Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Getting Oriented

Now that I have been in Scotland for a week, I can honestly say that it is exactly as I expected: everyone is dressed in kilts eating haggis and drinking whiskey, the sound of bagpipes constantly fills the air and rain falls continuously across the green landscape.  Ok, so maybe I am exaggerating a little bit… it has only rained one day.  But in all seriousness, Scotland is exactly as I remember it from my trip here with my family about five years ago: partly cloudy and cool, green with breathtaking mountain landscapes, sprawling cities with a distinct quaint and aged quality inhabited by the friendliest people you could meet.

After one last very American meal of hot wings at the airport, Will and I boarded the plane and left without a hitch.  On the plane we met a few of our Butler counterparts and speculated as to which other college-aged solitary travelers would be joining our group in Edinburgh.  Luckily it didn’t take until we reached Scotland for us to find everyone else because navigating Heathrow airport on your own can be quite the task… When we landed in Edinburgh we were met by Deirdra, one of our Butler leaders who would be aclimating us to the Scottish culture, academic system and lifestyle that we would be leading for the next four months.

We then pilled ourselves and all of our luggage into taxis and set off to our hotel, with just enough time for me to make an American fool of myself by hopping into the drivers seat of the taxi.  We made it to the APEX International Hotel on Grassmarket street, settled into our rooms and were met with a spectacular view of the famous Edinburgh Castle.

After a quick shower and email to the parents assuring a safe arrival, Will and I met up with a few other Butler students for a quick look around the surrounding area, walking up the Royal Mile to the castle gates and a view of the city.

We made it back to the hotel for dinner and decided that the best way to fight the jet lag and prevent ourselves from falling asleep at seven in the evening was to go out and experience some of the Edinburgh nightlife.  Will and I asked two young Scottish girls on the street where the best places to go were, and luckily enough we seemed to be situated right in the middle of the college nightlife, our hotel being only about a five min walk from the University of Edinburgh campus.  So we picked the Club with the cheapest drinks and headed of to The Hive.

Fellow Butler Study Abroad Students: Mike, Kellin, Krista and Sam
Alexa, Will and Johnathan

We had a great night getting to know each other all a little better and even met a few local Scots.   We awoke in the morning and headed of to orientation.

The next three days followed roughly the same pattern, waking up at 8:30, eating breakfast, going to orientation, taking a nap, exploring Edinburgh and then going out at night.  It was a whirlwind of a first few days but I learned loads of very important information that I would be using in the coming months.  We learned about Scottish history and culture, how to stay safe and healthy, how to travel cheaply, and most importantly how to succeed in the very different UK Universities, or as the locals call them “Unies”.

Unlike in the States, colleges or universities here focus much more on the individual and self education.  Professors lecture just as they would in the US, but rather than assigning particular readings or assignments, they instead provide students with a reading list from which they pick and choose what to read and how much they want to research into the topic.  Assessment is based only on a few items, 1 or 2 essays and a final exam or essay, so there is a lot of pressure on the student to be self-motivated and do the work and research they are supposed to be doing, because the information they gather from the professor is not sufficient enough for them to pass the course.  Needless to say, we were all a little nervous hearing this because generally we are used to very structured classes with very distinct and discrete goals and assignments rather than broad topic goals.  But, I am confident that if I stay focused and put in the time I know that I should, I will be just as successful here as I am at home.

Now that I have bored you with a synopsis of the UK education system, here are a few pictures from my adventures in Edinburgh during orientation.

George V Bridge
The Elephant House Cafe where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
City Park with Arthur’s Seat in the distance
The Royal Mile
Edinburgh Castle
Me in front of Edinburgh Castle
Me giving Irn Bru, the Scottish soft drink of choice, a try.  It tasted like a combination of cotton candy and bubble gum. Not my favorite but the Scots sure do, with sales topping Coca-cola.
Mike, Alex, Alexa, Will, Erika and Kush
Will, Alexa, and Mike chatting with some of our new Scottish friends at Cabaret Voltaire, one of the most popular clubs in Edinburgh.
Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in Edinburgh.
View of Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat
Edinburgh
Me at the summit of Arthur’s Seat
Lake and ruins of an old chapel at the base of Arthur’s Seat
Controversial Scottish Parliament building built by a Spainiard who died during it’s construction.  Budgeted for 4.3 million, it ended up costing 430 million dollars.  Scotland regained some sovereignty in 1999 and now has it’s own parliament.  However, their power is limited and they must still answer to English Parliament in Westminster.  Some of the Butler students we met at orientation are actually participating in a work internship with Scottish MPs (Members of Parliament, equivalent to our state Congressman) and will be taking classes at the University of Edinburgh.

After a quick few days in Edinburgh, we were off to Cumberland, England, more commonly known as the Lake District, for our weekend homestays.

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