So I am marking my 8th week in Dundee, Scotland and I like to think I finally made a home here. One important method in doing this was getting to know the community, especially at school. Since I applied late, I wasn’t able to get a working visa so I don’t think I can volunteer much within legal standards. Recently though, I was able to help the Abertay abroad studies director and give a few speeches about Champlain and New York. There have been some lovely opportunities to be the “captive American” for students to ask questions to before going abroad.
Most of my friends here are UK citizens or other international students, but through the study abroad sessions, I was able to meet some other Americans and even people who studied at Champlain for their abroad experience. It was wonderful to hear the stories from those who studied abroad and those about to go. I got to meet people who felt both just as lost as I did and as hopeful as I was for traveling.
It’s important to get to know the people around and the community you live in. This helps you become a part of it and feel less like an intruder. I know this mainly because that is how I coped with homesickness at Champlain my first year and now Champlain and Burlington are my second home. Volunteering at those abroad sessions made me feel like a bigger part of Abertay’s community and broke my original mindset of everything being temporary. It felt good to be useful and helpful within my new community and as a bonus, I got to exchange stories and experiences with other exchange students. This also helped to allow me to accept Abertay as home. Because while on my travels out of Dundee I always get a little homesick and I always assume it’s because I miss my family, when I come back to my hall, I now feel completely at home.
While I can now call Dundee my third home, nothing beats my first. I still get homesick from time to time, but after meeting people here I have developed a support network and I’m happy to say I will be touching base with some of the other Americans here in Dundee for Thanksgiving. I am in charge of the cornbread! Of course, you don’t have to volunteer when abroad, but volunteering and getting involved really helps you adjust to new places.
—Maya Armas (Game Design ’20, Champlain College) is studying abroad at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland