My name is Mary, and I’ve never been abroad before.

Thirty years ago, this may not have sounded quite so odd for people my age- today, not so. It comes across more like a confession than a statement of fact. So this is the point where everyone’s eyes widen and the word “really?!” slips out before they can help it (feel free to do the same now).

Yes, really. And now I’m very much throwing myself in at the deep end. Starting off with a weekend in France, a package holiday in Ibiza, a tour bus filled with lavender-scented old ladies? Nope. My third year abroad. Nine months in a country I’ve never visited before, never mind speak the language. Not the easiest way, but I’m sure a very interesting one! (Besides, I’ve just spent my entire summer working on a coach tour around the Orkney Isles – if I see another bus I might scream.)

At Edinburgh, I’m doing English Language, and have studied Russian and French in first and second year, and so of course it makes perfect logistical sense that I’m going to the Netherlands. Universiteit Leiden is where I’m headed, and from what I’ve heard from tutors at Edinburgh and from their very active international society it’s a place I’m going to like. The society’s been sending me facebook invites to masses of events all summer- there always seems to be something going on! There’s a mentor program which I’ve signed up for, and I’ve already had an email welcoming me from some sort of international tutor… that part I’m a bit fuzzy on the details about, but still, there’s been loads of contact and every part of the process has been explained pretty well.

I fly out on the first of September -which luckily won’t be my first time on a plane, that’d be too many firsts for one day!- with induction days starting the day after. At 8.15am. I’m hoping this isn’t a sign of things to come as I’ve got far too used to 11 o’clock lectures being the first of the day! Then after a couple of days of being shown the university, lectures begin on Monday. It’s a scary thought that studying is no longer a thing way in the distant haze of the end of summer, but is becoming a reality again! But oddly I’m looking forward to it, yes, even the essay writing.

Though the first emotion coming to mind is nervousness. I’ve never travelled that far before – I’d have difficulty doing it while staying within Britain’s boundaries (Although maybe I should say “I’ve never travelled that far before in one journey” since over the course of the summer I’ve clocked up about 22000 miles, which is almost the full circumference of the world. Though this was only going backwards and forwards between two points 90 times…). The distance though is the least of my worries. It’s the not knowing. That things I take for granted will be different. And while I’m totally aware that the Netherlands are hardly the most different society from the UK, being, after all, still in Western Europe, things will, I’m sure, be subtly different. The etiquette, the food, the currency, the brands of toothpaste, the language… and I’ve grown up in the Scottish Highlands, so the landscape’s going to be a bit of a shock! But equally, these are the reasons I’m so excited. I’m looking forward to seeing and learning about all of these differences- they’re what will make the whole experience so interesting.

So, less than a week to go – bring it on, world!

(I’m obviously writing this a little bit back-datedly, if there is such a word, as I had no internet access before to put in my introductory post… so I’ll be updating again pretty soon!)

Categories: Leiden, Netherlands

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