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Goodbye EDI

Time May 24th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

And in the blink of an eye, it was over.

5 months ago, I embarked on a journey that changed my life in ways i would never imagine it would.

The independence, the adventure, the endless exploration.  Never in my life did I expect to love a city this much. Read More »

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“If you don’t like the weather in Ireland, wait 5 minutes’

Time May 19th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

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What They Don’t Tell You About the People You’ll Meet Abroad

Time May 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

They say that you’ll make the best friends you’ll have in life during college.  Naturally I assumed that this meant the people I ended up living with or going to class with at Vanderbilt.  It never crossed my mind that there would be a whole separate category of college friends that I would make during my semester abroad.  Having met two girls who I considered my best friends in the world during high school, I was pretty skeptical about being able to find anyone I felt like I could connect with on the same level, but in the last few months I have been proven wrong. Read More »

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Spring Breakers

Time April 25th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

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Family Time

Time March 29th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

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“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” – Nelson Mandela

While this quote generally refers to returning to an unchanged physical location, I think it can also apply to returning to an unchanged situation or relationship.

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Tartan or Argyll?

Time March 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

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Last weekend, the IFSA-Butler advisors led us on a trip to the magical world of the Argyll Forest, located on the western side of Scotland.  While there, we had to opportunity to participate in all kinds of adventure activities including hiking, kayaking, high ropes climbing, gorge scrambling, mountain biking, and more!

Gorge scrambling was unlike anything I’ve ever done before.  It’s a bit difficult to explain, but imagine a babbling creek set at a fairly steep angle, with rushing waterfalls, high sides made up of rock covered in trees and shrubbery, and many fallen trees across the path.  Now, imagine climbing up that, with nothing but your own strength.  The constant fear of slipping and sliding down the gorge was exhilarating, even as we climbed under a small cave and through a hole with water rushing through it.  We scaled rocks, climbed over giant branches, and tight-rope walked across a small pond.  We even made a human dam and when it broke, let the water carry us downstream like a giant freezing cold slide.  Scrambling up the gorge was certainly a scary and adventurous task that I will never forget.

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Quaint and Quiet

Time February 29th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

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We left Edinburgh and drove for two and a half hours through the Scottish countryside to end up in what you might call the ‘middle of nowhere’.   Penrith, with a population of about 15,000 is the largest town in the district of Eden, located in northern England.  To put that into perspective, my home university, which is considered small-medium sized, has about that many enrolled if you count both undergraduate and graduate students.

Life in this town appeared so simple.  The homes were all relatively similar in size, the streets were rather quiet except for a few people walking their dogs here and there.  The main downtown area was no more than a few streets and alleyways filled with coffee shops, convenience stores, toy stores, and small boutiques.  People were friendly; it seemed like all the shop owners knew all the customers, and many were baffled to see two American girls walk into their showroom.

There is something to be said about someone who can appreciate a lifestyle such as this.  Coming from a more hustle-bustle environment, it was difficult for me to appreciate the modesty of the town.  Being able to walk around and feel familiar with most people you see is certainly a good feeling; in this day and age of technology and big cities, we often forget what that is like.  So much of our daily lives is spent among strangers, among people who know nothing about us besides what they can learn from the clothes we are wearing, and we’ve learned to accept that this is normal.   We say thank you and good-bye to shop owners, but often don’t bother to dive into deeper conversation.  We have been trained that a superficial exchange is good enough.  Although a quaint town may appear dull to an outsider’s perspective,  it is obvious that the people establish deep and long-lasting connections with everyone around them, which is something that a lot of us seem to have lost touch with.

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Innovative Learning Week or Impulsive Lap around the World?

Time February 23rd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

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Last week the students at the University of Edinburgh had something called “Innovative Learning Week”.   No class is scheduled this week and students are encouraged to participate in hands-on activities intended help connect the community and bring students and staff together.  Unfortunately for the administration, but fortunately for us, most students have interpreted this week as an opportunity to leave Edinburgh and explore the world.

Nine days with no essentially no obligations is something we may never experience again, thus my friends and I needed to take full advantage and visit many cities as we could into this week.

