Last weekend, I took a trip to St Andrews, a little town about an hour away from Edinburgh. I didn’t know much about the town, except that it’s the home of the University of St. Andrews, a school that sometimes gets mentioned in the same breath as schools like Oxford and Cambridge as one of the best (and most posh! ) schools in the UK. It’s also famous for being the meeting place of Kate Middleton and Prince William, so there’s that.
I’m not usually one to be seduced by royal love stories or super swanky universities, but within an hour I was in love with St. Andrews. And by the time I had to leave, I was having a mini-freak out. Did I chose the wrong school to do an exchange at?!? How amazing a year would I have had if I had come to St Andrews instead?!? What am I doing with my life?!?!
Ok, I might be exaggerating a little bit. But not by much! I love Edinburgh, and I’m really happy to be doing my exchange here. But I did feel a bit sad when my time in St. Andrews was up. And then I figured it out – I was having a severe case of FOMO. I wrote about social media-induced “Fear of Missing Out” (or FOMO, as abbreviation-loving millennials call it) a few weeks ago. I had never experienced FOMO on this scale, though. FOMO about missing a party on a Saturday night seems totally reasonable, but feeling like you’re missing out on a whole town, or a whole year of university experiences, or even a whole other kind of lifestyle is a whole other (very irrational) beast.
I think the reason I was feeling this way is that I never got to have that small-town undergrad experience that movies are made about. I think everyone at U of T has had a similar feeling (probably while they were sitting in a thousand person lecture in Con Hall) that they might have missed out on some great experiences that you get at a small university.
Coming from U of T and University of Edinburgh, which is also fairly big, St. Andrews seemed like a whole other kind of world. I mean, students were walking around the tiny streets of ivy-covered buildings wearing their bright red academic robes! Imagine finding yourself in a quintessential British university experience a hundred years ago, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what my day in St. Andrews was like.
Anyways, I was totally under the town’s charms, and I was playing that game you play with new places or different schools where you imagine how perfect and wonderful your life would be, if only you lived there and went to that university.
But then I got back to Edinburgh, and I remembered that it’s an awesome place to be. And I remembered that the feeling of falling in love with St. Andrews was one that I had had just a few months ago with Edinburgh. It’s a pretty cool feeling, and it’s one I guarantee you’ll get if you go on exchange.
So I guess this post is just a really round about way of saying that going on exchange – no matter where you end up – is going to be awesome. You might wonder sometimes if you made the right choice, or you might agonize over that choice when you’re thinking about where to apply to, but don’t stress yourself out too much. Even if you get swept off your feet by the cool academic robes and the beautiful campus of a school you didn’t chose, I promise it will be great!