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Not All Those who Wander are Lost

Time June 20th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

~ Ursula K. LeGuin

Flying home across the Atlantic

I am writing to you from home soil, which consequently means this will be my last blog. I have been trying to decide whether this is a happy end or a rather melancholic beginning. To me, there is always a little of both. Leaving a country you became so enchanted with is quite a bittersweet experience. After all, you never miss a destination. It is lovely to come home, to be back in a place I know so well. Home not only provides the comforts of familiarity but of familial love as well. After being across seas for nearly half a year I have learnt that there is much truth in the old saying “home is where the heart is.” I have been spending my first days here in the lovely town of Perrysburg doing all those things I dearly missed: lying down in the hammock in our back yard to read in the beautiful Midwestern summer weather, playing tennis with my little brother, walking along the river trails, cooking all kinds of Brazilian foods and desserts for Tata and Tommy’s June birthdays, seeing my old friends from high school, going out to the range to practice archery, visiting the Toledo Art Museum and going to symphony concerts at the Peristyle where I myself used to perform, going to library book sales with Mom and coming home with bags of books to add to my personal library, playing my cello both at home and at church, taking bike rides with Tommy, picking out classical music records to play while I bake or cook, and attending all of Perrysburg’s events (Memorial Day Parade, sculpture show, re-enactments at Ft. Meigs, etc.) with my family.

Taken at the Perrysburg Memorial Day Parade; to me, this joyful man represents much of the outlook of the people in our community…it is the perfect home to return to

The littlest baton twirler at the Perrysburg Memorial Day Parade

A clown and his unicycle at the parade

The go-cart men are a favorite

The cloisters at the Toledo Museum of Art

The Peristyle at the Toledo Museum of Art, where the Toledo Symphony performs and where I performed when I was in the Toledo Youth Symphony

Sculpture at the Garden; these are pieces by artists of  the Toledo Area Sculptor’s Guild, which my mom is a member

I convinced Mom to read Jane Eyre with me; took this while reading with her on the front porch during a rainy day

The hammock in our backyard; my favorite spot to read

While all of this is wonderful, I do miss Scotland’s magical landscape and its people, who live with such gusto. Looking back on it I wish I had had a year as opposed to a semester. It is not that my adjustment was difficult. In fact it was quite the opposite: adapting to life there was rather quick and I had no trouble being away from home, I was so overwhelmed with new sights and new settings. However, with more time I could have seen more of that beautiful country. Despite the fast flow of time (in my mind) I took away much from the experience of living and studying abroad. I come home feeling more independent, mature, learned, inspired, and above all eager to share the stories of my journey with others. This I will do; they are too wonderful to be kept to myself.

And so I say “Alba oidhche mhath” (“Goodnight Scotland”)…for I will wake up to walk along your shores and atop your hills once again.


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In the Land of Faeries

Time June 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A drive around the Isle of Skye will reveal it is a place with mysterious tales of times past. Though it was named after the Old Norse word for “cloud,” Gaelic remains the common spoken language of the Isle and those who speak it have come to call their home Eilean a’ Cheo, “The Misty Island.” The bare and bony promontories of Skye fringe a deeply indented coastline and create one of the most beautiful profiles I have ever seen at sunset. The Cuillin ridge containing the Red and Black Hills, whose jagged peaks dominate the island during clear weather, is often hidden from view by the fog. From the quaint harbor of Portree where traditional folk music enlivens the pubs to the faces of the mysterious pointed rock formations of the The Storr, Skye can only be described as magical.

Here follows a picture blog of my journey to the island.

 On the long drive to Skye we stopped to catch a glimpse of the beautiful glen at Queen’s View

Mist snaked in and out of the trees at the top of the hills at Queen’s View

On the way to Skye; every drive is a scenic drive in Scotland’s Highlands

The misty profile of the island’s many peaks

The beginning of our hike to the top of The Storr

The rewarding view of the Inner Hebrides at the top of The Storr

Ships resting on the bay of Portree

The Red Hills of the Cuillin ridge

The Black Hills of the Cuillin ridge. Below these hills runs the Faerie Stream; legend goes that if you dip your face into its waters you will retain the features of your youth forever

A town on the other side of the Skye Bridge

The blooms of a tree near Saucy Mary’s pub; Caisteal Maol’s ruins can be seen in the background

