|A Study Abroad Experience
Author: InternalMadness PM
Henry is a junior American college student studying abroad in Scotland this semester...what could happen? A little self-discovery, and a little adventure perhaps? F/FRated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Romance - Chapters: 3 - Words: 4,920 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 01-29-13 - Published: 01-25-12 - id: 2991728
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hello! InternalMadness here! Just wanted to say welcome, and I hope you enjoy the show. A brief note about where this idea came from—experience! I actually did study abroad in Scotland, and I did visit a train station just like this one described here. I pulled as much from my own experiences as possible…although clearly chunks of it did not actually happen to me. I blocked out the names of the cities involved on purpose, for my own reasons, but anyone who has been to Scotland will probably guess what they are. I apologize to any Ukers for my poor vernacular. I spent months in Scotland, but I don't feel very comfortable doing much with the language yet. I'll try to work on it as I go. Well, that's enough of a ramble!
Chapter 1: Meeting
Studying in Scotland has been an interesting experience, one could say. Totally amazing, and mind-blowing, but "interesting" is also a word I might use. Before I tell my little story, I believe a little background is in order. First off, I'm American. There, said it, it's out of the way. Not to say I'm ashamed to be American for, on the contrary, I am quite a proud American girl, and I'd say I still am. But I learned many things in coming to Scotland, Britain in general. America is mighty, but her general society has many shortcomings. For one thing, Americans tend to be, as a whole, much less accepting than Europeans. (Which is funny, because we were the ones who originally broke away because people were being too stuffy, to put it in bald terms). We like to keep our eyes closed about certain matters, and get upset when anyone tries to open them. (That's not to say that all Americans are like this, it just seemed simply to me at the time that the majority of my country-men were so.) In Scotland, I found a place filled with people who didn't give a rat's ass about some of the most controversial ideas/topics in my country. While this is probably true of many things, in this case I am talking about homosexuality. Now even my fellow Americans must admit that this is an increasingly sore subject in our country, that will inevitably come to a head in the near future.
Sure, Massachusetts allows gay marriages. Big whoop. It's in the small towns and less-worldly cities (which make up most of the country) where intolerance and ignorance is like a terrible poison, blackening people's hearts. Anyway. Even though I knew these things, it wasn't until I came to Scotland that I realized the real extent of the problem. Here, in every town or city I've visited, I have found people: straight, gay, lesbian, and others less easily classified who walk about together without fear, or perhaps with just comparatively less fear. Here, it doesn't seem as big a deal as it seems to be made in America.
And now that I've given you the background, I can tell you the story…
At my exchange university, student accommodation is provided in buildings that are sectioned into "flats". There are typically five or six people to a flat, each with a private room and bathroom. (To an American accustomed to sharing room and bathroom, it was heaven) And of course there is a common room with a full kitchen that's available to everyone in the flat. I had been in my new place for about a month when my two Scottish flatmates suggested we all pack up and go to their hometown of A- for the weekend. Now I was excited. For one thing, I always wanted to travel. And for another, it was nice not to travel alone for a change.
We packed up and headed off. The train ride was a bit long, but we amused ourselves easily enough, laughing and joking (sometimes loudly).
"D'ye know, Henry, if America has Dominoes?" If I was pretty clueless about Scotland, I thought, then my English and Scottish friends know about as much about America. Laughing, I nodded.
"I'm pretty sure the franchise started in the States, actually. I agree though, their pizza is great!" This was only half true, as back home I generally ate Papa John's, but Dominoes really was a good pizza place. And that's how we passed the train ride. From here, I'll sink into a more present-time first person account.
I got off the train and gratefully stretched my broad shoulders, pleased to finally be free of the narrow confines of my train seat. For a girl, I was a bit broad through the shoulders and here in Scotland, I was rather tall at 5'8". I towered over my Scottish and English flatmates, anyway, and they all looked particularly small compared to me. It made me wonder if this was what Gulliver felt, on his travels.
