Finding Good Friends

I have never considered myself to be the type of person that has a very large friend group. I generally get along with most people, but I have one or two very close friends. In the past few months, this has changed for me. I’m not sure if I have just never met people that I could be this close with, or if I’m just more committed to making friendships work (since they’re much harder as you grow up). Whatever the reason, I am grateful that it’s happened, because I could not imagine going through life without these people.

Whether it’s people I’ve known since kindergarten, for a couple of years, or just a few months, the people I am choosing to spend my time with, whether it’s through phone calls, text messages, hand written letters, or in person, are making me happy and challenging me to be a better friend and person.

I know I can text my friends at any point in the day and any one of them will listen to me complain about my usual problems, or celebrate with me when I have good news to share. I always feel bad for ranting about little problems or bragging about the good things that are happening in my life, but they challenge me to accept that it’s okay to be proud of yourself, or upset over things that probably don’t mean much in the long run.

I have friends that have similar interests to mine, or at least take interest in my passions because they know how important they are to me. It’s so refreshing to know that I can ramble on about my favourite TV shows or have a conversation about musical theatre without having to stop and answer questions. There is nothing like being surrounded by people who are as passionate as you, it’s an intoxicating feeling, and those conversations could go on for hours.

My friends support my dreams and hopes for the future. Throughout my life and to this day, people constantly tell me that my dream is unattainable, or that once I get my dream job I won’t really like it as much as I think. It’s so overwhelmingly wonderful to have friends who not only support my dreams, but push me to go for them, and would support me along every step of the way.

Thank you to all of the wonderful people in my life. I am constantly blown away by all of you, and I am smarter, more confident and happier for having you in my life. I only hope I can return the favour to each of you and be as good of a friend to you, as you are to me.

 

Rückkehrunruhe

It has been just over 2 months since I came back to Canada (2 months and 6 days to be exact, but who’s counting?). My life has mostly gone back to normal, I wake up most days, eat breakfast, go to work and come home. On my days off I run errands. However ‘normal’ my life has become, there are still many times during my daily routines that I am reminded of my time abroad.

I spoke to a woman at work today who asked me about my necklace. For those who are unaware, I wear the necklace that I bought in Scotland almost every day. I loved talking to her about my experience in Scotland, but it made me realize how quickly my time abroad is becoming a thing of the past.

This isn’t the first time this has crossed my mind either. I finally finished the chapstick that I bought while I was abroad and it was a weird thing to go pick up another one. It was literally something so simple and mindless, but it was one of the last things I had been using from Scotland and I was sad to see it go.

It’s easy to focus on how long it’s been since I went on my exchange and all the things that I miss. What’s not easy is seeing all the ways that my time in Scotland is still affecting my life. Without going into how it changed me as a person, I made a lot of friends while I was in Europe and I still talk to a fair amount of them. I message a few people daily, I’ve started talking to exchange students from Europe that are going to be starting at my school in the fall, and I’ve even started writing letters to one of my friends in Germany.

I often forget that when I’m messaging people on Facebook or Whatsapp how incredible it is that we are talking. I am very much aware of the time difference, not that anyone pays much attention to that – everyone just responds when they’re awake and it works out fine. But because Facebook is such a normal part of my life in Canada, I don’t always realize how special it is to be able to talk to people in different countries any time I want.

That’s one of the things I love about having an actual pen pal. We sit down and physically write each other letters. Yes they take a long time to be delivered, but it reminds me how amazing that connection is. I would never give up electronically messaging my friends – it makes life much easier, and it is such a convenient way to keep in touch. There’s just something about getting a letter in the mail knowing it came from somewhere far away that makes me realize that while I may not be abroad any more, it still impacts my life more than I often realize.

Rückkehrunruhe: the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness (Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows)

Arthur’s Seat

This is another post about Edinburgh guys. I hope you aren’t sick of Edinburgh, because I’m not and I plan to go back there on at least one more occasion.

So I went on an official tour of Edinburgh today. I went with Student Tours Scotland, and if any of you are in Scotland and can get to Glasgow where his tours leave from, go on these tours. They run on weekends, and go all through Scotland. The tour guide Gary, is absolutely amazing and his first priority is to make sure everyone has the best time possible. He also has really cool stories and recommendations for things to do no matter what stuff you’re into. Also he is ginger.

