So, here we are.
Columnist Amy Shimmin describes how her year abroad has been getting off to a turbulent start, with terrorism drills, petty crime and technology withdrawal symptoms.
Right now, after one meeting, nine days* of work, and little more than a month after arriving in the country, I have a fortnight-long holiday. Amazing. I completely deserve this break, though: hear me out on my trail of persistent bad luck.
This month I have been toying with the notion of pursuing further study following graduation. In many ways the idea of a Master’s degree has its allure; I’ve just about figured out what specific area of my undergraduate degree I irritatingly can’t-shut-up-about, and it would be extremely fulfilling to explore that in even more depth. Under the weight of roughly a million logistical questions about this endeavour, however, one really stands out. Am I willing to part with just one of my kidneys, or multiple internal organs, in order to fund another degree?
“Just wait until we turn this corner and you see it, it’ll blow you away,” my friend said as we wandered through the bustling streets of central Shanghai. The road wound on for block after block, neon signs danced above us as shoppers, cars and street sellers all shared the same cramped environment. Then finally, in the distant haze, they became clear: the towering skyscrapers of the Bund. As someone who grew up fascinated by all things sci-fi and cyberpunk, it took me a moment to process it all. The lights, the crowds, the sheer scale of it all, I could be walking through the set of Blade Runner for all I knew but no, this wasn’t a dream, this was real. I had finally arrived.
I have arrived at the end of my stay in Russia, and this will be my last column. I’ve tried to present Russia to you with all of its contradictions, to show it as a country of both pleasant and shocking surprises. From babushkas with rows of golden teeth to a Stalin impersonator just off Red Square, Russia always has something new to offer, something you never thought could be real. Continue reading
In the United States, we say that you’ve been denied a real college experience if you haven’t studied abroad. At the end of sophomore year, my campus was abuzz with students who were eagerly awaiting their upcoming semesters in a variety of exotic locations all over the world. I had friends who wanted to fall in love in the illuminated streets of Paris, to study biodiversity in the untamed wilderness of Brazil, to wake up to the sight of a Venetian canal, to wake up at 3pm on a beach in Barcelona with vomit in their hair.
Consequently, when I announced that I would be studying in a land renowned for kilts and haggis, and where Willie the Groundskeeper was the most recognisable cultural icon, I was met with a mixture of befuddlement and surprise. “Why Scotland?” people would ask, and even now, it’s difficult to express just what drew me to this little country in the corner of the world.