The adventure began with a train ride from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station to London’s King Cross, famously nicknamed the Harry Potter train as it follows a similar route believed to be taken from London to Hogwarts (but of course we were riding in the opposite direction).   The beauty of the Scottish and English countryside during sunset is unparalleled – it’s no wonder J.K. Rowling chose such a location for her novels.

After passing several days being tourists in London, we embarked on a flight to Copenhagen, Denmark at the crack of dawn.  The air was biting but that didn’t get us down.  Attempting to blend with the locals, we decided to rent bikes and explored the city on two wheels rather that two feet.  We hit all the big sites including Nyhavn, the Little Mermaid statue, Glass Market, Christiania, and of course indulged in some chocolate covered waffles on a stick – apparently a Danish (or tourist) favorite.

Onto our final stop: Madrid, Spain.  After spending the week in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, the 50 degree weather of Spain felt like a heat wave.  We found ourselves sweating and realized that we had forgotten what warm sunlight felt like.  We couldn’t be happier as we sat down to an outdoor lunch of tapas and sangria in Plaza Mayor.  There were far fewer English speakers in Madrid than I expected, putting my Spanish skills to a real test.

While in Spain, I was able to reconnect with Maria, a Spanish exchange student I hosted back in 2011.  Seeing her again after all these years was an incredible feeling and it was so great to see how, even though five years had passed we were over 3,000 miles apart, we were still able to connect and catch up on our lives. It’s amazing how these abroad experiences can bring people all over the world together again.

Sunday marked our return to Edinburgh, and even though we had an unforgettable week, we were so happy to return to a place that we can call home.

 

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Land of Fire

Time February 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

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When I left to study abroad, I had made a sort of mental lists of places I’d want to visit.  This included most of the typical touristy stops like London, Rome, Copenhagen, Paris, you know.

I was fortunate enough to meet an adventurous group of girls with a my same desire to explore the world who suggested that we take a weekend excursion to Iceland.  As visiting this cold nation never once crossed my mind, I was a bit hesitant at first, especially because flights and accommodations there were more expensive than anywhere else I had looked at.

Three days in the land of ice, mountains, waterfalls, geysers, and more natural beauty and I have absolutely no regrets about the time I spent there.  Being a nation of only 330,000 people, so much of the land is untouched  – something we rarely get to see anywhere else in the world.  Iceland was a beautiful trip, and was entirely worth losing feeling in my toes to watch the northern lights dance in the sky.

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More Than Just Haggis

Time February 1st, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

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The first words out of every person’s mouth after I told them I’d be spending the semester in Scotland was “Are you going to eat haggis?”.  I never really knew what to say because sure, I’m up for trying new foods, but also there’s more to this nation than a strange meat concoction.

Sometimes in America we forget to relax and enjoy our food, constantly taking coffee to go and eating a boring granola bar at our desk.  Scotland (and the rest of Europe) understands the importance of taking a little time out of your day to appreciate a flavorful cappuccino with a fun design and a fresh baked chocolate croissant.  I think we can all learn a little from slowing down and appreciating the little things in life.

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Venturing Out

Time January 25th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

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When people study abroad, they like to show off all the magnificent places they visit; but we fell so in love with Edinburgh that we don’t want to leave.  But after a few weeks we finally ventured out of the city borders to St. Andrews (only an hour by train – we didn’t want separation anxiety) where we spent the day wandering; around the castle, through the cathedral, and along the coastline.  We even managed to spend a whole 5 minutes at the number 2 activity on Trip Advisor – the Swilcon Bridge!   Aside from being the home to the invention of golf, I’d say St. Andrews is much less a tourist excursion and much more a beautiful place to settle down one day.

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Shopping and Sunsets

Time January 15th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, England | No Comments by

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Survived an entire week of classes in a foreign country and what better way to celebrate than a shopping spree down Princes Street?  Hovering somewhere between blending with the locals and standing out like tourists, we strut through the beautiful sunset over Edinburgh’s castle

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“In Scotland, there is no such thing as bad weather – only the wrong clothes.”

Time January 11th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

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Day 6 in this beautiful city and still no sign of sun.  We all learned the hard way how true this quote is as we arrived at a pub with dripping coats and saturated shoes.  Maybe it’s time to invest in a real pair of rain boots.

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