A view of Skye’s hills from the high reaches of Castle Maol

The open road ahead of us as we drove back to Edinburgh

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Argyll: The Forested Hills of Scotland

Time June 4th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Throughout the semester, IFSA Butler planned weekend trips for us in Scotland. It was a perfect time to get away, relax, have some fun with friends, and see more of the beautiful country that is Scotland. Our first trip was to Argyll. Cut off for centuries from the rest of the country by the mountains and sea lochs that characterize the region, Argyll’s scatter of offshore islands which form part of the Inner Hebridean archipelago remains remote. However haunting its geographic loneliness may seem, Argyll boasts a rich variety of scenery, from lush, subtropical gardens warmed by the Gulf Stream to flat and treeless islands on the edge of the Atlantic. It is in the folds and twist of the countryside, the relationship between land and water, and the views out to the islands that the strengths and beauties of mainland Argyll lie.

I know sometimes my readers get tired of going through the unending paragraphs that appear to be my blogs. I do get carried away at times. So for the next two blogs I have decided to start with a short introduction and let my photographs do the rest of the telling. I hope you enjoy seeing the beauties of Argyll through my photos. Although I must confess, no picture could ever do justice to the landscapes and miracles of nature that exist there.

Benmore, where we stayed for the weekend: our own little castle at the foot of some of Argyll’s most beautiful tree-strewn hills

The inside of “our castle”

The view from one of the windows near my room

One of the many breathtaking sights I saw as I wandered the grounds. We had some time as we waited for the sun to go down before heading out for the night hike in the forests

The next day – our amazing Team #1 ready to go spelunking/caving/gorge scrambling!!

Amanda and I, wet and muddy after our gorge scrambling adventure. You would think we would be miserable; on the contrary, we were so happy because it was the most fun we had had in a long time!

After our mountain biking outing with Joe, the coolest guide ever!

Argyll’s landscape is as splendid in sunlight as it is enshrouded in mist

And a river ran through it: a gorge at the forest’s edge

We made a stop to view the serene waters of Loch Lomond

A town near Loch Lomond,  the last shot I took before we made our way back home after a spectacular weekend

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Only in Scotland….

Time April 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Thought I would take a break from writing and photographs and post a short video clip. Hope you enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of Scotland that are a part of my life here!

P.S. Sorry for the sideways view on my face…I’m still figuring this video stuff out :p


Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University

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Efter tha’ Moorns Nicht and Afair Sunsit II: Stirling and Melrose

Time April 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Here at the University of Edinburgh we have something called Innovative Learning Week. Classes are cancelled and the departments put on all these programs, trips, and events you can attend in the hopes that students will venture beyond lectures and acquire a new sort of knowledge by creative means. Most students just take that opportunity to travel or go home and visit their families but I looked into what they had to offer. Two particularly exciting opportunities I found were historic field trips, one and ecclesiastical tour to Melrose, Traquair, and Soutra Aisle through the School of Divinity, and the other to Stirling through the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology. The first trip was led by a Dr. Holmes, a former monk who gave up the holy life for a calling to teach theology; quite the character. Heading the second trip was Dr. Llewellyn-Jones, a most knowledgeable ancient history buff and brilliant lecturer.

Straddling the River Forth, Stirling was once the only gateway from the fertile central belt (wherein lies Edinburgh) to the rugged, mountainous north. Throughout history, kings, queens, nobles, clan chiefs, and soldiers fought for control of this area and because of that Stirling is littered with important remnants of Scotland’s past. It was here where some of the most significant developments in the evolution of the Scottish nation took place. In 1297, the Scots defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge under the command of William Wallace. In 1314 they fought and won again (this time led by Robert the Bruce) at the Battle of Bannockburn only a couple of miles away. Stirling enjoyed its golden age between the 15th and 17th centuries when its castle was the favored residence of the Stuart monarchy and the setting for the coronation of the young Mary, future Queen of Scots. The castle, standing beside a sheer 250 feet drop down the side of a crag, is quite the sight. Arguably the best in Scotland, its delightful gardens, endless battlements, hidden staircases, painted walls, the Stirling Head carvings, and the magnificent unicorn tapestries made it thoroughly inspiring.

