Sunday Songs: Scotland and a summation of my exchange

My Heart’s in the Highlands

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

— Robert Burns


IMG_8808IMG_8809IMG_8847Last weekend, I took a train up to Edinburgh to reunite with my friend who is doing exchange in Warsaw and another friend who is doing her veterinary graduate studies there. I thought it only appropriate that this week’s Sunday Songs would be like an ode to Scotland and one of its most famous poets: Robert Burns. I absolutely loved Edinburgh! It’s very picturesque; it’s actually what I envisioned all of England to look like (I was very wrong) so it was so lovely to be walking through such a beautiful city that feels almost anachronistic.

The people are incredibly friendly and I was surprised to find that some men actually wear kilts! I thought that was just one of those stereotypes, like English people offering tea and biscuits. Obviously I had to try haggis, and found that I actually really liked it! I completely devoured my ‘haggis, neeps, and tatties’ (translation: haggis, turnips, and potatoes) at the pub we ate, which was very lovingly called Dirty Dicks. But even the pubs there felt very warm and cozy, as it was at The World’s End where we had fish and chips. IMG_8880IMG_8960But I think what made Edinburgh so great was that I was with friends from home. I partly chose this poem because I can completely relate to how fondly he feels about his home. My friends and I were discussing how it’s usually said that exchange is often said to be the ‘best time of your life’ and that when you come home, there’s this expectation that you’re supposed to say that it was amazing and superlatives galore. But for us, that’s not quite true. Instead, we agreed that living abroad has been a very important experience for us. Speaking for myself, I’ve learned a lot about myself and am even a little surprised at myself. Before I came here, I spent very little time at home. I was either at work, school, teaching piano, or out with friends. So it really surprised me how homesick I could get. I think I like coming home knowing the house is inhabited with people who love me unconditionally. I consider our family very close. Two years ago, my brother, sister and I went all the way to Peru together. Though I’ve always been a busy person, it’s only now that I’m away from that I realize how family-oriented I actually am. IMG_8873IMG_8926IMG_8948I’ve also realized how I have changed over the years. I think I used to be more sociable and uninhibited but since coming here, I’ve realized how cautious I’ve become. While most people tend to party more on exchange, I’ve done the exact opposite. Admittedly, the amount of course work here is a lot more than at home so I need to inevitably study more since I plan on going to graduate school. But I’ve consciously been reluctant to go out at night; in fact, I go out way more back home. And I’ve realized it’s because of trust. At home, I’m surrounded by a big group of people that I trust (yes, that’s pretty much you CVC people) to take care of me and get me home if anything happens. Here, it’s not quite the same. I have very selectively made friends and have come to terms that I’ve become more cautious with who I divulge my ‘real’ self to. It’s as if I have placed a moat around myself: you can see me, but you will only know what’s really inside if I decide to bring down the draw bridge.

It’s odd, I didn’t expect my exchange experience to quite turn out the way it has. I am, by no means, complaining, nor am I saying that it’s been unpleasant. I am extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to live abroad and travel as much as I have at only 21 years and I have had plenty of genuinely fond memories. I saved up an incredible amount of money to get here and will be incredibly poor when I come home, but I would not trade this experience for anything. I have learned a lot about myself, and consequently grown as a person.

Finally, while the bulk of my traveling is still to come, I think I can safely say that for all the rich history and architecture Europe has, the natural beauty of Vancouver is its own category. I miss seeing the ocean and the mountains on a daily basis. I miss the cliff-side panorama of my university, having a beach downtown, always knowing where north is, and I miss the celebrated multiculturalism of Vancouver. I’m not quite ready to come home yet since I am anticipating seeing so much more of Europe, but I will be very happy to finally come home to all that Vancouver uniquely offers. And the first thing I’m going to do is eat sushi at my favourite place which recently turned ten years old.


1 comment
  1. I’ve always noticed girls get homesick very quickly but end up really enjoying themselves after. Being broke when you come home? I say don’t even let it bother you one bit while you’re over there and don’t be scared to spend money also. Money is like age, it’s just a number most of the time. Haha.

    Ya lowering the draw bridge has always been difficult for me cause I’ve always been too used to the comfort of being around the same people all the time. Definitely better to just let go and lower it.

    Food cravings from back home are so noticeable when you’re away for an extended period! It’s like being addicted to drugs or something.

    Thanks for the photos and the bit of insight to your life.

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