By Hailey Toporcer ’19
Hailey traveled to the United Kingdom with Professors Paul Gaffney and Rick Hyde during the Spring 2017 3-Week.
I have countless fond memories from the study abroad trip to the United Kingdom, but one memory stands out from the rest. This memory was a moment I had after climbing a mountain in Conwy, Wales. The hike was long and I was out of shape, but I kept pushing myself to make it to the top. I knew I would kick myself if I chickened out or gave up before reaching our destination. I walked and walked, even as some of the group stopped prematurely. I was determined to make it. In retrospect, I am glad I did because I learned a lot from being at the top of the mountain—much more than just proper hiking technique.
Once at the top, I stood, visibly shaking and breathing heavily. From my vantage point, I could see the patchwork farm fields, the castle we explored previous to the hike, the little welsh town, and the windmills on the sea. I trembled from the height of the mountain; from the steep, rocky and thorny cliffs surrounding me; from the excitement of the group; from the pain my body was in because I pulled a leg muscle early on in the hike. I trembled from a lot of things as I gingerly stepped down from the rock I had climbed on and onto the soft, green grass that swished back and forth due to the gentle breeze. I also trembled, because for the first time in a long time, my mind was silent. I did not know whether it was because of the intense hike or something else. Looking back, I now know my mind was silent because it was finally at peace. You see, I am a person with all kinds of anxiety. I am always worrying about small things, big things, and impossible things. I imagine scenarios that will never happen, and I know they will never happen, yet, I still impulsively worry about them. Just in case. I tend to be awkward in large groups of people so I stay quiet most of the time. My mind is never quiet; something is always buzzing or whirling or nagging or scolding. Even if there are no specific words being said in there, there is still constant static. This is the best way to describe this kind of anxiety, as static. As I sat on the grass, however, my brain had completely shut off as I admired the views around me. I suppose some sights can really take your breath away because I am embarrassed to say this, but I actually forgot how to breathe at one point. But, instead of panicking, I simply laid back onto the grass and my breath came back to me. It was so simple.
I made sure to take a mental picture of this scenery and of how I felt during this time. I think I found my “happy place” that everyone is always talking about. As I write this, I can feel the warm ease coming back to me as my mind slowly shuts off. Finding this special place and unlocking this quietness I have been searching for was a truly life-altering experience for me, and because of this, I believe the trip was worth every penny.