Beyond the white and yellow washed walls of the great hall, gargoyles guard over the Royal Palace, one of the many building that belong to Stirling Castle

One of Stirling Castle’s many gardens; in it stood the most grand and beautiful tree I have ever seen

My favorite building: the Chapel of Stirling Castle

One of the 56 Stirling Heads, oak carvings that richly decorated the King’s presence chamber. Carved in the 1540s, they depict many of his courtiers, along with gods and heroes from Classical antiquity. Today 36 of the original survive and they  are  the supreme example of renaissance iconography in Scotland

Two of the 5 Unicorn Tapestries that hung in the Queen’s Inner Hall. Tapestries were extremely expensive and prized by the wealthy elites of the European Renaissance. These have been hand woven using techniques from the 1400; the originals, created in the 1500s, are displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

A statue of Robert the Bruce stands in the Castle Terrace, which looks out over the town of Stirling

If Stirling houses the greatest of Scotland’s castles (Edinburgh’s comes in a close second), then Melrose boasts the best of the Border abbeys. Tucked in between the Tweed and the gorse-backed Eildon Hills, the little sleepy town of Melrose charmed me with its high-standing Victorian facades and tweedy shops. However, it was its abbey that left me speechless. The red and pink-tinted stone ruins of Melrose Abbey soar above their riverside surroundings. It was founded in 1136 by King David I and was the first Cistercian settlement in Scotland. Its prosperity was made fragile by constant blows from the English; thus most of the present remains date from the intervening period when rebuilding abandoned the Cistercian austerity for the elaborate Gothic style. Aside from claiming the burial site of Robert the Bruce’s heart, Melrose proudly displays beautiful sculptural detail. Windows sprout delicate foliate tracery and angels playing musical instruments while the buttresses support crouching figures holding scrolls, mischievous gargoyles, and even pigs playing bagpipes.

The Eildon Hills looming over the pink and red stones of Melrose Abbey

 Melrose was built in 1136 and was the first Cistercian Abbey in Scotland. It is truly one of the most beautiful remains of history I have ever beheld

The ceiling boss of the abbey, depicting the head of Christ

Gargoyles prowled the highest points of Melrose Abbey, ready to spew water from their mouths when it rained

The courtyard

I can imagine Melrose Abbey must have been a place where monks and men felt God’s presence for hundreds of years

Finally, one of our more interesting visits was that paid to the obscure site of Soutra Aisle. Marked by only a small heap of rocks in the middle of the Borderland countryside (on what was a Roman road in ancient times), it was once one of the most important hospitals in medieval Scotland, the House of the Holy Trinity of Soutra founded c.1150. Recent archaeological investigation has unearthed ditches full of blood and body parts, anthrax spores, body parasites and evidence of opium, hemlock and medicinal plants from North Africa, telling us a lot about the life of the medieval hospital that once stood there and the Augustinian Canons who ran it. Fascinating…in my opinion.

Upon the dark hill of Soutra Aisle stands what was once one of the most prominent hospitals of the Medieval Ages. Run by the “Master & Brethren” of the Augustinian Order, this “once powerful” place of care for pilgrims and wayfarers left behind coagulated blood, preserved parasites, and other bodily remains that give us a clue into medicine in one of the mankind’s darkest ages

With that said I bid thee fare well! I think the University of Edinburgh will be happy to see my week was “innovative” after all, wouldn’t you agree?

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Efter tha’ Moorns Nicht and Afair Sunsit: Day Trips across Scotland

Time April 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Scotland is perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever stepped foot in. Nothing compares to the quaint fishing villages along its eastern coast, ancient religious sites of the south, the painted forests of the west, and the impending glens and mountains of the Highlands to the north. Around every corner of its hills and lakes stand ruins of once strong fortresses, holy sites that drew thousands of pilgrims, and isolated castles in vertigo from the eroded cliff faces that threaten their foundations from falling into the sea. The country’s history is embedded in the soil and woven into the landscape.

At every opportunity I have clambered onto a train or coach and taken off to explore all that Scotland has to offer. While it takes me nearly 22 hours to drive from my home in Ohio to Rice University in Houston, I can drive across Scotland in merely 3.5 hours, making day trips quite feasible and rewarding. Of course I don’t have a car, but I purchased a youth Railcard which grants me travel by train for very cheap and I have found that I quite enjoy travel by railway.

