I have fallen completely in love with Scotland, the University of Stirling, and the residences at Alexander Court. Sitting in my bedroom with the window open, I am greeted by the sounds of someone playing the flute in one of the buildings adjacent to mine. Another one of my neighbors can often be heard playing acoustic guitar outside his door when the weather is nice enough, as it is today. He told me he bought the guitar in town for 50 pounds, and I’ve been meaning to do the same. I haven’t played guitar at all since I arrived in Scotland, and I miss it.
I have much more free time here at the University of Stirling than I ever did at Temple. For one, I don’t have a job here. Not that I’m complaining about that, but it does take some getting used to. Secondly, I only have six hours of classes per week—which, while significantly less than the 15 hours I would usually have, is considered a full course load here.
The issue presented by this extra free time is how to spend it in a reasonable manner. I am fortunate enough to have made a decent number of friends here, but everyone has different classes and extracurricular activities, and it is impossible to always have something planned. Even when everyone is free all at once, it is difficult to constantly be creative when it comes to making plans, and you can only walk the same hills and go to the same pubs so many times.
In this way, being abroad is a lot like being at home. So I ask myself, “What do I do with all of my free time at home?” The answer often disappoints me. I spend money, I overeat, and I watch Netflix (which I’ve already started to do here — Community is on Netflix in the U.K., and that’s kind of a game changer for me). Playing guitar is probably the most productive hobby I have at home.
However, I haven’t been terribly unproductive in my time here. I’ve gone hiking a few times, I’ve started buying groceries and cooking for myself more regularly, and I’ve been reading a lot. Even writing this blog is a productive use of my free time. And, perhaps most importantly, many of the hobbies I’ve picked up in Stirling are cheap or free. It’s easy to fall into the same routines at home, most of which entail spending money. When I get bored here I might be inclined to go for a walk around campus, whereas when I’m bored at home I would more likely go for a drive to Wawa. God I miss Wawa.
Now I can hear one of my neighbors playing the violin. I definitely need to buy a guitar soon. I’m sure there are a few thrift stores in town that have cheap, used acoustic guitars. I’ll need to take the bus from campus to Stirling because it’s a little too far to walk, especially carrying a guitar for half the trip. I’ll probably get a haircut while I’m there too—my hair is starting to get unpleasantly long. Some things really don’t change.