Some guy on a horse and our tour guide Gary

Some guy on a horse and our tour guide Gary

So I was really excited for this tour, because I’d already been to Edinburgh, but Gary gives great tours and brings you to places you wouldn’t necessarily find if you were a tourist. Plus Arthur’s Seat. I will talk waaaaay more about this later.

Gorgeous park in the city

Gorgeous park in the city

But this morning actually started out like shite. We were meeting on the bus for 8:45, so not very early but I set my alarm for 6:45 so I could be up and ready to go with plenty of time. I got up at 8:30. I don’t know what happened, but I was not pleased. I managed to get out the door in 6 minutes and still be on time.

We did a walk around Edinburgh in the morning which was fascinating before we broke for lunch. After lunch it was time for Arthur’s Seat.

Plus I got to go here. Every Harry Potter fan's dream.

Plus I got to go here. Every Harry Potter fan’s dream.

Arthur’s Seat is on top of a volcano (dormant, obviously) and is generally associated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Arthurian legend is actually really special to me, and is a big part of my life. I grew up loving it, and when I moved to university I met people who loved it (and BBC’s Merlin) just as much as I did. It brought us all really close together and is probably one of the main reasons we are all friends today. In second year, that group of people all moved into a house together and it’s actually been named Camelot. So I was extremely excited when I got to climb up to the point where many people believe this round table was actually held.

This is about halfway down, that little point at the top is Arthur's Seat

This is about halfway down, that little point at the top is Arthur’s Seat

The hike up was intense. It had been raining ten minutes earlier (thank God it didn’t rain while we were there) so it was so muddy. The path we took up was relatively steep and was more long patches of mud and rock stairs than a proper path. It was not easy and I actually don’t think I could have done it without walking the Escarpment stairs with my dad over Christmas. Huge shoutout to my dad who invited (read: guilt tripped) me into walking the stairs with him. The first few times I did the stairs I seriously thought I was going to throw up or pass out. Maybe both. But it definitely prepared me for this climb.

Gorgeous view about 3/4 of the way there

Gorgeous view about 3/4 of the way there

Unfortunately there are no actual ruins there (how amazing would that be), but it’s an incredible view of Edinburgh and the lochs surrounding it. Pictures don’t even begin to show how stunning and moving it actually was. I’m not one to be ‘moved’ by going to places and seeing things – usually I think it’s quite a weird thing for people to say, but I was slightly emotional being there. Totally worth the torture to get up there.

The very top! I had to wedge my feet between rocks so I wouldn't fall over when taking this picture

The very top! I had to wedge my feet between rocks so I wouldn’t fall over when taking this picture

It was crazy windy. Taking pictures was really hard because I could barely stand still or hold my phone. I managed to get some good pictures, but it involved a lot of securing myself to the ground and someone quickly grabbing a shot of me. And to top off me being blown around this giant volcano, my hair was a giant mess. I could barely see, and walking on a very rocky surface was a total challenge.

Even with the wind, we did catch fantastic weather and stayed away from the rain most of the time we were outside. It was a fantastic trip and I can’t wait to go to Edinburgh again.

Group Work

I used to hate group work in school because it meant I had to talk to my classmates. I would make sure that I was sitting alone in my classes, and spread my stuff to the seats beside me so that nobody would talk to me. I would go to my lectures, learn what I needed to, and go home and hang out with my friends.

That is not exactly an option here. While my lectures are large, all my modules have seminars that are about 20 people each. During these seminars we do a lot of group work. Like they are based around group work. So I have to meet people, which usually I hate, but I am starting to welcome it.

Back home I have my group of friends so I don’t really need to meet people in my classes. Over here I still don’t know a lot of people so meeting people in my classes is really nice. Since we’re all in class together, we already have something in common so striking up a conversation isn’t that hard.

Now I probably won’t go back to Carleton eager to do group work or meet new people in my classes, but I’m enjoying it while I am here.

The Little Things

I was prepared to experience culture shock when I moved to Scotland. But it hasn’t exactly happened the way I thought. In many ways, Glasgow is similar to Ottawa. I am not shocked by the different accents, or even that they drive on the wrong side of the road. Although not knowing how to cross the road has been slightly problematic. There are many little things that make me realize exactly how different my new life is.

Light Switches

In Ontario, we flip our light switches up to turn them on, but it is the opposite here. On the bright side, the word ON is printed at the top, so when you do turn it on, it tells you.

