January 9, 2018
So, I’m in a motel room somewhere in the outskirts of Philadelphia. Why am I here? My flight was delayed. Why was it delayed? Something about a snowstorm.
A little over a year ago, the Study Abroad Office confirmed that I was headed to Middlebury College in Vermont for my third year at university. I knew little about Vermont back then, and what I knew was from novels like Donna Tart’s The Secret History and Paul Auster’s Leviathan, which had taught me that Vermont was wild. Literally. Not like ‘wild’ in Europe, which would be like if a tiger escaped the Tiergarten in Berlin or someone running through a field of wheat. ‘Wild’ is something entirely different in Europe. Here it is actually wild, like a roaring bear. During the winter temperatures mingle on the wrong side of minus twenty degrees Celsius. Road signs warn not just about deer crossings but moose and bears have their own signs as well. And don’t get me started on warnings about getting lost in the woods. Can you even get lost in the forests back home? Okay, maybe. But you get my point.
Yet in these wild surroundings I’ve had the most beautiful and rewarding experiences I long remember having. Like sweating while hiking steep mountain paths. Trees not turning a muddy-brown like back home but many shades of red and yellow. And sometimes it’s just the sun setting behind pine covered mountaintops. Nature in Vermont is breath-taking (literally when hiking) and I continue to be baffled by its beauty and vastness.
And so is the college. Obviously, as they say, a view becomes a view, so when I’m running late for class or going for a meal (yeah, we have dining halls here) I don’t really stop to admire the truly autumnal trees or the brown squirrels fighting in the snow. But when I do, I realise how far I’ve come and the crazy things I’ve done in just the past few weeks. Things I didn’t know people actually did. Like logrolling or axe throwing. Okay, I’ve done neither of those, but yeah, they actually exist.
School itself is quite the change. Like at UEA classes still run on a twelve-week schedule, but there is no reading week, or do-something-different week, or whatever they call it now. On top of that classes feel faster in pace here. This is neither better nor worse, I can find arguments for and against both. It’s just a different way of teaching and learning, and once you’ve gotten your way around the difference between A and A- you’re pretty much there.
So, I’m in a motel room in Philly. My flight to Vermont leaves in a few hours. I am close to halfway through my year at Middlebury and in one way it feels like I have been here forever, in another, it’s like I just untied my shoes for the first time. There are many things to talk about in a blog like this, but what it all comes down to is something along these lines: you’ll discover a whole new world, one you thought you might already know from movies, TV-shows, literature or whatever, but once you get here it turns out you don’t. Roll with it.
You’ll have extraordinary experiences. And don’t forget warm socks.
Patrick studies American Literature and Creative Writing at UEA.