and sociology. In her free time, she loves reading, watching sunrises at the beach, making Spotify playlists, baking, and traveling.