Retail therapy. I’ve never felt the need to participate in it, or even particularly liked shopping, but it’s surprising what little things will offer comfort while away from home. I didn’t go on a shopping spree yesterday, but stopped into Tesco, a popular convenience store, to pick up a few items I forgot to pack. I made my way through the aisles, all categorized the same way they are at home, put my items in a basket, and finally headed to the front of the store where the cashiers were checking customers out. The familiar experience was a welcome, unexpected respite from the busyness of exploring a new city. Walking around the little shop almost identical to one in the United States, I felt like I was back at home, simply buying groceries on my shopping list.
This feeling didn’t last long, however, as I began to make my way back to the flat. I soon found myself in every traveler’s nightmare: I was lost in a large, busy, unfamiliar city I had only been acquainted with a day before. I swiveled my head back and forth, but only found shops and street names I had never seen or heard of and pedestrians hurried to get to their destination before the rain came. Not giving in to panic, I pushed myself to just keep walking. Thankfully, I actually found the flat on my own, even though it did take quite a while.
As soon as I got settled in for the night, I realized that I forgot to look for another item while I was at the store. After spending about an hour reading maps and looking up different routes, I finally found the courage to return to the store. This time, I found my way with no problems and a big sigh of relief. Even in the cold rain, this second walk marked a huge accomplishment for me. I finally felt a surge of confidence and like I was starting to learn my way around the area.
Although it may seem illogical, I think what saved me from feeling too anxious was Edinburgh’s unfamiliarity. I believe that if this nightmare had happened a year ago when I started studying at UMKC, I would have felt much worse. When I found myself lost, I was able to keep my head clear by thinking about how lucky I was to be in Scotland in the first place. I am super grateful to be able to have this experience abroad, and feel that even being lost in this incredible city is a gift. I hope that I can maintain this perspective through the remainder of the trip when I will undoubtedly encounter additional problems and stresses, and maybe even bring it home as a lasting souvenir more valuable than anything I could buy.
Kathryn Smith is a freshman at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in Psychology and Pre-Medicine, with the goal to become a psychiatrist. During the month of July, Kathryn is participating in the UMKC Honors College Program in Scotland.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.