Hello. This will most likely be my last entry on this Glasgow blog. I've been away from Scotland for a little over a month now, but I wanted to write my thoughts after I've had some time to reflect.
The last month of being in Glasgow was a huge blur.
It all started the day I handed in my thesis. Such a strange day.
The Hand In
I went to Maplins to buy three USB sticks for my thesis and asked a few workers where they recommended I print something. I didn't mention it was my thesis, so that's probably why they suggested the place they did. They said, "Oh! There's a print shop upstairs!" How convenient. I made my way upstairs and found out that the 'print shop' they were referring to was actually a computer gaming center that just happened to have a printer. It's a place where you pay to use the computers to play games like Call of Duty. When I opened the door, I heard a noble, dramatic soundtrack (something of the likes of Halo) blaring from the speakers. My eyes were immediately drawn to three young guys sitting in racecar chairs, with either basketball shorts or sweatpants plus headsets, all completely immersed in their games. One had three cans of Irn Bru accompanying him. I thought he was the most impressive of the three because he was comfortably playing his game, verbally walking the guy next to him through his different game, and cracking open a can of Irn bru. In the corner, a frail, old woman in a wheelchair at a computer seemed to be just as immersed with her game. I think she was in an intense moment of Farmville and but soon wondered how to upgrade to get more accessories. I have no idea why I thought, "Sure, I'll give this place a shot. Let's print my master's thesis here," but in retrospect, I do think I found an interesting little gem of a place. Luckily, it was successful and they seemed very pleased, although confused, with my business.
After this, I embarked on my journey to the DDS via taxi to prevent any accidents happening to my freshly printed thesis. I'd never taken a taxi from that point of the city to the DDS, and therefore never gone in that particular route. I found it refreshing to see Glasgow from a different perspective but also felt the melancholy "This could be the last time I ____ in Glasgow..." thoughts finally begin to grow. I remember spending a lot of time sighing in the cab, thankful that the taxi driver wasn't up for much conversation.
I finally handed in my report. I didn't expect much, but I expected to feel a sense of relief or at least the sensation of having weight being lifted off my shoulders. I didn't. It could be because I wasn't a very healthy person the week of the hand in. I hardly consumed anything that wasn't a disproportionate combination of heaping spoonfuls of instant coffee stirred violently with very little water. The hand in for me sort of felt like a runner who didn't realize they had already past the finish line and kept running anyway. I think I was just concentrating too much on functioning that I forgot that I could finally stop.
A few classmates and I went to the pub and my teacher bought a round of drinks for us. I started with a regular orange juice, but then indulged in my favorite cocktail soon after. It was a nice way to move forward from the zombie state I was in. I was happy to have freedom again.
The sense of relief did come eventually. About a week later. Earlier in the summer, I submitted a poster of my thesis for an audio engineering conference that focused on audio education. I was accepted but extremely nervous to go. I attended this conference with some preconceived notions. There is sometimes an illusion where someone, like a master's student, goes to write a thesis: it's a nice, neat, bound book of carefully crafted ideas that come to a complete circle and go beyond with brilliance and poise. I can safely say that while I tried my best to achieve this, I saw flaws in my thesis and was expecting to receive criticism for my work, especially at a conference where professionals from around the world might read something and point out a huge flaw. My biggest concern, and I actually had dreams about this, was that someone would ask me if I considered a certain source and I hadn't. Ridiculous nightmares. I certainly wouldn't shy away from defending my ideas or from accepting other perspectives, but I felt nervous regardless. Luckily, the conference was absolutely not like that at all for me. When anyone talked to me about my poster, they were so supportive and incredibly encouraging and offered so much help and advice. If it was criticism, it certainly didn't feel like it. It's a great community.
