I’ve started this blog entry nine times so far. Ever since I got my nomination to go on exchange in January, going on exchange has become my defining characteristic. I’ve thought about it so much that I am not sure what I think any more, but here is what I have found:

My family is spoiling me, probably to squeeze out every available minute of my company in these last two weeks. I’m not complaining, because it means that I get to eat chicken pot pie and roast beef with Yorkshire puddings in the same couple of weeks as barbecued hotdogs and corn on the cob. I’ve lived my entire life with them, and I am not a tremendously sentimental person, so all of this fussing isn’t a big deal to me now. This is for them, really.

Most of my fears are mundane, like having difficulty taking my violin as carry-on. Also Legionnaire’s Disease, scurvy, mono, hearing loss, gouged nonstick saucepans, noise, “beef” from Tesco, my flatmates eating up all of my food, sounding pretentious when I call them “flatmates”, and the flatmates themselves. This is assuming I don’t die on the plane first. Mostly, I worry about leaving my dog, who can’t know that her favourite petting machine is flying across an ocean soon. I also suspect that the feeling of having forgotten something will persist well after I’ve left the plane. Other than the odd worry, though, while I am theoretically very excited, the actual reality is my amygdala must have anaesthetized itself, because asides from the odd instance in which I wake up in a cold sweat and involuntarily curse in fear, I don’t actually feel much.

I suspect is that is because my brain has not yet wrapped itself around the concept of living and studying in Scotland. I had a dream a few nights ago in which I finally arrived, stepped off the airplane, and Edinburgh looked like this village:

Pictured above: one of the most boring experiences of my young life

Pictured: the most boring experience of many young lives

This is obviously not Edinburgh, but don’t let those flags fool you into thinking that it is even remotely close to the Scottish-English border. Would this fool anyone? I doubt it, the English got everywhere. In case you didn’t go to elementary school in southeastern Ontario, these are all snippets of Ontario’s most boring theme park:

upper canada village admission

Though still basically Britain with a worse climate, at the time.

I think my family still hopes that I will not go through with this. Honestly, I think if I didn’t, my thirteen-year-old self would travel to the future and shoot me. I have read far too many fantasy and adventure books to not want to see more of the world. In fact, one of the reasons I stopped writing was that I felt I couldn’t authentically write a proper adventure if I rarely left my own small city and never saw real challenge or excitement. Though this is in a sense a tame adventure, I think it’s a good start. I hope that I will adjust well, and I secretly hope that I like Scotland enough to not want to leave. Mostly, I’m looking forward to not having to say “Edinburgh” as much. Though after countless repetitions I can now say it to the approval of a certain Englishman who is half Scottish and more than half mad, I never could squash that feeling of absurd affectation. I lied earlier, I’m extremely excited about the whole thing. Younger me would expect nothing less.


We’re leaving for New York City tomorrow, which is pretty exciting. I’ve never been there before, so it should be fun. What I find kind of funny is that right now, I don’t feel as apprehensive or excited as I usually would for a trip that is even smaller than this one – I think my anticipation for going overseas has kind of dwarfed everything. It’s still going to be exciting and fun, because I don’t get out much.

Update: I lied, I’m getting excited, I’ve been looking at the map on mapquest and it’s like they crammed the whole world onto a tiny little island.

Well, I just received my offer of accommodation for next year. I got my top choice, which is a single room with an almost double bed, ensuite bathroom with shower, and dishwasher, and is very close to my classes, and The Meadows, which is what it says on the tin. I think they’re lulling me into a false sense of security and are going to kill me and eat me, or use me for experiments and then kill me and use my brain for experiments, and then maybe eat it. That’s the only explanation. I’m very happy, and I hope they don’t eat me or kill me or use my brain for unethical experimentation. Psych experiments approved by an ethics board are okay, though. Or linguistic experiments such as “what happens when a Canadian with a mind like a lint roller is dropped in Scotland for a year?” I’m just hoping that I’m not with first-years, because, y’know, I’m so mature and adult-like *cough* and used to living on my own *cough* that we can’t relate. Ahem. I also hope I’m not with crazy religious people, because they would probably get a bit freaked out by queer-seeming people (maybe?) but luckily the people who would have had an issue would likely be in the single-gender flats, rather than mixed. Though if I am with first-years, they might actually be from the UK, and more importantly, might have tableware. Actually, there’s five people, nearly half-and-half UK froshies (uh…freshers) and international students might be nice. I suppose the accommodations people have done this before and probably know what they’re doing. I hope.

