“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head… That way it will go with you wherever you journey.” – Tad Williams
My first glimpse of St Andrews: a quaint, if slightly unattractive, cluster of stucco houses facing the North Sea. Albany Park.
I had been disappointed when I heard I’d be living in Albany Park a few months before I arrived. When I got the email notification, I immediately went to the website to look at pictures. This particular option for uni accommodation was not attractive.
In the photos, I saw box-like houses covered in orange brick and gray stucco. I think they tried to make the houses look appealing. The photographer was careful to include bushes, blue skies, and students hanging out on flowered speckled lawns, but they weren’t fooling me.
Albany Park was combined undergrad and postgrad accommodation on the edge of St Andrews. The website said I would be living with five other people sharing one kitchen and one bathroom.
No no, I had my sights set on Dean’s Court: the quintessential Scottish building dating back to the 15th century. It sat directly across from the cathedral ruins right in the center of the town. My meals would be catered, I’d be surrounded by fellow postgrads and I would be minutes from classes, the library and coffee shops. That was where I had been picturing myself. How could it not happen the way I had planned?!
By the time I found out where I had been placed, I was already getting nervous about moving to a foreign country for graduate school. Doubts were filling my head: Am I smart enough? Is this really what I want? Can I afford this? When my perfect dreams of living in a beautiful stone building were crushed, it was even harder to imagine myself following through with the plan. But I did. Somehow.
And lucky I did because my first real-life glimpse of Albany Park — my first sight of St Andrews — was different. It was friendly. It was green. The sun was shining. I felt the cool sea air on my skin and heard the waves rolling up and down East Sands.
I was nervous, but I felt it immediately: This is where I belong. It was love at first sight.
And only good things followed that gorgeous first glimpse. I had a huge room with a double bed to myself. I only had one flatmate to share a kitchen and bathroom with. And our front door was 20 yards from the beach.
Dream come true. No. It was better than what I had dreamed! And I quickly grew to love everything about Albany Park: my cozy room, my tiny kitchen, my nearby friends, the giant beach and even the long walks into town.
Before I realized it, it became home. Not home like my college dorm rooms in California or home like my parents’ condo in Kalamazoo. It was my home: a place I still miss everything about.
I really believe that having a real home is important to your heart, and therefore your creativity. But if you’re like me, you like to and hope to move around a lot, either on long trips or more permanent adventures — it’s part of the dream. Seeing new places and experiencing new things is food for the heart. But so is that safe place that you love and feel comfortable.
So why was St Andrews different than any other place I’d lived? How did I come to consider it home so quickly? How can home be a place that you bring with you?
Over the next few weeks I’m going to publish a series of posts about home. Kind of a how to make a place home based on my experiences in Scotland.
I’m writing this so that you and I can do what I did in St Andrews where we are now and anywhere else we move. A way to make a home for ourselves inside of our hearts.
See you in a few days! Thanks for reading 🙂