Now, I had long since given up on concealing my shoulders, and had decided to wear things that showcased them rather than toned them down. Besides, I thought, I like my shoulders. And it was a good to wear clothes that fit them. Of course, all of this is just a defense against my own insecurities, but I won't get into that.
There were a lot of people at the train station. A lot. I knew we had come to a moderately large city, but it still surprised me.
"Elizabeth," I said, "Why are there so many people?" She laughed and glanced back at me.
"Wha', ye mean besides that it's a train station? Aye, weel, it's also a shopping center."
I blinked in confusion, and was about to question her further when we walked through the turnstile and around the corner and, behold! It was a mall! A mall attached to a train station! How queer, I thought. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so quick to judge: after all, in America trains are hardly a common mode of transportation around the country. How would I know if this was different than what we had back home?
"By the way, Henry, I didn't say it before but I quite like that jacket." Marybeth, another of my flatmates, said. She's English, from York I think? I couldn't help grinning at the compliment, and self-consciously smoothing the black cloth. It was a really cool coat I'd come across back home, and I couldn't resist buying it. As I said, it's black, with silver fastenings. The sleeves roll up to the elbow-a favored style of mine-but can be unrolled to full length. It was kind of a boyish jacket, but I didn't care. I thought it looked cool, and it was a very good fit. Looking back now, with my brown hair hanging loose around the shoulders, it would have been striking.
"Thanks, I picked it out myself back home." Okay, maybe I was just a bit proud of this coat.
We proceeded into the mall, where Elizabeth told us we could wander around for awhile. My other Scottish flatmate, Careen, had arrived the day before to set things up and it would be a couple hours before she arrived. Normally I don't much care for malls, but this time I didn't mind. I was wide awake, and getting quite hungry. So I broke off from my small group to do a little exploring on my own.
"Just meet us by the front doors in two hours Henry!" Elizabeth called after me. I waved at her so she'd know I'd heard.
Wouldn't you know it, but the first place I found was a Starbucks. Personally, I don't much care for Starbucks. I've gotten burnt coffee from them too many times. But today seeing it made me think of home, so I got in line with the intent to get a mocha frapuccino. The line was kind of long, but it was moving quickly so I wasn't worried. I stood briefly on tiptoe to estimate about how much longer I had to wait. I had plenty of time left to explore the mall, of course, but I'm not always a patient person. At that moment, a hand fastened on my elbow. Now, I'm a bit of a jumpy person by nature, but having someone come up behind me and for all intents and purposes grab me—in a foreign country, mind you—had quite an astounding effect.
I jumped and let out a half-strangled-and in no way dignified-squeak, and spun with the intent of dealing with this potential thief or assaulter. Whoever this sorry-ass guy was, he was going to wish he'd picked a different target. My eyes caught the person and I froze in surprise, fist half cocked. A slender red head stood beside me, a strange expression on her lovely face. Woah. 'Lovely'? Lovely? I gave myself a mental shake and lowered my hand. No way was I going to hit someone half my size.
She looked worried, combined with regret maybe, and a faint trace of fear. Well, I thought a little guiltily, I'd be afraid too if someone a head taller than myself suddenly turned on me with lethal intent.
"What are you doing? Can I help you?" She seemed startled when I spoke, like I was jarring her from her thoughts.
"Oh no. You're American." Well, that wasn't what I was expecting her to say. She bit her lip, and I couldn't help but notice how enticing her lips looked. How soft. I gave myself another shake. What was the matter with me? I must be losing my mind. Coming back to the situation at hand, I raised a sarcastic eyebrow.
"Sorry, I guess I'll tell my mother to make sure I'm born in Scotland next time. Would that be better?" What in the world was this girl up to, anyway? She looked up at me and opened her mouth to say something but, before she could, her blue eyes fastened on something behind me. I could almost see her change her mind. Before I knew it, she had slipped her arms around me, like she was going to hug me or something. "What the-" My words died as, with a look of determination on her face, she stood on her toes and pressed her lips to mine.