I just overheard my mom tell my dad that Air Canada’s having a seat sale, and that they could come and visit me on my birthday. Usually I hate birthdays. I go and mope in my room all day, reflecting on how I’ve failed to accomplish anything of significance in my life, and not only is my rapidly increasing age making my every slight accomplishment that much less impressive, I am also that much closer to dying. Why is this relevant? Well, on the off chance that I make any friends that do things on birthdays, I will have to forgo birthday outings in favour of visiting with my family.

This is actually all moot, because I heard my dad say “We should probably talk to [name] about this”, earning him merit points. My mom really wanted to do a surprise birthday visit. My dad approved the spending, but since she only had an hour to book the tickets, it didn’t end up happening. I appeared, and reminded them that their impulse-booked trips have all ended in cancellation fees. Phew, bullet dodged.

Nonetheless, sometimes I do feel funny about how I am often rather against them visiting. Originally they really wanted to fly down with me, do a Europe trip, and help me get set up. I called off that plan. It is difficult to explain without seeming like a tremendous flake, but our family does not do many trips, and in general is not adventurous. Everybody was quite happy to repeat the same Florida trip three times, for example. Neither my younger sister nor I have ever been overseas. So actually, it’s rather petty of me, but really, I want my adventure (which I am aware would not even be considered an adventure by many) to be just mine. My family is boring, they can stay boring. They don’t get to suddenly go on trips and see things once I take the initiative to arrange it for myself. There is a difference between stepping off the plane far from home on one’s own, seeing the place for the first time, and doing so with one’s entire family in tow. Sometimes sharing makes an experience all the better, but I’m afraid that if my parents were to come with me, they might dilute it.

I can’t add or change my own courses as a visiting student at the University of Edinburgh. Because I”m stupid, I’ve had to rethink a lot of them because lots of things seem like good ideas initially, and I’ve requested changes a few times, and I always feel horribly guilty because I imagine they’ve got enough to do. This time it took me over a week to psych myself up to go and send them an email with my finalized list, because I hate emailing and feel really guilty. I want to apologize a bazillion times and bring a can of Timmies coffee when I fly there or something. If there’s a communal gift to the visiting students’ office, I will definitely contribute. They are very nice and patient, and I am very horrible.¬†

This is starting to become a theme, but I was at my organ teacher’s house and we (him, the lady from the choir who is the widow of the late minister, and I) were in the kitchen, and mostly talking about Scottish things. They were both saying I should get a kilt, but I really don’t have a clan affiliation. Yes, my family name is loosely linked to a clan which is not really an active clan, but the last member of the family who would have been Scottish, if there even was one, would have been so many generations ago that I can’t say I’ve ever felt myself to have more than trivial Scottish roots. English family history – absolutely, German, definitely, and also a small amount from some European ethnicities that can grow melanin. Also, wearing a kilt might give some people the idea that I am willing to wear something other than trousers, which would be misleading and only cause me more grief later as they start imagining that I might do things which I would not do, against all sense, and I’ve got to either suffer through wild imaginings in which I magically morph into a different person, or set them straight as vaguely as possible.¬†Aside: when some people say things like “the boys will all go chasing after you”, they are trying to pay me a compliment, but they are also disconnected from my personal reality, which is generally quite obvious to most people under the age of 40. Usually when boys, or “the lads” go chasing after someone who looks like me, it’s to beat them to a bloody pulp (or worse) for the crime of being themselves out in public.

Because I am easily irritated and have the internet, I looked up a few key family names. I looked up the main family name from my mother’s side of the family, which is the one accused of being slightly Scottish, and a family-name history website tells me that it came out of Yorkshire. Then I looked up the principal family name from my biological father’s side, and it turned out to have also originated in Yorkshire. Huh. So I guess I have lots of Yorkshire roots. So there.

Part of being a student at a new university, I discovered, is that I’ve got to deal with a new student number. I’ve had it for almost a month, and I still cannot remember the bloody thing.

I’m also still sorting out my courses. I wonder if I’m going to hate myself, because I’ve found a bunch of courses that look really, really interesting, which I won’t get to take again, and which will likely be incredibly difficult. That said, they’ll make final year at Queen’s look like cake, I suppose. It’s between those and a literature review course. Initially I was excited about the literature review, but now I’m thinking that it might be a better idea to do more actual courses, because literature review is only three hours with the lecturer in the entire semester, and the entirety of the course is a single essay. I want to take advantage of the ability to take actual psych courses while I’m there.

I also feel kind of amused, but also kind of bad that I accidentally used something that sounded suspiciously like “me” as a personal possessive twice in the past couple of days. I used to do something like that basically no more than once a month. I’m not even in the UK yet. Bad things happen when I talk fast and don’t moderate output. I just use my poker face and hope nobody catches it. I need to talk to more real humans.