Hello, Glasgow: Day One

My first twenty-four hours in Glasgow, Scotland have provided the most valuable insight into myself as a human being and as a cultural entity that I could have experienced at this point in my life.
View from room 12, The Alfred Hotel, Glasgow, Scotland, 7th September, 2016
View from room 12, The Alfred Hotel, Glasgow, Scotland, 7th September, 2016

 My father’s family is comprised entirely of Scottish ancestry dating back for many, many centuries, and growing up with that influence was the pinnacle of confusion and wonder. I knew of this magical place far off and (an ocean) away where we had come from; a place which I admittedly, heavily romanticized in my naive and often-infantile first pursuits of sating my perpetual state of wanderlust. As an adult, I came into the realization that that place was perhaps a bit less magical, but did exist and was accessible. Regardless of the jading nature of time, it has been a dream to live today since I could dream.

The pride of the Scots is no secret to the world, and we are as well, admittedly, at times among the most stubborn people to walk the earth. We are also kind, reserved, polite, feisty, sometimes with passionate tempers, but also patient and joyful. I have always strongly identified with this element of my heritage, and have always recognized these elements in my own relatives. It is, thereby, an emotional experience to return to a country from which my blood originates, but where I had never physically before tread on the soil. Returning here as a first-generation American citizen as a legacy student to the University is an amazing and emotional opportunity.

Dr. Ronnie Abbott, Sr., 1956, wearing University of Glasgow blazer
Dr. Ronnie Abbott, Sr., 1956, wearing University of Glasgow blazer
After being here for a day and a half, everything has started to make sense: the way I dress and was dressed as a child, the mannerisms I used then and now, the slang and colloquialisms I would incorporate into my daily conversations, even the pattern of mumbling which I would temper so as not to be made fun of, and the wont for friendly but reserved interactions with people. Where none of these things made sense in the United States, they appear to fit in perfectly here. I quickly realized that, not only am I a “fit” for the culture here as a result of my upbringing and exposure to the culture, that even if I weren’t, everyone is welcome here.
Roses at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow Scotland, 7th September 2016
Roses at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow Scotland, 7th September 2016

My experience at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut provided me with a foundational understanding of the value of community and illustrated very effectively the methods by which community can be cultivated in any environment. Upon moving to a big city yet again, this time coming from an environment which is so far removed from the United Kingdom, one expects not to find community, but impersonal and cold environments — the kind which make you seek shelter from the rain and find nothing, particularly if you find yourself brand new to the area with no knowledge of support networks. The culture of Northern California, where I lived for the past year, exists as the antithesis of this place in my mind — the anachronism I was in California has dissolved here, and suddenly my father’s every quality becomes visible within every interaction with area locals. Friendly, jocular, effusively kind… but reserved, proud, and private.

University of Glasgow tower from Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow Scotland, 7th September, 2016
University of Glasgow tower from Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow Scotland, 7th September, 2016
The University of Glasgow appears as a massive, looming but inviting monument to intellect, and the ancient walls certainly command the respect of passersby and denizens alike — but the population of students here is incredibly unlike other large institutions I have experienced indirectly or directly. Each person I have interacted with on the campus here has been friendly, willing to help, and conversations concerning anything from the weather to the location of a certain building feel natural, not rushed or as though they may be an inconvenience to the other person. It has been easy for me to tell the difference between locals and newcomers, but equally easy to tell how quickly those newcomers (myself included) are adjusting to the new environment. I walked, unknowingly, into the cloisters and was taken aback by the immense privilege I feel to be so welcomed into this institution and its community. I imagined my grandfather, great-grandfather, and others walking among these same halls, cloisters, pediments, listening to the same bells chime the hour again and again.
The Cloisters at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, 7th September 2016
The Cloisters at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, 7th September 2016

Today, walking alone through Kelvingrove Park in the afternoon, which presents panoramic, beautiful angles of the University and surrounding area, I sat on a park bench, overwhelmed by the world and all that I had yet to overcome. As I felt myself sink into a state of wondering as to whether this was indeed the “right thing” after not having much luck looking for a flat, I watched a horde of twenty dogs associate amicably while their owners chatted pleasantly and proceeded about their business. I watched children play football (*soccer) on a field, swearing and laughing as children do, testing each others limits and so obviously coming into the age where their interests in one another outweigh actually focusing on the game. I watched a young man, very obviously a new student from a foreign country, walk alone into the park with his camera, smile unashamedly at the beautiful view, photograph it, and continue along his way. It was at this point apparent that, even when feeling a bit alone, this is but a shadow of false feeling in this place.  International travel cements the fact that things like love, faith, and community are universal: but that strong faith in community successfully battles the also universal aspects of humanity, alienation, sadness, and internal conflict.

University of Glasgow as seen from Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, Scotland, 7th September 2016
University of Glasgow as seen from Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, Scotland, 7th September 2016
While this Kingdom is known for its state of hyper-rationalism, its cold logic, and a strong affinity for organization unique to its governmental systems, it is apparent that these elements are balanced so with the bravely-expressed presence of human goodness and decency that a modicum of peace is achieved which allows for inclusion over exclusivity.
The city of Glasgow is as they say: friendly, safe, and courteous. The people of Glasgow echo this and take pride in all that their city offers to the world. The University of Glasgow, while I have not yet but scratched the surface of its depths, echoes these values. Gardens and lush trees line the streets and the outside of apartment buildings, curated and cared for with great delicacy and cherished as a brightening component of a city which cares for itself with artisan-like precision. Children walk from school freely and unafraid, mothers walk with their prams and dogs, and young men toss tennis balls for their dogs in the park. Groups of friends sit outside of small, locally-run coffeeshops and laugh lightheartedly at the strange girl with the red-blonde hair startled by the loudness of the crosswalk indicator. Strange red-blonde haired girls realize that, for the first time in her life, everything that made her seem strange in the United States makes sense but is, here, irrelevant.
Lush tree through archway, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, 7th September 2016
Lush tree through archway, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, 7th September 2016

It is a city of rare kind; where it is easier to disappear in the light of day under the obscurity of so many clouds than it is to disappear upon the occasion of the brightly lit night — and where it is impossible to disappear as an individual entity.

The University of Glasgow, 7th September 2016
The University of Glasgow, 7th September 2016

And even on the rainy days, on the cold days which are certainly on their way; there is warmth, light, and love here which will manifest in the growing feeling of bravery which accompanies pushing ones limits, and the comfort of a rainy day with a book by a fire.

While I cannot purport to have a thorough account of the city or University at this juncture in my life, these first hours have been of great comfort and generally illustrative of good experiences to come as I make the most of my time in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Caroline C. Evans Abbott

I am a Master of Research (M.Res) candidate in English Literature at the University of Glasgow (expected 2017), an incoming MFA Creative Writing candidate at Sarah Lawrence College (expected 2019), and a recent Honors Program graduate of the B.A. Studio Art program at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut (2015). From 2015 - 2016, I served as an English, Writing, and Creative Enrichment Tutor at the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, a Native American Reservation in Brooks, California and from 2014 - 2015 as a Writing Associate (Tutor) in the Albertus Magnus College Writing Centre. I am a Contributor and Photographer to The Glasgow Guardian and represent M.Res English Literature students on the Student Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC) and Students' Representative Council (SRC). This year, I look forward to writing, photographing my perspective on our world, exploring Europe, and pursuing further academic and professional opportunity.

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