The End?


Edinburgh In The Light, by Maxx Borges. Edinburgh, Scotland. December 15, 2016.

I’m in Edinburgh right now.

The last month of radio silence is mostly by accident, as I’ve been swamped with final exams and running around Scotland before I fly out, first to JFK in NYC and then to Logan Airport, in Boston. It feels surreal. I’ll jot down what’s happened since I last left this blog to its own devices.


Maxx & Celia: Roaring 20s, by Maxx Borges. St. Andrews, Scotland. December 9, 2016.

First, there was a ball right after classes ended for our hall. It was 1920s themed and held at the gorgeous old hotel on the golf course. Here, I attended my first Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), a type of traditional Scottish dance party, so to speak. Most of it was switching partners, kicking your legs, and getting spun around, but it was definitely a thrill. I think my favorite dance was was The Gay Gordons. If you have a chance to look it up, I would recommend it. The Youtube videos of professionals dancing is amazing and quite dizzying to watch. It was an amazing part of Scottish culture that I hadn’t been introduced to yet, but so many Scottish folk had recommended them to me. Culturally, Ceilidhs were held as social gatherings and progressed into the wonderful dance shindigs they have become. There were many students who already knew what they were doing and had favorite moves and dances. It was beautiful to watch and be a part of.


Marcus & Maxx: Terrible Table-Tennis, by Celia Morgan. St. Andrews, Scotland. November 26, 2016.

Next, I went to another theatre production, this time a musical based on a film written by an American student abroad. The film in question by The Room, by Tommy Wisseau. If anyone hasn’t seen it, I’m not entirely sure if you should. It’s about an hour and a half of… well, terrible acting, horrible cinematography, and a really creepy older man playing an 18 year old. Needless to say, it’s garnered a cult following, and not because it’s good. A friend of mine was in love with it before any of us found out about the musical someone had adapted it into, and so we all watched the film and then watched the musical. Honestly, it was a well-done musical, given what its source material was. It was also interesting to interact with another American student abroad, as I had mostly been trying to immerse myself with the locals. But the reconnection felt good. I sometimes wonder if I spent too much time avoiding other Americans, hoping to get as much of an abroad experience as possible. Looking back, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with connecting with people from where you call home. As it is, I met three other people from Massachusetts on the last day the halls were open and was surprised that they had been lingering right there, under my nose this whole time. It’s amazing what you can miss when chasing the ‘authentic‘ abroad experience.


Marcus Rose, Wearing Neil Breen by Abbie Farclough, by Maxx Borges. St. Andrews, Scotland. December 11, 2016.

And yes, authentic is in scare-quotes. Before I left Whitman for the summer, I went to several meetings to speak with students who went abroad in general and those who went to St. Andrews specifically, and it was mentioned at least a dozen times, this ‘authentic‘ abroad experience. I leave America in 10 hours and I’m still trying to understand what that really means. Has my experience been authentic? I’ve done cultural dance, eaten cultural food, befriended the locals, and almost pet a sheep. Has this made my experience here in Scotland authentic? I’ve taken classes in old, historic buildings, wandered the streets and museums of Edinburgh, the country’s capital, and foraged for berries out in the woods. Is my experience authentic yet?

Maxx & Olivia: Will SMith Stance, by Celia Morgan. St. Andrews, Scotland. December 9, 2016.

Maxx & Olivia: Will SMith Stance, by Celia Morgan. St. Andrews, Scotland. December 9, 2016.

There’s a kind of obsession when students go abroad to make things authentic and I think to me, personally, it’s just a way of justifying why we went, telling ourselves and everyone else all of the reasons it was worth it to spend almost four months away from friends, family, and the university we first chose almost three years ago. Well I’ve experienced all there is to experience in this one country, we say. I explored a new side of me, I traveled the world, I got the change in scenery that I wanted, I got out of the Whitman bubble. Yippee.

Obviously, it’s all subjective. What one person sees as authentic, someone else will roll their eyes at and say was typical and touristy or not adventurous enough and boring. I speak two other languages but decided to go somewhere that spoke English. How is that authentic? I study psychology and German at Whitman, and I studied psychology and German at St. Andrews, the only ‘intriguing’ class added on being another language. How is that authentic? I did what I did my first year at Whitman: made a close, small group of friends, and slowly meandered around our surroundings with them. How. Is that. Authentic?

I don’t think it has to be.

Edinburgh At Night, by Maxx Borges. Edinburgh, Scotland. December 15, 2016.

Edinburgh At Night, by Maxx Borges. Edinburgh, Scotland. December 15, 2016.

