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The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

Comfort in the cows

By Rachel Blood | Copy Editor

I used to wake up at 6 a.m. every day and get in my little white Nissan hatchback and drive to Farmington High School for zero-hour jazz band. I’m not sure whose idea it was to build the school directly next to a cow pen, but it certainly gave our athletes the advantage over away teams that weren’t used to the stench.

The sight of cows, with their speckled coats and twitching ears and soft little snouts, became a soothing thing for me. Their tired moos started to be an expectation, harmonizing with whatever angsty music I listened to on my morning commute to the parking space that would be waiting for me in the front of the fourth row from the left, because nobody who could drive themselves ever got to zero hour before chronically early Rachel Blood.

Growing up in Farmington meant I burrowed deep into my suburban roots and got comfortable there, got complacent. I picked a college 45 minutes from home and built my life on the cornerstone of routine – coffee shop Sundays and cardio Mondays and DC dinners before weekly night classes. 

Then I moved to England for three months.

England probably makes you think of bright red telephone booths or a looming clock tower or that one picture of Queen Elizabeth in the fancy hat (rest in peace). It makes me think of late Tuesday nights out dancing and the friends I miss and the way they call pool noodles “woggles.” But then, eventually, I think of the cows.

The entire notion of studying abroad is designed to break a person out of their comfort zone, to thrust them into a new environment where they’ll learn and grow and become their best self like one of those horribly satisfying coming-of-age movies. And even as a self-proclaimed fearer of change, I was ready for that. But I think there are certain things that humans are just wired to do.

I didn’t board a coach bus packed with strangers on the wrong side of the road intending to play bovine I Spy, but people are intriguing in that they aren’t intriguing at all. When it comes to seeking familiarity, everyone is so very predictable. 

When you walk into a room, you scan it for familiar faces. When you get off the plane halfway across the world, you find a Starbucks or a McDonald’s. You start to build routines even in temporary settings. You sit in the same fourth-row seat every time you go to your 11:10 even though you haven’t had a seating chart since halfway through high school, and if someone else takes your seat you spend the rest of the hour feeling vaguely unsettled and maybe a little like you want to kick that person in the shin. 

On that bus full of people I’d never met from countries and counties I’d never been to, letting unfamiliar accents wash over me and mix with the Arctic Monkeys floating from my left AirPod, I saw a cow.

It was fat and white with blots of black poured over it like spilled ink, and it was eating grass like a gourmet Gordon Ramsay meal. I got that warm feeling in the core of my chest, that fuzzy one that means home and safe and would probably be orange if it were a color. The bus chugged along and suddenly the rolling fields of the Cotswolds were full of cows, black and white and brown and fat and skinny and cute little calves and lazy old oafs. Halfway across the world from everything I knew and loved, it was like I’d never left the Farmington High School parking lot. 

I realized then that I’d established new routines the second I moved into my University of Reading dorm that they don’t call a dorm. Every Monday I woke up at 8 a.m. to get a medium mocha at the library café before my Shakespeare seminar. Every Tuesday I put the kettle on – big kettle people over in England – and I heated up water and made my Amazon-ordered hot chocolate and then I cooked potatoes but not very well and then I went clubbing (on a Tuesday!) because that’s what you do at university in England. 

I sat through the eight-hour flight to London Heathrow with the full intent to have three months full of comfort-zone-destroying, adrenaline-inducing experiences that nobody at home would believe without photo evidence. And I did that – navigated the nuances of European public transportation, talked to strangers, braved the nightlife I’d avoided like the plague in the Twin Cities. I am not the same person I was back in August. Eventually, I looked away from the window and started talking to the girl beside me, the girl whose face now pops up in half the photos covering my dorm room wall. 

But it was nice to know the cows were there, just outside the window if I needed them.

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About the Contributor
Rachel Blood, Copy Editor
Rachel Blood, 21, is a senior English literature/writing and journalism double major with minors in creative writing and graphic design. She likes getting excited over clothes with pockets, watching her to-be-read pile grow violently out of control and showing everyone pictures of her dog (whether they like it or not). [email protected] | 651.600.7757
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