My first destination: St. Andrews, Scotland’s oldest university and town. Visitors are usually drawn here by the world-famous Royal and Ancient Golf Club. However, what called to me was the role of St. Andrews in the history of religion; after all I have no idea what ancient golf would even look like and have no inclination to find out. Its location on a wide bay on the northeastern coast of Fife make it absolutely stunning and an automatic hit for beach-lovers and those who can afford the luxuries of a wealthy and prestigious academic town. If anything I would say St. Andrews is confident, poised and well-groomed…if a little snooty.

St. Andrews from the West Sands beach

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The photograph St. Andrews is known by, showing the Royal and Ancient Golf Club

A piece of St. Andrews oldest golf course

A part of St. Andrews University campus

What I find truly worth the exploration is not the dominance of gown over town but the way in which St. Andrews was founded. They say the custodian of St. Andrew’s bones, St. Rule or Regulus, had a vision in which an angel ordered him to carry five of the saint’s bones from Patras, Greece, to the western edge of the world. Here he was to build a city in his honor. Unfortunately, he was shipwrecked on the rocks close to the present-day harbor. Struggling ashore with his precious cargo, he proceeded to build a shrine to the saint. Today stands the ruins of what once was one of Scotland’s grandest cathedrals. At the time, St. Andrew became Scotland’s saint and the town its ecclesiastical capital.

The ancient cathedral of St. Andrews, where St. Rule landed and built a shrine

A shot through the cathedral window

However grand it may sound, St. Andrews is quite small. Containing three main streets it really was not too difficult to see in a day. My friends studying at the University of Edinburgh with me were saying how they didn’t know what students there did and that they themselves would get bored quite quickly. Nonetheless, I think the long stretches of sand on either side of the town and the quiet atmosphere of the living there would be enough to keep me quite content. I cannot say St. Andrews beats Sir Walter Scott’s “own Romantic town” of Edinburgh, but perhaps today (though I certainly do not believe it so) William and Kate’s romantic city take precedence over Scott’s.

The ruins of St. Andrews castle

East Sands beach

Wind-swept grasses covering the dunes

The West Sands, where a scene from Chariots of Fire was filmed

It seems I got carried away again. I will continue with my day adventures in the next entry. Oban, Stirling, Melrose, Roslin, Turnberry, and Aberdeenshire…you will have to wait to receive your due. Until then, or as the folk of the northwest would say farewell: “Beannachd leat.”

 

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Changing Landscapes: The Remainder of My Stay in England’s Lake District

Time April 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

These last two days in Shap have been magical. With my stomach filled from a hearty English breakfast, I slipped on a pair of colorful “Wellies” Judith had lying around, which according to Wikipedia were named after the Duke of Wellington:

The Wellington boot, also known as rubber-boots, wellies, wellingtons, topboots, billy-boots, gumboots, gummies, barnboots, wellieboots, muckboots, sheepboots, poopkickers, or rainboots are a type of boot based upon leather Hessian boots. They were worn and popularised by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. This novel “Wellington” boot became a staple of hunting and outdoor wear for the British aristocracy in the early 19th century.

My adorable

My adorable “wellies”…ahem, I mean fashionable Wellington boots

Oooo la la – I most definitely felt like nobility with my pink flower and butterfly Wellies on. Although, by the time I got back they were more of a brownish color I’d say. After grooming Judith’s national prize-winning pony, I took a walk over the hills to feed the sheep. At the highest point the view was stunning: the morning mist lifted to reveal ice-capped hilltops in the distance; their powdered faces contrasted against the deep green of the endless sea of grass on which the sheep grazed. Jaunty happily trotted alongside me and would occasionally dash out through the brush in the pure enjoyment one only gets from the brisk air of winter months. I closed my eyes – I had not found this kind of peace for a long time.

The view  from a hill on Judith’s land: the breathtaking Cumbria landscape

Jaunty waiting for me to catch up; he joined me for my walk

Judith’s sheep

Upon my return, I was greeted with the smell of fresh bread, still warm from the oven, and a variety of meats, cheeses, and homemade jams. Lunch. I made myself a quick plate, poured some tea, and made my way to the fire to join the others. I took time after to explore the house a bit. My favorite room, and not surprisingly, was the office. More of a library, the walls were lined with shelves upon shelves of old books. I picked one out: a guide to the lake region of England written in the 1800s filled with beautiful engravings of the lakes. The pages were yellowed and their outer edges bound in gold. As I leafed through the weathered pages a smell of leather and old parchment made its way to my nose, nearly taking me back to the time in which the book would have first been published. So much history was present in this place my imagination could not work fast enough.

