I arrived in Aberdeen nearly two weeks after school had begun, so all the wet-behind-the-ear moments people experience before transitioning from tourists to residents were unpleasantly rushed. Fortunately, I met some Ghanaian scholars who had lived here for a year, so that helped cushion the harsh blow of adjustment.
Unlike most first time visitors, my senses were alert; noticing everything that was different from my country. After my first weekend I had pleasantly discovered that there was a whole lot more to say about Scotland than the usual “It’s freezing” chorus people sung every time I asked about Scotland. From the sublime scenery, gothic architecture, neat streets to the peace and quiet, Aberdeen easily takes one breath away.
On some mornings, I roll out of bed forgetting I’m not in Ghana, and I get excited getting waakye for breakfast. On days like these, my ecstasy is short-lived as I am usually immediately reminded I’m in another country, a very different country sometimes. Coming from a country where the state of infrastructure largely leaves much to be desired, it took the least time to notice a world of a difference in this regard. While a few fundamental differences are naturally just ‘different’ such as right –hand driving, things here generally work as they are supposed to.
Firstly, there’s a lot more decorum on the roads; it’s a rare sight to spot drivers overtaking one another or find a vehicle other than a bus in the ‘bus lane’. People sort their rubbish and try to make a concerted effort to protect the environment by taking their own bags when grocery-shopping. In school as well, I am able to better appreciate technologies that make work more fluid; interactive overhead projectors, a fully-functional course management system and course notes and assignments that get delivered to my inbox, stand out strongly.
Yet, against the backdrop of efficient infrastructure and differences clearly showing the gap in development, I have learned to appreciate my country better and be grateful for the little things we might take for granted back in Ghana. Here, people seem so busy with work and about their personal business; they have little time to be cordial. Rarely do they go beyond a salutary nod, or extend a conversation beyond necessities, or ask about the wellbeing of one’s entire extended family, as is done in Ghana. I also did not have a good appreciation of how generous Ghanaians are till I came to Aberdeen. Over this short period, several Ghanaian families living in Aberdeen have invited us (Ghanaian students) for lunch and dinners. Other students don’t get it like that. Ghana and Ghanaians have a certain level of hospitality and generosity that in my experience is unmatched. When I go to these Ghanaian homes or gatherings, I feel safe. I feel loved. I feel at home.
Even though being in a country, like Scotland, where things work, is such a wonderful gift, I have come to realise that the kind of experience I will have is largely up to me. My first few days in class ware rather challenging. The pace of the lectures and the volume of material that was covered in just a day were overwhelming. While being one of the youngest and obviously least experienced member of my class sometimes left a jarring feeling of incompetence in my belly, I nursed a certain glowing pride to be able to rub shoulders with obviously some very great minds. This has motivated me to work hard, read wide and take advantage of all the study materials available, just to be at par with the rest.
Over the past couple of months here, I have learned to think globally. One can get very comfortable on a local stage; one may not need to stretch their mind on a local stage. However, broader and far-reaching impact can be made if I seek to affect the world beyond me. So I’ve learned to not just think about how my success in my academics will bless Ghana with one more engineer, but more importantly about how I can be useful in engineering a safer and more secure ecosystem for countries to handle energy more seamlessly. I have learned to learn more deeply, seek further, accept challenges and embrace hurdles, especially while I am at Aberdeen. I have learned to swallow my pride, stick my neck out and make mistakes and also ask questions. In so doing, I will be able to build muscle to impact the world globally.
It’s amazing how much I’ve discovered about people, life and myself in general. Being away from home, I have had the opportunity to think differently and experience life completely differently from the way I was raised. I have experienced more emotions in a few weeks, than I have experienced in over twenty years. I have met different people, interacted with different cultures, learned to appreciate different cuisine and seen new places. I have learned to allow myself to grow through these experiences and learn to live life and discover that there’s usually more to life than what you see. One of the most important lessons I will take away is; life really is simple. Sometimes we are so busy with work, we forget to live. Work hard. Play hard.
About the Author
Naa Adoley Quist is a TGSS Scholar from Ghana. She is currently studying MSc. Petroleum Engineering at University of Aberdeen.