2015 Fall Arcadia University Evan McCullough External Programs Scotland

Comfort and Crisis

I am having a rather difficult time writing this blog post given the events of the last few days. Since Friday, most of the conversations I’ve had with people in my townhouse have been more political than ever before. We have been using words in order to help us deal with the tragedies that took place in Paris and elsewhere, and naturally, these conversations have begun to bleed into my own personal thoughts and reflections.

Five of my housemates are from Continental Europe. Two are from Germany, only a six hours drive from the French border, one is from Denmark, one is from Spain, and one is indeed from France. To say that the attacks in Paris hit fairly close to home would not be hyperbole. Contrary to the United States, where the discourse is generally about the tragedy of the situation and showing support for the people who were affected, the conversation here is a bit more urgent. People are scared for their lives and for the lives of their loved ones.

I really don’t know what to say about these attacks, and in any case it is not my intention to write anything political. I currently do not feel afraid of the threat of terrorist attack, but I think this is because of how surreal it all is. I will be traveling to Budapest this upcoming weekend, and I am no more afraid to get on an airplane now than I ever was. Despite this, several of the people I have met in my time here are genuinely frightened, and just being exposed to that kind of fear—a fear directly induced by terrorist attack—is difficult for me to come to terms with.

It’s strange, but a part of me feels like I should be scared. A vague sense of guilt has begun to come over me due to the fact that I, unlike some of my housemates, feel a notable degree of detachment from these tragedies. I am having conversations here that I know I would not be having if I were still in America. While this is undoubtedly a good thing, it is a little disconcerting to think that if this had happened six months ago, it would not have affected me like it has now. If I were still in America, I would not be witness to the kind of fear and sorrow that tragedy like this is capable of causing. I feel very fortunate to be a visitor to Europe during this rather unfortunate time because the reactions to and conversations revolving these events are influencing my perspective in a way that would not take place otherwise.

As I type this post, countless new sentiments come to mind and now I feel as if I can keep typing for hours. The final thing I will say is that while this whole situation is undeniably tragic, it is also wildly complex. It pains me to see people argue senselessly in the wake of such tragedy, especially when the issues at hand are so exceedingly difficult to grasp. Differences of opinion are inevitable, and they are not worth fighting over at a time like this. I think we have to decide to act with compassion and empathy, and to know when to throw our hands up in bewilderment, because it is a bewildering situation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with deciding not to turn a situation like this into a political debate.

I will digress now by briefly mentioning a few things unrelated to the events in Paris. For one, my dad and my sister came to visit me last week. They weren’t crazy about haggis, but they both enjoyed Irn Bru, so I’ll count that as a win. I was very happy to see them and to show them around Stirling, and they left way too soon, taking a small bit of comfort and familiarity with them. Also, it has not stopped raining since my last blog post. I am not exaggerating—we have seen at least three straight weeks of daily rain here in Stirling. But like with everything else, I am adapting to the rain. After an initial stretch of reasonably good weather, it’s finally beginning to feel like the Scotland I signed up for.

photo (6)
My meal from Mother of India in Edinburgh (with the obligatory glass of Irn Bru, the national soft drink of Scotland), enjoyed with my dad and sister.

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