One of many rows of books in Judith’s writing room and library. I was in heaven. 

As I read through Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalot,” Joanna called us out for a hike. Two of the girls stayed behind while Hannah and I went out with her to explore a piece of the countryside on foot. After driving through country roads lined in hand-built stone walls for about half an hour we arrived at a place where waterfalls fell through forests and streams cut through the hills. We trekked across miles of trails as the farmers had done before us on horseback.

One of the roads we drove along to our hiking site

One of the very first views that met our eyes at the beginning of the trail

The mist settling among the path before us

Pieces of Scottish poetry were carved into various stones and boulders throughout the trail

After a hearty meal of Yorkshire pudding (made by our lovely selves), turkey, stuffing, broccoli, and a blackberry cobbler with cream for dessert, Judith asked if I would perhaps be a model and don a few of the old vintage dresses she had collected from the Victorian Era and beyond – she needed photos of the dresses on to show a few clients. No way was I turning that opportunity down. She gave me some heels and I proceeded to try on a number of beautiful gowns and dresses including a sidesaddle riding dress from the 1800s, a 1920s Great Gatsby silver gown that fell beautifully and sparkled softly in the light, and a colorful and radically patterned 1970s skirt coupled with a white blouse. With the night ending like that I wondered what our short time left here tomorrow would bring.

*     *     *

After picking up the bottle of milk that was left by the dairy delivery man at the gate, we promptly headed off to see a number of the lakes the region is so famous for. As we drove we discovered that Judith began her career as an agent of Sotheby’s (London), the world’s fourth oldest auction house founded in 1674. To show you just how famous this auction house is here are a few items they have sold in the past and their respective selling prices: Norman Rockwell’s painting of Rosie the Riveter ($5 million), Pierre-August Renoir’s Au Moulin de la Galette ($78.1 million), Property from the Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis ($34.5 million), Pablo Picasso’s Garçon à la Pipe ($104.2 million). She went on to work as a diamond expert for De Beers, the job she currently holds. Pretty cool, huh?

“Fresh milk is delivered every day except on Sundays,” Judith told us

The gals and Judith: a final photo before we left the house that day

Crossrigg Hall. Judith’s first job for Sotheby’s was to auction off all the objects in this historic estate

We arrived at the lake of Ullswater, the second largest lake in the district. Nine miles long, it took us quite a bit of time to drive its length, although the view the whole way round was quite worth it. The lake itself forms the boundary between the ancient counties of Cumberland and Westmorland. A chain of snow-topped mountains rise up from the ground behind the lake’s southern face, making their impressive figures known. Among them, ascending to 3,117 feet, is Helvellyn, England’s 3rd largest peak. It was truly a beautiful sight to behold. I could not help but feel a pang of sadness as the reflections of the mountains on the still lake waters disappeared behind me on our way to the bus station. After all, who would ever want to leave a place such as this?

Ullswater 

The imposing peak of Helvellyn

My last glimpse of Ullswater as we drove away

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A Home away from Home

Time March 13th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have arrived in Shap! The quaint town of Shap sits in the northwestern corner of England in the county of Cumbria, an area of the country celebrated for its beautiful lakes and vast green countryside. Lucky for me, I am here to stay for the weekend! After what seemed like the shortest two hour drive (I suppose since we slept most of the way), we crossed the border and were welcomed just as kindly by our English hostess, Judith, as we were by the people of Scotland in early January. She has been hospitable enough to open up her home to myself and three other girls on the IFSA Butler program for the next couple of days.
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A piece of the stunning Cumbria countryside and its painted sky

We have truly been blessed because Judith has no ordinary home. She lives in large estate built in the 17th century that is more unique and wonderful than words can describe. The outside is built of entirely stone and right beside it are some lovely stables where Judith keeps her prized, albeit retired, show pony. Beyond the house, hills roll into the horizon and provide pasture for the family’s flock of sheep. Aside from the pony and over three-dozen head of sheep, Judith also has a few hens, two cats, Jack and Johnny (although both are female), and the most enthusiastic black spaniel, Jaunty, who likes to run off with your shoes in his mouth.
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The back part of Judith’s lovely 17th century home

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Tucked away in a corner of the back court was a bench covered in moss and framed by two vases and leafless, weeping vines. In my eyes, this stands as a representation to the rustic feel of the estate.