I made some wonderful friends and long-lasting memories. I learned Russian. I went to the Edinburgh German market and spoke German with someone selling bratwurst. I went to a museum with dinosaur bones. I got several tattoos. Buses broke down, awkward British-American thanksgiving was had. There was terrible table-tennis and pool, and long nights were spent watching horrifically acted and boring Neil Breen films. Amazon UK decided to cancel my Secret Santa gift for no good reason. Several people had the flu, someone else got mono. I fell into a small ravine several times and got stung by nettles. A seagull stole my butter. Friends got together. Some left campus too early and were sorely missed; others (me) left far too late.

I smiled and I cried and I am so happy that I came here. I am so happy and I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity. It was enough for me, experiencing what I did with who I was with, even if it wasn’t up to par with what others would label ‘authentic‘.

This is my authenticity. This is my semester abroad.

And I loved every moment of it.

Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s been an incredible fortnight. Between my shock at the elections, the stress of my studies, the excitement of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and my sadness at realizing I’ll be leaving soon, I think it’s fair to say these past two weeks have been emotionally exhausting. But we persevere, for we are human and there isn’t much else we can do. Where to start?

I’ll go with the controversial topic first and get it out of the way: the US 2k16 Election. Wow, what a mess. And not just for the United States. In the UK, people were shocked and hurt as well about the way things turned out. I’ve jokingly named it Brexit Part 2 on my twitter page, but looking at it, it’s not that funny and it’s not really a joke. As a queer and trans lower-class child of immigrants, I’m definitely concerned for myself and for those that share my marginalized identity. I can’t imagine how it feels for others who have it worse than me. At least I’m out of the country and not having to experience everything firsthand, though I do feel quite helpless and useless from across the pond. And yet, there’s still hope. I see everyday on different news feeds how the American people are protesting and making a stand to let their thoughts be known, how people are not giving up and it makes me excited to go home. It makes me excited to stand with my peers and use our freedoms, the one’s we have a birthright to, to make ourselves heard. I’m down, but I will stand up, just as many others have done already.

Speaking of going home soon, that’s definitely hit me on another emotional level. I’ve made so many friends here, most younger than me, and I keep thinking to myself, what do their futures hold? What does my future hold? Going back to Whitman means finishing my third year and getting ready to be a senior, something that comes with it’s own bag of tricks and treats. Grad school is looming on the horizon, internship and scholarship calls are clogging up my Whitman email, and I’m sitting in a tiny town in Scotland stressing about what all the people I’ve just met are going to do with their lives. It just puts so many things into perspective for me. I’ve almost gotten to redo my whole first semester of college being here, being around others in their first year and meeting the same struggles as I did and still do meet. But the reality is, I have a year and a half left of undergrad left and they all have at least three years waiting for them, waiting for them to discover themselves and their interests, waiting for them to discover their futures and paths. I’m sitting here thinking: oh wait, was I supposed to do that already? And I realize, yes. I was. And I have. I am. I think that’s the important bit in all of this. Not that it’s something to be checked off, already done, or done as soon as possible, but that it’s an ongoing process that takes time and patience and will change many times before it settles down. I think, as a student and adult in this day and age, I have to be okay and come to terms with that.

I think I might be starting to.

In some ways, I’m very lucky to be where I am. So many of the people I’ve met at St. Andrews came into university knowing exactly what they would be studying in great detail with specific tests to be taken to determine if they could even do what they want. If they didn’t pass those, if they change their minds, it’s going to be a bit more difficult to change that it is for me. I mean, I got time to think it through before I even declared my major and I can still change it if I found it necessary. The other day, I met someone who was 16. She was 16, born in the year 2000, and was in university on a one-way track to becoming a doctor in the medical school here and yes, yes, I understand that the systems here work differently and for Scottish/Britons, she’s not that special of a case. But what I’m getting at is that I’m four years older than her, born in a different decade, century, millennium, and I still have so much leeway, so many options just because of where I go to college in the US. It’s liberating. It’s odd.

Is this what growing old feels like?

Maybe I’m too young to be thinking like that. I’ve only been around for two decades, but in light of the things that have been happening, both in the world and in the United States, it makes you think in a whole new light. Being in a foreign country and university definitely does wonder on perspective. I know I’ll be glad to go home, going back to Whitman and those I left behind. I know I’ll be upset about leaving St. Andrews and Scotland, leaving the relationships I’ve made behind. I get a bittersweet taste at the back of my throat just thinking about it. But it’s life and it’s not forever.

I have so many options and I have so many choices. I’m going to start taking them and I’m going to start making them.

Wish me luck!

Jetzt Ist Sommer Video

This is the link to the video that I edited and starred in for a German project. The song is Jetzt Ist Sommer (Now Is Summer) by the Wiseguys, a German group. I’d say they’re a pop band, if anything.

The people in the video with me are (in order of appearance) Daniel Gross, Josh Samuels, Emma Austen, and Linus Erbach, all first years taking my German course with me. And yes, they’re all so much better at it. It’s been great working with them and learning from them.

Here’s the link!