Author Archives: Quin Nelson

WEEK SIXTEEN: LAST CALL/MY FIRST SONG

A lot of hip-hop albums end with a really long song that is part conventional song, and part the rapper just rambling and reflecting while the beat goes. This post is named after a couple of those songs: Kanye West’s “Last Call” and Jay Z’s “My First Song.” You should listen to these songs, and the albums they’re on. They’re great! But more importantly, you should read this post, because it’s right here, and it’s the last one I’m going to write ever.

One of the strangest things about studying abroad is that it is consistently evaluated as the “study abroad experience.” The same holds true with the “college experience,” and other pivotal life periods, but it seems especially intense while abroad, given the condensed time frame, all of the money and thought invested into going abroad, the importance placed on learning about oneself in a foreign place, etc. These factors all create this sort of meta-commentary that any abroad student has, that is always evaluating one’s abroad experience and how it is meeting expectations, personal or otherwise.

I decided pretty early on that I wanted to balance listening to this voice. I figured that ignoring it would be dumb, because then I might not do any of the things that I had set out wanting to do in the first place. But I also didn’t want to listen to this voice all the time, because that would be stressful and lame, since it would reduce my time in Scotland to crossing off a list of stuff without time to be spontaneous and whatnot.

Looking back right now, I am really happy with my study abroad experience. I traveled a lot around Europe but also within Scotland, I met some great new friends, I tried new things. I put myself in uncomfortable situations, I learned a lot. I didn’t worry too much.

Thanks to my family for giving me the opportunity to study abroad. I’m very lucky. Thanks to the friends that I’ve met here who have helped me never feel alone. Thanks to my friends back home who have made me feel missed and appreciated. Thanks to Scottish people for being very nice. Thanks to my roommate for being a great friend and letting me play weird music very loud. Thanks to all the people who let me stay with them while I traveled. Thanks to all the other people I should have thanked but didn’t thank.

I had so much fun this semester, and I’m inspired for the future. After walking through the museums and galleries in Paris, I want to explore what I’m capable of making creatively; after admiring the architecture in Copenhagen, I want to see how I can apply that creativity to practically help the community. After watching Celtic and Inter Milan play, I want to push myself to be the best soccer player I can be in my final year of college soccer. After being away from my friends and family for a little while, I want to come back and show them how much I truly value them.

And I want to keep traveling too, but more than anything, I just want to continue living with the right mindset. During my trip by myself to Inverness, I started reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. At one point in the book, the protagonist/narrator is hiking with his son, who is slowly becoming tired and frustrated as they trudge up the mountain. The narrator thinks his son is becoming frustrated because basically, he is thinking too much about the mountain peak and not the hiking itself. He writes:

“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock feels loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.”

In knowing that my time abroad was such a finite and unique opportunity, I ended up naturally living out what Pirsig discusses here in this passage. I enjoyed every moment in my many journeys, I listened to myself and moved at my own pace, I noticed and appreciated things I maybe wouldn’t have if I was at home in Mill Creek, Washington. But I really hope that I can take this way of thinking and living back with me. Just because I’m not abroad doesn’t mean I can’t find the newness and joy in other, quieter moments, on a hot summer afternoon in Walla Walla or back home in my cul-de-sac in Mill Creek.

I thought maybe after studying abroad I would have a clearer idea of what I wanted to do with my future, and now that I’m finishing up my study abroad time, I can confidently say that did not happen, like, at all. Instead, I am more aware than ever of the countless possibilities that lay ahead of me, and I am more certain than ever that I will enjoy the process of navigating those possibilities. I’m a really lucky guy.

WEEK FIFTEEN: CREW LOVE

After plodding my way through the couple days after May Dip, my family showed up in St. Andrews! My mom, dad, and sister arrived Saturday afternoon, and after not seeing one another for a few months, we were understandably pumped. I was a little nervous before they showed up, just because I wasn’t sure what they wanted to do during their trip. After my feverish trips around Europe in which I ripped through swaths of land like a trailblazer tourist, I was unsure of how to help schedule a more relaxed trip for my family. But looking back, it went pretty much as well as I could have hoped.

One small hindrance during the trip was the weather. The weather here is very rarely great, but it has been fairly pleasant for the most part, dry, temperate, and occasionally warm. However, my family’s arrival coincided with the most rain that I’ve seen during my time at St. Andrews. It didn’t really burden us too badly, but it ruled out playing excessive amounts of golf and any ambitious hiking trips, which were both possibilities for the squad. However, it gave us a convenient excuse to just relax and enjoy St. Andrews at a #chill pace.