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Judith’s prize pony peering out of his stall in the morning. Having won many a competition in his life he is now happily retired

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The view of the estates pastures from the barnyard

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Jaunty

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Upon my arrival to the pasture nearest the house, I was greeted most readily by the sheep, who poked their heads through the mossy gates to say “hello”

Breathtaking, rustic, quaint, cozy: this place is truly indescribable. An amazing farm could not be run by any ordinary woman. I would barely be doing justice to Judith in saying that she is extraordinary. With her husband having died seven years ago, she runs the farm nearly single-handedly. Joanna, a previous architecture student and recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh, keeps her company and works in the nearby town of Penrith. She is quite an amazing cook and made for us the most delicious meal upon our arrival: curry, cucumber sauce, garlic naan, lentils, and cauliflower. For dessert, we indulged in Judith’s homemade ice cream dripping in sweet toffee syrup.

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Judith, a potrait

Judith has two children in their mid-twenties, but we will unfortunately not be able to meet them seeing as they live in London. However, I have been given her daughter’s room and from the many pictures of her riding and soaring over jumps, I can already see that we have a lot in common.

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My room for the weekend

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Collage of Judith’s daughter competing in the equestrian world

After soaking in a bath for half an hour (that’s a bath and not a shower – the house has no showerheads), and being officially converted to preferring the act of bathing as opposed to showering, I climbed into what possibly may be the warmest and most comfortable bed I have ever been in, and this is where I am writing you from. With that said, I must be off to sleep – tomorrow we get to see the rest of the farm and officially meet the other animals. Furthermore, Joanna has a special hike planned for us across the countryside as well and a trip up to a number of the many lakes that line this region of the country.

I can say without a doubt that tonight I will fall easily to sleep counting sheep.

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Edinburgh’s Enchantments

Time February 6th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Greetings from Scotland!!

So much has been happening these first few weeks that I have scarcely had chance to write. Wow, where to begin?

Let’s start with the handsome and engaging city of Edinburgh. Perhaps the first thing you notice is its history, tangibly inscribed in the cobblestone streets and visibly written on the browned buildings of Old Town and the Edinburgh Castle that stands atop one of Edinburgh’s seven hills, looking down at the very heart of the city. Athens was also built upon seven hills and for this reason, along with the fact that it was a major well-spring of the Enlightenment, Edinburgh is known as the “Athens of the North.” Furthermore, the setting of the city is striking. Having been built on a series of extinct volcanoes and rocky crags, the wild beauty of Scotland can still be found within the city.  Arthur’s Seat, the largest and most impressive of Edinburgh’s volcanoes rises up over 800 feet from the generally flat landscape of the Lothians. The climb to the top, which I made the first weekend here, provides one of the most picturesque views of the city. Edinburgh’s natural beauty does not end there though. Aside from the numerous green spaces interwoven throughout the city, the shoreline of the Firth of Forth can be seen from one of its most infamous streets, the Royal Mile, which begins at the castle and descends to prospects of the royal Palace of Holyroodhouse, situated in Holyrood Park, an extensive area of open countryside dominated by Arthur’s Seat and woven into the fabric of the city.

Frost-bitten flowers in front of Grant House of Pollock Halls where I live. Plants manage to survive the cold here in Scotland, keeping much of the country’s wild places green year-round. 

Pollock Halls, the complex of student residential buildings where I live. It is situated directly in front of Arthur’s Seat, which can be seen in the background.

On the way to the peak of Arthur’s Seat

A view of the distant hills surrounding Edinburgh upon sunset from the top of Arthur’s Seat

Edinburgh is home to one of the finest higher education institutions in the world. The University of Edinburgh was established in 1583 and it is happily integrated into the city, making Edinburgh not only a vibrant, youthful capital, but also a hub for intellectual thought. Students here take their academics seriously and the few hours of daylight they do receive in the winter months, are spent in the libraries. I am not kidding when I say that you cannot find a seat in any of the five floors of George Square’s gigantic library, where many of the University’s Social Sciences buildings are located. However, a hard day of study merits a night of fun and socializing. Night life here is centered around the city’s distinctive pubs. One of the best places to meet students and the locals (I know from personal experience), you are sure to encounter the lively and friendly nature of the Scottish people at the many historic pubs around the city.

