The Carefree Life of an FSPer

by Margie DeWard | 11/20/98 6:00am

I love my FSP. I've been in Scotland for more than six weeks, so when I add the two weeks I spent travelling before I got here, I get a total of eight weeks in Europe. Wow, how the weeks fly past when you're having the time of your life. The entire two months seem like a highlight film, but I'll try to pick out some of my favorite moments. Building a snowman in the Swiss Alps, cooking a campfire lunch on a hill overlooking LochNess, gazing at the statue of David and eating a nutella-filled crepe on the way to the Eiffel Tower are probably at the top of my very long list.

When I look at my pictures, I can hardly believe that I actually did all of these things. Plus, the great experiences don't show any signs of letting up in the near future.

Last weekend, I went to northern Ireland with two friends. We went up to the Causeway Coast, and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen (I've said that a lot during the last two months). First, we walked along the seashore and climbed on these basalt pillars that are laid out like a honeycomb. Then, we went up to the cliff tops and hiked for miles. While we were resting admiring the view, we saw a giant rainbow over the water. The rainbow was the icing on an already delicious cake.

As much as I've enjoyed my weekend excursions, I must say that I have been equally fond of the little things that happen right here in Edinburgh. I love drinking coffee and playing cards with my wonderful flatmates from France and Spain. I've come to enjoy going grocery shopping and having dinner parties. I even have time to curl up with novels that I am reading for fun and then work on my jigsaw puzzle for awhile.

There's also Scottish country dancing and Cadbury chocolate bars and countless other things. My schedule is so flexible here. I do lots of hiking. I volunteer at a soup kitchen. I nap whenever I want. Basically, I do all the things I used to have time for before I got sucked into the Dartmouth spin cycle.

My classes here are easier in terms of the amount of work that I am required to do, and this has made me realize that I really don't need pressure to motivate me to learn. I still go to my 9a.m. class three times a week to listen to lectures on Aristotle. I'm not writing my essay on him, I won't be tested on this, but I go because I am genuinely interested in the material. I read the text at my own pace, and I think that I get more out of it as a result.

When I do sit down to write papers here, I am remarkably efficient. I even have gotten into the habit of finishing my paper that is due on Friday of each week by Wednesday at 5 p.m. I don't even stress about them or lose sleep -- I just write them. My roommates think that I am a slacker. I try to tell them that I usual study obsessively and that this is a new experience for me, but they don't quite believe me.

I have so lovingly adopted this lifestyle. I must admit that the first few weeks were a little rough. It was hard to realize that everything here is ridiculously expensive. Yes, it does rain a lot here and get dark early, and we're all a little homesick, but it's part of the experience. And, some things that seemed difficult at first -- such as having zero access to a television -- are probably good things anyway (although I'm still dying to see "Law & Order" and "Party of Five").

My friends and I have taken to singing as we walk along the street -- Indigo Girls and the Beatles -- and skipping and other such fun stuff. Every so often, one of us will burst out laughing at nothing in particular. The rest of us understand: sometimes life feels so good that you can't keep quiet or still about it.

My major point in boring you with these ramblings is to highly recommend a Foreign Study Program experience. I was a bit skeptical about their merit before I actually came on one. I heard lots of people say that their FSPs were beyond wonderful, but I kept thinking that it all sounded a little too good to be true.

Now that I'm here, I can say that it is both good and true, and that most people (with one single exception) agree with me. The postcards that I get from France, Spain and Italy give testament to the fact that this isn't just a Scotland thing. Having said all of this, I think I'll go finish my tea.

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