Surviving the First Week
I have been living in my dorm in Edinburgh for a week now, although it doesn’t feel that it has been quite that long. I suppose I should go into the story of how I arrived here. For those of you who were wondering, I decided to fly here by plane. It seemed the most common thing to do. I actually arrived by 3 planes, one that went from Nashville to Detroit, one that left Detroit 18 hours later and eventually landed in Amsterdam, and finally one that went from Amsterdam to Edinburgh. This was the cheapest flight plan I could find, even if you include the hotel cost in Detroit. The first plane I rode on was the smallest plane I had ever ridden. I was confused when they started boarding us on to the plane, for it didn’t appear that the plane had arrived yet. Then I looked down and thought, “Oh, how cute!” for it was indeed small and resembled a pencil with wings. I sat next to someone on this flight who had a similar layover in Detroit, on his way “home” to China. I was very suspicious of this, as he had a strong Alabama accent. It later turned out that he works in China as an English teacher who cannot speak any Chinese. This was so intriguing that I did not bother to talk to anyone on my subsequent flights for fear they might ruin my experience with a mundane story. That flight was followed by a flight on the largest plane I had ever been on, and I was very excited to receive two wonderful meals and in-flight movies. I watched Amour for the first time and consequently spent part of my flight crying while sandwiched between two tough guys who were watching action flicks. Someone on one of my flights, probably the big one across the Atlantic, was kind enough to share their flu with me. I will not discover this until halfway through the second paragraph.
For those of you wondering why a castle has suddenly appeared, I am doing this to give you a sense of how it felt when I first looked out my room window at the orientation hotel. This is, in fact, a view from that window. There was a gigantic castle, sitting there and acting as if it were nothing out of the ordinary. I walked up to it and learned that its name is Edinburgh Castle. I returned to the room and must have fallen asleep, for I was awoken by an unknown guy saying we needed to go to the luncheon soon. It turned out that he was my hotel roommate, and that I had accidentally fallen asleep on his bed. That’s a great way to introduce oneself to someone. We learned that we are in the same year at Vanderbilt, prompting him to exclaim, “I have no idea who you are!” That’s a good indication of how much I socialize, and it is a statement that the vast majority of my peers at Vanderbilt would agree with. I’m hoping things will be different in Edinburgh, but I’m not certain. So far, I’ve made several friends, including the above-mentioned fellow Vanderbilt student. There is a catch, though, and it involves my cellular plan. I acquired a new SIM card and a UK number that allow me to receive texts from other people in the UK. Oddly, they do not receive my replies. This has made scheduling things with people rather difficult, as you can see in the following, imaginary conversation:
Person: Hi, Josh. Want to go to a pub?
Person: How about a cafe?
Person: Is that a no?
Person: Are we still friends?
You get the point. Also, I was attacked by the flu during orientation and had to move into my dorm early to get some rest. I won’t go into details about what the flu was like, as I’m sure many of you are well aware of its effects. I finally felt free to walk about this weekend, and I went to visit a museum, the grave of “Tom Riddle” and the outside of the Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books. I was handling the transition very well, treating my stay as more of a vacation. That would change soon.
I didn’t experience too much culture shock until I started my classes on Monday. Everyone in my classes has either a British or a Scottish accent. I don’t know why that surprised me, but it sharply contrasted with the time I had spent exploring Edinburgh with other Americans. First of all, I particularly love hearing these accents and want to ask certain classmates to speak to me constantly, or to read me a book. That would be wonderful. Second of all, I am afraid to ask them to do this because of my own accent. As soon as I open my mouth, I identify myself as American and, in my opinion, pollute the otherwise beautiful conversations going on around me. A few people have asked me where I am from. I was told to give general information, such as “the southeast United States,” although some people have gotten offended that I assume they don’t know the names of the states. Then I tell them I’m from Tennessee, and they say, “Yeah, I have no idea where that is.” I was also made fun of for choosing coffee over tea during a break in my French class, despite the fact that many of my classmates also chose coffee. I assume I will have to try tea at some point. As a final note, I have tried to join several clubs, including a filmmaking one, but have had little success in finding them. One club even booked a room and mysteriously never showed up. I’ll call it the George Kaplin club and give major respect to anyone who understands that reference. The one exception in terms of finding clubs was when I went to the BLOGS meeting, BLOGS being the lgbt+ society at the University of Edinburgh. I have no idea what the acronym stands for, but it seems like a fun group of people. As usual, I was socially awkward at the meeting and did not get to know many people. Maybe things will improve with later meetings. I read somewhere that “gaydars” malfunction in France, due to a lack of the concept of masculinity that we have in the U.S. I haven’t been in Edinburgh long enough to determine if that is true here as well, but I am beginning to suspect it might be. That’s something I would like to address in future blog posts. Until then,
Readers: This was great! We can’t wait for your next post!