The “pretty sort of wilderness” (as Lady Catherine de Bourgh would say) that George Square is laid out around. This is where I attend most of my classes. 


A huge expanse of green lies upon one side of George Square, called The Meadows. It stretches for over a mile in the heart of the city and is a favorite among runners, nature enthusiasts, or students simply looking for a beautiful place to study.

And so for the past week I have been adjusting to life here in Scotland, where you say “cheers” instead of “thank you”, eat sheep’s innards instead of hamburgers (it was actually delicious!), you’re “bonnie” instead of “beautiful”, you “bag a munro” instead of “climb a hill”, you walk instead of drive, and wear tights instead of jeans.

Concerning the second to last point, I walk nearly seven miles a day just to go from class to class. The science buildings (King’s Buildings) and those of the humanities and social sciences (George’s Square) are a 40-minute walk from each other. Unfortunately, I have classes in both since I am studying Animal Biology, Anthropology, and taking a course on Scotland’s history while here. My legs are still getting used to the fact that I walk nearly 10 miles a day. Consequently, my stomach is getting used to digesting the extra calories…lots of extra calories. It seems I’m hungry all the time! Thank goodness I have catered housing or else I would be spending all my extra time cooking!

A bit of what I see on my way to class at the King’s Buildings, where all the science courses are held. The apartments here display an architectural style common in Edinburgh.

Walking does not burn nearly as many calories as what I did Thursday evening though. In an effort to learn more about the Scottish culture and meet people, I joined the New Scotland Country Dance Society. Three hours of hopping, skipping, spinning, and weaving and I have been sore ever since. I tell you though, that is the most fun I have EVER had dancing. I’ll most definitely be going back next week to learn more Ceilidh and Country dances. The University has over 250 societies and aside from the NSCDS I am also looking to join the Catholic Student Union, the Hillwalking Society, and the Exmoor Pony Trekking Society. If I can find a cello to play or rent I’ll audition for the Chamber Orchestra Society as well. Hopefully renting a cello will fit within my budget!

Speaking about budget, the living here is so much more expensive than back in the States. I feel guilty every time I have to result to going out to eat since you pay a pretty penny unless all you decide to have is a scone or something. And with my newly developed appetite of champions I never even came, or will, come close to calling a pastry a meal (although I did have a scone and latte once for lunch once). The buck doesn’t stop there though – you literally have to pay for everything including plastic shopping bags and laundry. Oftentimes, you even have to pay to go to the restroom! Which by the way, they call “toilets” here.

Grabbed brunch before class. That was one of the best cranberry scones I have ever had. 

Ah yes, Europe. Nothing is as great as paying twenty bucks to go to a movie and 5 dollars to have a drink. Sigh, I suppose I’m just going to have to forgo the many common pleasures of life, like free high efficiency washers and driers (every inch of my room is covered in my wet clothes…I didn’t have any coins left to pay for zeeeee dryer). However, I must admit that the good aspects of living here so easily outnumber the not so good. Edinburgh is one of the most gorgeous cities I have ever seen and the people of Scotland some of the kindest. I would be crazy to not look forward to every moment I spend and every experience I have in this wonderfully beautiful country. And so, with that said, I will post again soon with more photos of Edinburgh and all its enchantments!

Beijos and cheers!

Bells

A glimpse of the reverent Edinburgh Castle


The setting sun casting a warm glow on the castle walls is truly a magnificent prospect


A piece of Princes Street Gardens, a park that envelopes the area beneath the Castle hill in green


Edinburgh is just as beautiful when night falls over the city


The history of Edinburgh is so tangible. You can feel it as you walk its streets.

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It’s All up in the Air

Time January 17th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I spent my last day at home packing and running through a ton of information with my dad, the experienced traveler of the family. The preparation process for going abroad is never-ending it seems; it began about four months ago and has been a continuous stream of papers, checklists, money matters, booking, and packing ever since. I’m sure in the end it’ll be well worth it though. I think it’s taken more of a strain on my parents than on myself. They have done so much for me and I am very grateful.

I have to admit, as I sit here in the Newark International Airport waiting for the next flight, my feelings are bittersweet. I am extremely excited about going, but at the same time I know I will miss my family terribly. I feel like I have this syndrome…I always miss the place and the people I leave behind. When I leave home I miss the U.S. and my family; when I come back home I miss the original destination and the people there. Nostalgia is my common companion in moments when I have time to sit down and reminisce. Saying goodbye to my family is always the most difficult though, despite the happy prospect of a new adventure awaiting.

