We all make assumptions. Whether it be about foods we never tried, movies, people, or ourselves. And the assumption of ourselves can be the most dangerous assumption. Before going abroad to Glasgow I already had a list of assumptions about myself: I would find it hard to live in an apartment, cooking is difficult, I wasn’t social enough to make friends, and I would have a hard time with classes. Looking back at these, I had no reason to assume what I did, but to current me, it made sense looking at my background.
I am a first-generation college student in my family and it was so unheard of to go abroad. What did that even mean? My immediate family only went from Haiti to Philadelphia, what did I mean by saying I wanted to study in another country unsupervised? I was so familiar with the ecosystem and habits I had been raised in, I gradually adopted people’s inhibitions as my own. And that was something I had to break.
As I sit by a sunny window and gaze at the laughing trees I can say that my time abroad was the best decision I ever made, and I would hope everyone can take the chance to study abroad if they can. Despite my assumptions, I proved myself wrong in many cases. I made some of the best friends I could hope to have met who have pure wonder and gold in their hearts. And it wasn’t even due to me being social that we became friends. I just happened to be adopted by multiple extroverts who guided me along their adventures. I assume I did something right between interactions as we now have traveled to five different places outside the UK together and met each other’s parents.
I even crossed a few things off of my bucket list such as thrifting. I went to a kilo for 20 pounds thrifting event and had some major finds I only thought were possible in the far more fancier districts of New York. I got to actually go through clothing and find myself an ankle-length fur coat that would’ve alone cost me $200 or more for the US equivalent of $26. That was the most productive weekend I ever had that didn’t involve work with one of my friends. And to top that, I even learned how to cook with the wonderful help of YouTube and my cousins! It’s hard to believe that I thought I couldn’t do it, but believe it or not, cooking is easy: throw your spices and food in a pot, set a timer, and hope for the best. I made lasagna, brownies, rice and chicken, curry chicken, and a lot more; coincidentally cooking has become my new hobby.
Even in the midst having fun and taking breaks in between classes were actually not as bad as I thought they were, in all reality they were actually a break from my usual coursework at my home institution. I was so used to having mini assignments and projects due in between exams that when I arrived at the University of Glasgow the only assignments I had were either a midterm and then a final, but usually no more than 3 assignments for the whole semester which freed up a lot of time. And since it’s still a pandemic all my classes, besides labs and seminars were online. Even my labs were shorter than my home institutions and less strenuous, we even went bird watching for a lab at some point!
The challenges I faced for the past 6 months had been a bit financial (the bogus currency exchange rate), but mostly mental. But what got me though most of it was knowing that my time here was what I made of it. Compared to the pandemic in its beginning, it had felt like I lived 3 lifetimes while abroad. I gained new skills, and a sense of autonomy, and realized that I wouldn’t be as lost without my parents as I thought. I was incredibly resourceful and knew how to ask for help. All those key characteristics taking a backseat to my assumptions, but you know what? Yeah, it’s a big world that neither me nor my parents barely traveled through. But it’s not really scary: what’s scarier is not giving yourself the honest chance to see it. Always hiding behind constant reasons and excuses why you can’t be or do something.
As I wrap up my final post for IFSA I want to acknowledge that where you come from is not where you’re going to end up. For those that want to experience better things or circumstances that their family never got to and think it’s out of their reach, it’s not. I know because I thought the same way and did it, there is no X-factor or extra ingredient chemical X. It’s just you.
I would like to thank IFSA a thousand times over for sponsoring me on my trip to Glasgow and making this trip— this dream more tangible. And I would like to also thank Lara, my mentor for the encouragement in every blog post I have written.
I hope you had a wonderful read and have taken the time to consider my words: get out there and see the world, even if you’ll be doing it alone or be the first. There’s nothing more like taking the path least traveled.
Chris Cadet is a Biology student at Franklin & Marshall College and studied abroad with IFSA at the University of Glasgow in Spring 2022.