I also met some great women in audio who were just so impressive. I met some great men in audio who completely supported women in audio, and they were absolutely fantastic. I had a fantastic time. One of my favorite aspects of the conference was learning about the educational and cultural differences and similarities between international universities, colleges, and institutes. It's truly amazing to see how a country's culture, morals, and values shape and influence its education system. I am a bit bias here, but it was particularly nice hearing and getting to know the American speakers (two of which have ties with Ohio!) because it was nice to have certain things in common again. One being that "Drive your Tractor to School Day" is definitely a thing (at least where I come from!) or that graduate assistants are allowed to teach undergrads AND get paid for it. At the same token, it was really interesting to talk about differences, like how being an international masters student at the Glasgow School of Art costs the same as one year at Bowling Green State University when I went there, and how 'free' college can change the way students feel about receiving education. We also talked about how being a master's student in the UK is a completely different experience to being a master's student in the USA. All interesting things!
The best thing I took away from this conference was a new sense of direction with my thesis. There is definitely a pathway being carved for sound literacy and I definitely need to see it through and hopefully, lead the way!
The Degree Show
Preparing for the degree show was a lugubrious task for me only for personal reasons of which I'm going to explain. I helped organize a few aspects of our course's final master's work with the help of my very best friends in Glasgow. Working with people you can depend on is such a luxury. It was a sad task though because in the process of putting everyone's work together, it sort of felt more like a somber event than a celebration of achievement. It felt like I had to repeatedly tell people, "Let's hurry up and put this together so it can be over." And for me, that was a little difficult to do because that would mean that once it's over, I'd leave Glasgow.
The opening of the degree show was an interesting evening. I met the trumpet player of Belle and Sebastian, one of my favorite bands. Let me tell you, I just keep meeting the coolest brass players throughout my life. Who's next?
I was pretty happy with my piece and how it turned out. I enjoyed seeing people interact with it and ask questions about sound literacy. One aspect of my piece invited people to listen to John Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" and draw something to represent what they heard. I found it surprising how many adults couldn't bring themselves to draw a picture to the audio because they claimed they 'weren't creative enough' but forced their children to do it. Every kid I met was amazing to talk to and full of brilliant ideas. I met this incredible, preteen Scottish girl with blue hair who was full of thoughtful ideas and questions regarding 9/11 (around the time of the show), art, and other cultures. You just don't forget kids like that. It was also amazing to see how far people travelled to see the GSA Degree Show. There was even an art teacher from Ireland who brought some of her students over!
My only regret was that so many people said they were very interested in learning more about sound literacy and the influence of sound. I only had my business cards to give out unfortunately, but it includes a link to my website and I am currently working on a website dedicated to sound literacy, which will be linked to this website. I hope it turns into something resourceful for teachers to use but also educational for people wanting to learn more about sound.
The Week Following the Degree Show
Every day was a Friday.
The Bolens finally arrived in Glasgow! The weather was pretty standard overcast in Glasgow which was a shame because it was pretty consistently nice the weeks leading up to it. It was really nice spending time with my parents and showing them all of the places I love. I tried my absolute best to commit every little detail to memory. I wish I would've taken more videos and more sound recordings, but I also just wanted to embrace it just as it was. I want to take my parents back to the UK and see more of it.
Taking off from Glasgow was very sad. I was flying on Icelandair with a short layover in Iceland and cried 3/4 the way there, not sobbing or anything. I wasn't rude about it. I watched Spy, which is slightly symbolic because my girl Miranda Hart has always been weirdly available when I've been the most upset. I couldn't do any of the cool layover things in Iceland because I was only there for a tiny bit, but it reminded me of going to Iceland for a weekend back in November. I am much different than I was then, but still just as happy to have been here.
On the plane ride from Iceland to Boston, I sat next to quite a character. He was probably in college somewhere or taking a gap year and just spent a few weeks in Iceland. He recounted what an incredible experience it was and shared how he slept in cars so it'd be cheaper. Because he slept in a car, it got very cold at night and he wore every article of clothing he had. I think something happened where he slept in or the car ran out of gas, but as a result of some unfortunate dilemma, he woke up/was late getting to the airport so he had been in a mad rush to get there and didn't think to change. So, as one could imagine after weeks of sleeping in a car and running to the airport, he was perspiring with extreme intensity by the time he sat down next to me which would've bothered most people.. I won't lie, he was pretty smelly and it was a little difficult to breathe at times but he had such a sweet energy and definitely still on a high from an incredible journey. Like me, he had just had one of the most memorable trips of his life in a foreign country, only he hadn't left any time to be sad about it though, and I admired that about him. I honestly think that somehow helped drown out the smell.... well... that and me pretending that I was cold and hiding my nose under the collar of my sweater. I was happy to have met him.
