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What I Learned During Innovative Learning Week

One of the many things that makes the University of Edinburgh so great and unique is that during week six of the second semester, lectures and seminars are suspended in favor of innovative learning. The university hosts a myriad of events, ranging from workshops to create a magazine in 24 hours to discussions about the science of the paranormal. Unfortunately, my innovative learning week did not include any of the events sponsored by the university. However, I do feel like I learned a few things on my week off.

 

  1. Avoid London rush hour on the tube at all costs.

I kicked off the week by heading to London to visit my friend Tatiana. Despite the fact that London really isn’t that far from Edinburgh (it’s just a 4-5 hour train ride), it was my first time to the city. Tickets can be expensive, but the 16-25 Student Rail Card gives you a 1/3 discount and cuts costs considerably. It’s definitely worth the £30 investment. My train left Edinburgh on Friday afternoon and pulled into King’s Cross around 5:30 PM, just as people were leaving work and rushing home. As someone who was tired and slightly overwhelmed, it was a great exercise in controlling anxiety. I navigated the tube (which, by the way, is my new favorite subway system – it’s relatively clean and organized, and quite easy to navigate, even as someone without a ton of experience riding public transport) and found my way to Tatiana’s flat.

 

  1. It can be really nice to explore a new city on your own.

Saturday I had the opportunity to wander around London on my own. I began by hopping on the tube from West London, where I was staying, into the city center, getting off at Westminster. From there I pretty much wandered aimlessly. I didn’t have a map, so I kind of had to follow my instinct when there were no publically displayed maps. This method actually worked pretty well, and I managed to take in the majority of the touristy places in eight hours. I moved from Westminster to Trafalgar Square, stopped in the National Gallery, and walked a loop around the Thames to see Big Ben, the London Eye, the Globe Theater, the Tate Modern, and the gorgeous views from the various bridges. There were times where I got lost, but because I was operating on my own time, it wasn’t really stressful, and because of the few accidental detours I took, I was able to do things like stumble upon a used book sale or see areas of the city that I otherwise would’ve missed.

 

  1. But it can be equally great to see the city with a friend, especially one who lives there.

On Sunday, Tatiana took me around London. We began by taking the tube to Paddington and walking through Little Venice, an absolutely stunning canal full of houseboats. Then we made our way to Primrose Hill for a photo-op and to take in the gorgeous London landscape. Afterwards, we went to Camden Market and eventually ended up back in the center, where we walked to Buckingham Palace and wandered along the banks of the Thames. One of the reasons I liked London so much is because it’s such an eclectic city. Every area feels distinct, but they all somehow connect and fit together to form one phenomenal metropolis. It’s a big city – certainly much bigger than Edinburgh – but it wasn’t overwhelming. Though I did and saw a lot during my short time there, I definitely didn’t do the city justice and fortunately I get to return in April with my family when they come visit.

 

  1. Sometimes plans are made to be broken.

Though I didn’t end up participating in any official Innovative Learning Week events, my friends and I had every intention of doing so and had reserved places to do the Race Against Time, an event where you race around the city to complete tasks and “see the city in a new light for inexhaustible wellbeing.” In the end, we abandoned those plans and had a better day than I could’ve imagined. We began our afternoon by going to Piemakers for lunch, where I had a macaroni and cheese pie. So good – I highly recommend it if you’re ever in Edinburgh. From there we went on our own walk around the city, venturing into closes and putting our knowledge of Edinburgh’s winding and overlapping streets to the test. It’s really cool to feel yourself gradually getting to know a place. At this point, Edinburgh truly is my second home and I vaguely feel like I belong here.

 

  1. Never underestimate the power of the hairy coo.

Morgan, Karen, and I spent Thursday innovatively learning about the Highlands. The Hairy Coo is a touring company that provides free (pay what you are able to and according to your perception of the value of the day) bus tours of the Highlands. Don, our tour guide, was funny, knowledgeable, and very Scottish. Highlights of the tour included a stops at Stirling Castle and Doune Castle (immortalized by Monty Python and the Holy Grail), a walk around Loch Katrine, and, most importantly, seeing hairy coos, or Highland cows. They are, without contest, the cutest animal I’ve seen in Scotland and, with the exception of my own dogs, possibly ever. However, as Don warned, they are very territorial and it’s not advised to get too close, as their big horns can cause damage to your person.

 

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