Unlike the subtle tears that were evident in leaving my family, my day of travel has proven quite jovial thanks to a plethora of interesting sights and the busyness of crowded airports. I fly often but have never run into quite so many bizarre occurrences before. While going through security for the first leg of my journey, I saw a man stick a bright yellow, open bag of potato chips in one of the bins to go through the x-ray machine! I guess he didn’t get to finish them in time. I chuckled as I wondered what the person checking the x-ray screen would think. Furthermore, as I was transferring terminals here in the Newark International Airport, I saw a man on the bus that looked exactly like Miyagi (or however you spell that) from Karate Kid. No joke, he was identical. Some people look so lonely though. You know, it’s funny how in a place always swarming with people, one can feel alone. People come and people go…and if they are not buzzing back and forth then they are on their smart phones, computers, or iPads, talking to someone somewhere else. Every time I am in an airport it reminds me what a truly globalized society we live in today.

I have spent the last four hours (out of six in my lay-over) just people-watching. I like to just look at all the expressions and mannerisms…each face carries a story and it leaves me wondering what each one is. What is their destination? What are they traveling towards? What are they leaving behind? I’ll never really know…I suppose it’s the same when it comes to a lot of things in life. There is always uncertainty that seems to loom before us. Many would consider it a daunting prospect, however I think the uncertainties of life are what make it beautiful. I have no clue what will happen in Scotland or what I am going to do exactly and I prefer to keep it that way. After all, I chose to study abroad a week before the decision had to be made – I was inspired I guess you could say. I know once I arrive, the wonders of the land and the culture of the people will inspire me to even greater action. So I will not write the next five months of my life in black and white, but instead act on my love for adventure, my tendency towards spontaneity, and the subtle signs sent to my by God. In leaving my book empty I hope to be able to fill it with the best the sights and experiences that await me across the Atlantic can offer.

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Leaving on a Jet Plane…..

Time January 17th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I can’t believe the time has finally come! It was only two months ago that I had signed the final paper to make my semester abroad official. And now in less than 24 hours I will be in Scotland. I suppose before I dive into my sentiments I should introduce myself.

My name is Isabella Adamiak and I am in my third year at Rice University studying Anthropology and Biology. I may have ended up in Houston, TX for school, however my journey did not begin there – in fact, it did not begin in the United States at all. I was born in Blumenau, a small town in southern Brazil. I have wonderful memories of the nine years I spent there: the smell of my grandmother and aunt’s cooking, taking afternoon naps in the “rede” (hammock), walking to the beach in my blue- and white-striped, hooded beach towel dress, catching “tatuiras” for my dad to use as bait, and feeling the water on my feet as I stood and watched him wade out into the ocean and cast his line towards the horizon. It made for the happiest of childhoods.

Here are some photos from Brazil:

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The U.S. was my mom’s home and halfway into my second grade year our family moved to Austin. After a bit of a nomadic escapade throughout the States we ended up in Perrysburg, a historic location in Ohio and one of the quaintest towns in the Midwest. Moving to the United States has brought me great opportunity and I am lucky to be currently studying at Rice, and even luckier to enrich both my academic growth and my hunger for travel by spending the next five months in Scotland. Though I have lived in the U.S. for the past 12 years, I leave it with the Brazilian mindset that I have carried with me my entire life: optimism, openness, and the desire to celebrate beauty and life at every moment.

Most of my life I have been eager to not only see different parts of the world but also to live in them long enough to be able to learn and appreciate the culture that flourishes in these places. I believe life is too short and the world too big to stay in one place. There is so much to be learned from other people and from the experience that is traveling and living abroad – we are not solely citizens of the country we come from, but global citizens as well. What better way to live up to that than to travel.

And so I set out to do just that. I begin this journey not as a tourist but as a scholar and as an open-minded individual. I hope that through this blog and through the lens of my camera, something I always carry with me, I will be able to translate to you the fullness of my experiences.  After all, a good story should always be shared.

“Develop interests in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music-the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”

                    ~ Henry Miller

P.S. Or maybe it would be more appropriate for me to leave you with the words of  John Denver:

All my bags are packed I’m ready to go
I’m standin’ here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin’ it’s early morn

…I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again

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