Street Signs

I miss road signs. Some roads have signs on the buildings on the corner telling you which street it is, but a lot of the smaller ones don’t. Surprisingly, I have managed not to get lost yet. I don’t know how anyone gets around this city.

Brands

Grocery shopping has never been so hard for me. I love doing groceries, but the first time I was walking around Tesco, I walked out with pasta and butter because I didn’t know what anything else was. I have brands in Canada that I like and that I consistently buy, and having to try new brands is not really my favourite pastime.

Late Lunch

I don’t know if this is a European thing in general, or just this city, but everyone eats lunch so late. I’m used to eating around 12:00, but a lot of my friends wait until 1:30 to eat, and lunch is their largest meal of the day.

Birds. 

They are everywhere, and they do not care if there are humans around. I have been closer to birds here than I ever have, and it’s a little uncomfortable. They’re on every street just walking around, and people feed them, which means more come. Since windows don’t have screens here, they could literally be in my room if I opened my window.

‘Crisps’

They are quite literally made from potatoes. I’m sure North American chips have some potato products in them, but these are just sliced potatoes and I respect that. Even if the Salt and Vinegar ones taste like drinking a bottle of vinegar.

Bread Tags

Bread tags don’t exist here in my experience. There are little plastic strips that stick together that go around the bread bag. I never thought I would miss bread tags.

Thickness of Objects

Okay, let’s all be mature, but everything is thicker over here. From the keys to the coins, it is all a lot thicker and heavier than it is in Canada. My wallet has become so much heavier because of the weight of the coins

There are many things that make life different here, but these are the ones that really stood out to me during my first couple days.

If there is anything you guys would like me to write about in regards to my exchange, let me know!

Change

This time last year my life was very different. I was working at a job I didn’t like, I wasn’t happy with my program at school, and I wasn’t happy with the choices I was making friends wise. I was very happy, don’t get me wrong! I think I needed to be out of the situation to realize how much better my life could have been.

A year later I am starting to make my program work for me, I am working at a job that I absolutely adore, I have learned who my true friends are, and I am leaving for a semester in Scotland in 2 days.

Seeing that I am leaving so soon and starting a new chapter in my life, I wanted to do something drastic to celebrate. I wanted to change my appearance to match the way I am feel, and what better what to do that than with hair?

I have been dying my hair since I was in grade nine, so changing a colour wasn’t exactly the drastic change I was looking for. One thing I have always shied away from was cutting my hair. I have had long hair as long as I can remember and it was never cut shorter than an inch below my shoulders.

I’ve been toying with the idea of cutting my hair for a while now, and I figured that this was a major change in my life and I was ready to do it. For those who may not know, I work at a hair salon, so advice on cuts and styles was not hard to come by. We decided on a cut that rests at my collar bones and I waited about a week from the day we decided until the actual appointment to make sure I could do it.

While ultimately this is just a hair cut, hair is important to how we feel about ourselves (as horrible and materialistic as that may sound). I wanted to represent the changes in my life I felt I was going through and so I documented the transformation!

The before picture!

The before picture!

Going in I thought I would be really nervous, but I was really excited. We ended up changing the colour as well, to something that would be striking, but easily maintainable while I was away for an extended period. I’m sure there are fantastic hair stylists in Scotland, but I have grown attached to my staff here in Ottawa, so I am not going to get it touched up while I am away.

This is happening!

This is happening!

It took about 30 seconds for my hair to be gone. My hair grows pretty quickly, but it took a lot longer than 30 seconds to get this long.

The colour was the easy part. Like I said, changing my hair colour is nothing new to me, so this was a breeze.

The hair dye is in!

The hair dye is in!

We touched up the cut a bit, since we just chopped at my ponytails, and then threw some curls in it for a nice style.

After!

After!

I love this cut. I was smiling the whole time, and everyone (myself included was surprised). I feel like I look a lot older and more sophisticated and for someone in her twenties who looks like she’s sixteen, this was a huge thing for me.

It is weird for me to have short hair, it hasn’t been this short in over a decade. While I think I will miss being able to put my hair in a bun or doing fancy updos, those aren’t things I do everyday so I think I will be okay. Hair grows and I can enjoy it short for now, and when it grows out, who knows what I will do with it next!

Sometimes making a change is just what you need to realize that it’s not that big of a deal and life goes on. Sometimes making a change makes you realize just how far you have come.