Well, not exactly. I’ve never been good at rock climbing, and I wasn’t about to practice out in the Scottish wilderness with no safety harnesses and no cell phone reception. In reality, what I did today was more of a hill-walk than a mountain-climb, but it felt momentous nonetheless.
We reached the summit of Dumyat, which towers over Stirling at more than 1,300 feet, after nearly two hours of walking on a steep and often treacherous path (in hindsight, the path we chose may have been intended for sheep rather than people). We—myself and 17 other international students—embarked from my next-door neighbors’ common area at 10:30 in the morning. Some of us were more adept at hiking than others. I, for one, stayed toward the back of the group for almost the entire walk up. I thought about turning back more than once, but the promise of incredible views and a much easier path on the other side of the mountain kept me going (for what it’s worth, the way down was much easier—that is, the path we took down was actually meant for people).
I was also right about the views. At various different points during our walk up the hill, we could see most of the campus of the University of Stirling, the town and its surrounding area, the William Wallace Monument, Stirling Castle, and several different herds of sheep. In the distance in every direction sat other hills, some smaller than Dumyat, some far bigger. The wind at the top made it feel at least 20 degrees cooler than it actually was (I’m talking Fahrenheit here—I haven’t fully converted to the British way of measuring things quite yet), and the mist saturated the air without ever giving way to full-on rain. But despite all my belly-aching and breath-catching on the way up, the feeling of ecstatic accomplishment I had at the summit made all the suffering worth it.
At certain times, through the fog, we could just make out Alexander Court, where I and many of the other international students reside, at the edge of campus. I live in the last townhouse in the court with eight other guys: Vianney from France, Javi from Spain, Frederik from Denmark, two Germans, both named Till, Charlie from Kansas, Levi from Iowa, and Cameron from California. The nine girls who live in the townhouse next to ours are even more diverse in nationality. I’ve never met so many people for whom English is not their first language, which makes for a lot of fascinating conversation. I have also never met so many people in one place who are in such good shape. I guess Stirling tends to attract athletic types.
Which is not to say I am at all athletic. I have a lot of catching up to do if I want to spend the rest of the semester hiking and cavorting with all my new friends. But part of what drew me to Stirling is this idea of a more active lifestyle. I want to be in better shape, if nothing else than for the fact that a healthy body facilitates a healthy mind. My goal for this final year of college is to become more of a well-rounded person, and so far it seems as if the Stirling environment is extremely conducive to this end. Here’s to hoping I can make the rest of my time here as fulfilling and eventful as this first week has been.