One major highlight during the trip was the food. In my time here, I’ve mainly eaten at the cafeteria or take-out, because I’m ballin’ on a budget. However, when the fam came to town, I got to really get indulgent and try out all the nice restaurants St. Andrews has to offer. We ate an obscene amount of sticky toffee pudding, and other than my sister getting sick of eating fries with every meal, we were all pretty stoked on our culinary tour through the town. Also, we found out later that the majority of the restaurants we went to are owned by the same people, which means that St. Andrews is basically commandeered by some sort of restaurateur shadow government. This is a very dark truth.

Another highlight was playing a couple rounds of golf with my dad. We played the Jubilee Course and the Old Course, and were fortunate to play in the rare moments when the weather was good. It was pretty special to play with my dad in the “Home of Golf,” kind of one of those bucket list “father-son” things. We both played decent, not that that really matters; we had a lot of fun, and I don’t think it was ever lost on either of us that we were pretty lucky to be playing together in St. Andrews. My mom and sister even joined us for the last couple holes on the Old Course, which was a lot of fun. My sister carried my bag for like a hole and a half, but then handed it back and said she was done. My sister is a good sister but a terrible caddie.

We also went on a day trip to Edinburgh, and it was cool to know where to go and show the fam the sights. We went on a good hike down the Fife Coastal Path and saw some nifty nature, and we walked around St. Andrews and saw the ruins, beaches, and other things that make the town unique. I’m sure I’m leaving out other things that we did, but I was mostly just happy to spend time with the family. They are my best friends and it’s pretty neat that they seem to like me too. And the cool thing is that I’ll get to see them really soon when I go home!

I’m studying for finals right now. The end is nigh. I think I’ve got one more blog post in me though. Later skaters.

WEEK FOURTEEN: DANES AND DIPS

By now, I have probably lost all three of my readers, since I’ve gone like three weeks without a word. I know, I’m the worst! But I’m back, because I love to #blog and because I love to collect them paychecks (thanks Whitman Off Campus Studies!).

As usual, the last few weeks have flown by, and trying to reflect on them is a muddled and blurry task. But I’ll try to work through it and spit out some sentences for you to read, my dear audience. Our story begins after I returned from Dublin. I spent a day back in St. Andrews to get my life together, and then headed off to Copenhagen with my roommate and true homie Forrest.

Similar to my Madrid trip, I stayed with people I’d never met before. My uncle is close friends with a couple who live in Copenhagen, Stina and Nils, and nicely offered them up as a contact. Since I’m a weird person who likes to hang out with strangers, I jumped at the opportunity.

Not surprisingly, Stina and Nils were awesome. Very creative, very nice, very happy people who seems to be really digging life. They meditate and they design clothes and they like art and they’re vegetarians and they ride bikes and they play foosball and they are perfect and I want their life. Forrest and I were both pretty stoked on our good fortune, getting to stay with such awesome people. They were very nice about letting a couple dorky Americans sleep in their guest room and eat breakfast with them, and I am very grateful to them for that.

Forrest and I were only in Copenhagen from Monday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon, so we got after it and saw quite a bit of the town at a pretty brisk pace. From this relatively distant retrospective, I recall us seeing a funky church, the hippy district Christiania, the Danish Architecture Centre, the meat packing district, the National Gallery, the Royal Garden, the Botanical Garden, a cool food truck market thing, and I’m probably leaving some stuff out. All of these destinations were very cool and enjoyable, but I was most struck by the overall architecture and design of the city. The buildings are beautiful while also seeming very functional, and the city just seems seamlessly designed with the canals and generous bike lanes and comfortable public spaces. And everyone rides bikes and leaves them unlocked, which is awesome. It’s basically a more cutting-edge Portland, with cooler architecture, fewer food trucks, and the same amount of white people.

The highlight of the trip was probably when Forrest and I rented electric bikes and whipped all over the city on Wednesday. After so much sightseeing on Tuesday, we just kind of wanted to cruise and not worry about focusing on reaching any destinations. So shooting around on our robo-bikes was a really good time, and we got to fit in with all the local folk milling about on their normal bikes. 10 out of 10, would totally love to move to Copenhagen and ride bikes forever.

This was my last little trip out of St. Andrews, which was kind of a bummer, but I felt like I took advantage of my abroad-ness and visited a lot of neat places and met a lot of neat people. So I’ve got no regrets. As always, it was nice to come back to St. Andrews, and this time especially, I got to do some very St. Andrewsy things. I tagged along with Forrest to this pier walk where a lot of students were wearing their red robes and carrying torches, which sounds like a terrifying cult gathering, but actually looked pretty cool. I even carried a torch, which was a little bit awful because I hate fire, but it was fun nonetheless. Then, I stayed up all night for May Dip, when students jump into the North Sea as the sun comes up on May 1st. It is all a bit hazy due to sleep deprivation and the activities of the night, but I think it was a good time.

That’s all for now. Tune in for the next post, coming sometime in the next couple days!