On Running Away

I have always had a desire to roam; call it wanderlust if the phrase hasn't become too clichéd for you.

Ever since the age of zero, I have been moving around on a pretty regular basis, even if it was just fortnightly to-ing and fro-ing between parents. It meant that I never had to get used to staying in one place for any great length of time. And this suited me down to the ground.

Then, at the ripe old age of nine, inspired by Carlotta of Enid Blyton's The Twins at St Clare's (who also inspired my short-lived Runescape username, throwback and a half eh), I decided that the world had bigger plans for me, and I had found my calling. I can vividly remember clambering up onto the oversized desk chair in my grandfather's study, opening Google and, full of purpose and focused intent, typing in my search: "how to run away and join the circus". I absolutely meant it, too. I was more than ready to up sticks and follow this dream, and if the very first search result hadn't been (and I can remember this in total clarity too) a dissuasive "So, you want to join the circus? Well, here are a few things to think about first." then I very well might be acrobatting my way around the world right now.

Interestingly, having just searched the very same term, the results that come up now are much more encouraging and do actually provide guidance on how to go about running away to join a traveling circus, so it is probably for the best that I was keen at the age of nine rather than nineteen.

Anyway, as it became apparent that there may be some skill and planning required in joining the circus, I told Mum of my Big Plan and we set about looking for a circus school - from a parental point of view, a vastly preferable option to my original idea.

In the end, I just continued with weekly gymnastics (as did, it seems, every single small child in practically the entire history of the world) and reading stories of other people's exciting and spontaneity-rife lives instead.

This need to wander was then tucked away and forgotten about, for the most part (except for an overactive Pinterest 'wanderlusting' board and my lifelong obsession with maps), until I found myself diving headfirst into travel with the European Youth Parliament at seventeen. The spark was reignited, to the extent that I had my university withdrawal email written, sitting in my Drafts folder and ready to go, so that I could spend my life adventuring instead. As is probably obvious, the email was never sent, and I duly traipsed off to continue in education, doing my best to push aside thoughts of all the potential excitement I was missing out on. Until now.

Or more accurately, until the beginning of this academic year.

Having always been keen on the idea of an Erasmus year, and being less enamoured with uni than I had hoped, I set about investigating the options and writing my application at the beginning of second year. Much to my dismay, my "please can I uni elsewhere" email received a very frustrating reply telling me that, as a second year, I was no longer eligible for exchange and should have applied in the first term of first year. In other words, pretty much as soon as I had arrived at uni. When I had heard nothing of our Erasmus programme whatsoever.

That didn't stop me, however, and I pushed on. After drawing on all my argumentative resources from my Stubborn Debater days, I campaigned for a change to the system. When the Global Opportunities office had had enough of me arguing my case, they passed me on to the next level where I continued to plead for my right to run away. The difference was that this time, unlike when I wanted to join the circus, I had done all the research already.

I wanted to go to Denmark, and more specifically, to Aarhus Universitet on the east coast of north-west Denmark. The research was done: not only did I have a wealth of points and statistics to back up my reasoning, I knew exactly how the funds would work, what modules I would study, even which exact international student house I would live in. I had it all planned out.

My academic supervisor (firmly in favour and on my side) valiantly fought my corner when my proposal reached the lofty heights of being discussed by the top dogs on the Board of Studies, and worked with me to find and work away at any and every loophole. Then, promising as it had looked at times, last week I received an email detailing the final outcome: I can't go.

I knew from the very beginning that it was a long shot, but I didn't realise until now how invested I had been in this tiny possibility that had seemed to be growing more and more possible with every development. The uni have said that as a result of my campaigning to be allowed to go abroad in third year, other students may well be able to in years to come, so for that I'm grateful but I can't help but feel like a carpet I really liked and was becoming quite attached to has been torn from under my feet.

Part of it was a wish to see more of the world.
Part of it was a wish to escape uni here.
Part of it was probably because I like challenging the rules, and did the same at school when I went determinedly straight to the top when I didn't think something was fair, and wanted it changed.
Part of it was because I don't like to feel tied down, and my feet never stay on the ground for long.
But I think the biggest part was because the grass is greener on the other side; without actually knowing anything for sure, I convinced myself that if I could only get away then maybe uni would be what I had wanted it to be, and what I had been told it would be.

Alas, my attempts at running away have been quashed once more, and intermittent jogs back home to Edinburgh and round mainland Europe will have to do for now.


  1. I take my hat off to you for trying so hard. A valiant effort, and future scholars are sure to be grateful.
    Your point about uni is also well made; for too many the expectation doesn't quite live up to the hype - especially for those who have travelled (and I don't mean holidays when I say travel!). My advise, for what it's worth, is to stick with it. The very fact that you will have a piece of paper with an Honours degree on it is worth so much for so many years to come.

    1. Thank you, this means a lot - you're right, a degree will be a valuable asset in the end but the whole experience is definitely made out to be very different to how it actually ends up for a lot of people, which makes it a shame that there's so little flexibility (timescale/location) in order to try and improve it. Ah well, not too long to go now! Glad you enjoyed the post :)


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