Imagine being on top of the world. Imagine looking down on houses that you think you can crush between your thumb and forefinger, conscious of the spongy, green ground underneath your boots. Imagine smelling the crisp autumn air in a foreign country, surrounded by new friends, with the bitter wind whipping your hair and stinging your cheeks. This is what it’s like to be at the top of Arthur’s Seat. Nothing can compare to that surreal feeling. As I stood, out of breath, on top of Scotland’s most famous hill, all I could think was “This is real, I’m actually here.”
Giggling, my three friends and I posed at the top and took photos of the scenery – I think we were a little hysterical because we were all relieved that we had actually made it up (or maybe it was the change of altitude). I thought back to when I was looking up at the hill from the bottom – it made me feel so tiny and insignificant, (looking at this from a philosophical perspective, you can compare it to life’s struggles and how we believe we will never make it, but in the end we always do – though unlike Arthur’s Seat, life usually doesn’t have shortcuts).
We free climbed up the steepest slope with our packs full of tech on our backs – and a camera in hand in my case. We climbed (and slipped) and nearly fell on multiple occasions. We encountered other groups working their way up the hill, breathing heavily as they tried to make their way up the rock, and a mutual feeling of awe could be felt when we turned around and saw how far we had made it already.
There was a sense of unison between us four as we clambered up the hill, yet it was also an individual struggle, as we all experienced the hike differently. Surrounded by golden weeds and bright green grass, boots crunching on small gray rocks in rich brown soil. Our feet kicking up rust-colored dust when we reached the last stretch of the hike. That cloud of determination that came over us as we reached the final set of stone stairs, crudely cut into the side of the hill, is what drove us on.
When we made it to the top, we practically collapsed with exhaustion and relief, then we were awestruck for several moments. I just stood, pondering my life now, comparing it to what I would be doing if I were back home in Uxbridge, Ontario. Then I started to feel this underlying sense of sympathy for my family and friends, which I now realize is what is referred to as “traveler’s guilt.” I was standing there, on a hill, in Scotland, 5,500 km away from home and everything I knew. Had I not heard of this school, where would I be right now? I would be sitting in J. Stark’s boring English class, surrounded by kids with no passion for learning. I wouldn’t be doing anything half as incredible as I am now that I am here, and it was then that I realized that I have to make the most of this experience for my next three years at TGS.
Imagine traveling to Scotland with your school. Imagine listening to the heavy breathing of the people around you, and the distant voices of strangers on the hills, mildly concerned about the rolling dark clouds crawling towards you with a promise of rain. Imagine feeling so connected to a group of people you had only just met, gripping tightly to the hand of your new friend. Before this year I would never have seen myself here, but now this is my reality and I could not be more grateful.