Arriving in Boston
All of the stereotypical things that people imagine happening to people going through immigration in the US happened. I was randomly selected and pulled aside to answer several questions about where I'd been, what I did there, what was in my violin case (not a gun!).. only to answer the same questions by the REAL immigration officers who were very polite. I also got yelled at for trying to go into the US citizen line.
It went like this:
I see the sign for US citizens, walk towards it, get stopped by an officer pointing to the line for non US citizens.
"You belong in this line, ma'am."
"Uh... are you sure?" I asked as I reached for my US passport.
"MAAM, I said you belong in THIS line."
I squinted my eyes a bit and hesitated. Another officer comes along to assist.
"Listen to the officer, MAAM."
"Uh.. Okay," I start to walk into the non US citizen line.
"SHE PUT YOU THERE IN THIS LINE, MAAM, PLEASE JUST FOLLOW DIRECTIONS, MAAM." called officer no. 2 with a bit of attitude to me as I walk away followed by, "Dang... " and some sniggering between the two officers.
Much time goes by and the same officer yells, "IF YOU ARE A US CITIZEN PLEASE GET IN THE CORRECT LINE," and points to the original line I tried to get into initially.
I made sure I made eye contact with her and gave her the best "I'M EXTREMELY UNIMPRESSED BY YOUR IGNORANCE, MAAM" eyes I could. She looked sorry but I wasn't.
I didn't lose my luggage though! Very happy about that.
It was dark when I left the airport to go to my new neighborhood, but I definitely felt the jolt of being back in the USA because of the overhead traffic lights, incessant honking, and the way people said, "Hey guys!" or "Excuse me, sis." or "No problem, hon."
Collin and I went to a restaurant as soon as we got back to the apartment, and it honestly felt so luxurious because of how often the waiter came back to check up on us. In fact, I felt a little weirded out by it because of how often he came to check up on us. In the UK, the waiters and waitresses don't make less than minimum wage and therefore, don't depend on tips for their living. (In Ohio, minimum wage is about $8, but if you work and get tipped, you only make $4 an hour.) In the UK, they also have a custom where they don't usually bother you while you're eating and don't bring the bill to your table until you ask. I read in a travel book once that this is because in the UK, if you bring someone the bill or check up on them too much, it can come off as rude and seem like you're pushing the customer out of the restaurant. In the US, if you have to ask for a refill or ask for a waiter to come by, it sort of implies that you're not getting good enough service. In my experience, in the UK, people are polite to you but not nearly as friendly as waiters and waitresses in the USA because they don't necessarily have to try to 'earn' a tip. Often times in the UK, the tip goes into a big tip jar and all of the workers share the tips evenly. This happens in the USA as well, but most of the time, you get to keep the tips you make.
It's not a big deal to me either way, but it was a funny experience remembering that this is how my country functions.
For me to have studied in Glasgow was a dream come true. That is absolutely certain. I have had a year packed full with a range of experiences, most of them incredible. I have met the best people in Glasgow from all corners of the world. There is something incredibly special about this city and I can't wait to visit again.
I am so fortunate to be able to say that I've lived out a dream of mine. I want to encourage everyone to pick a dream to live and see it through. Do everything you can to make it happen and ask for help. Find people who will help support you. In the past year, I have done countless things I never thought I would ever do, and I am a better person for it. Challenge yourself to dive straight into the deep end and try new things.
Be that person for someone else. I came to Glasgow because of one conversation with one person. One idea, person, meeting, experience can change the entire course of what you think your life will be. Listen to those who tell you their dreams and help them become resourceful, especially if they don't believe they'll ever do it.
One last thing.
Always, always, always thank and appreciate people you care about for the time they give you. You never know when the last time you see someone might be, so let them know while you still have the chance.
Until next time..
Thank you for having me, Glasgow.