There is beauty everywhere you look in Scotland — the stunning hills surrounding Stirling, the architecture of Glasgow, and the historical sights of Edinburgh are all breathtaking during the day, but Scotland truly comes alive at night. These pictures were taken mostly on the first few nights of orientation in Edinburgh. I definitely recommend walking along the Royal Mile at night; it was surprisingly calm and it was nice to be able to explore Edinburgh Castle up close without crowds!
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
November 24th was like any other day in Edinburgh. The grocery stores were not flooded with people picking up forgotten instant stuffing mixes, or that additional can of cranberry sauce, in case one wasn’t enough. Thursday classes were on schedule as normal at the university. No “turkey-trots” were closing the streets in the morning. However, for American students, November 24th meant Thanksgiving (most likely his/her first) away from home. IFSA Butler, my abroad program, threw an American Thanksgiving get-together the Wednesday night before. We had a Ceilidh, with a Scottish band and traditional Celtic dances. I got to reunite with many American students who I had not seen in awhile. However, when I got home, the worst wave of homesickness rushed over me. I come from a huge family of fifty-three (!!!!) cousins and the idea of not seeing a majority of them over this holiday was tough. I missed my parents and of course the many “dad jokes” that surface around Thanksgiving. I called my parents and they comforted me by reminding me that I was lucky enough to have two of my cousins flying in the following day to help me celebrate the holiday.
On Thanksgiving, I met my cousin Madelyn for brunch following her red-eye. We walked around the city a little and then grabbed an “it’s five o’clock somewhere” pint in true Thanksgiving fashion. When Roman, Madelyn’s brother, landed, it was time for me to go to my last seminar of the term. We met back up for dinner and although it was not a turkey with all of the trimmings, it was still an incredible feeling to be with family so far from home. After dinner, I Facetimed into my Aunt Rose’s Thanksgiving party and was promptly circulated around the gathering of roughly thirty of my family members. I even made it into a few pictures through the screen of my cousin’s iPhone. Afterward, Madelyn, Roman, and I celebrated with my American friends in our favorite pub. I am SO happy that they were able to come and spend the week with me. It was a Thanksgiving I will always remember but of course, I am looking forward to next year’s gathering surrounded by my whole family.
At Colgate, I go home for a long weekend during October. This weekend gives me the perfect dose of home, filled with parents, apple cider, and radical foliage. It’s the thing that gets me through to Thanksgiving. Of course, I could not go home this year. So on Halloween, I got a tinge of homesickness thinking about all of the fond memories I have had with my brother and parents over the years. As I look forward to Thanksgiving, I can already feel the oncoming sadness of missing my loud, loving family. This is an indication of how blessed I am to have a family that I love coming home to. Additionally, I am even luckier to have two of my cousins arriving in Edinburgh on Thanksgiving to visit me for a week.
To combat my homesickness, I have been video-chatting many friends and family. I have attached a few snaps I have taken of our conversations.
I’ve come to discover that the education systems in the States and the United Kingdom are quite different. Students across Europe begin dropping subjects and specializing as early as fifteen years old. In the States, we usually have until sophomore year of college (twenty years old) to declare a major, that doesn’t necessarily dictate which career field we will be entering. As an individual who isn’t certain about what I want to do for the rest of my life, I am grateful that I have been exposed to all areas of study. I love the liberal arts curriculum at Colgate and it has challenged me to view the world through different lenses. People are often confused when I say that I am studying Psychology at home and Politics and Social Policy in Edinburgh. It has been great being able to use my semester abroad to dabble in other subjects that I am interested in.
In the UK, courses are structured to foster independent learning more so than in the States. In each of my three courses, I am evaluated with a midterm paper worth 40% of my grade and a final exam worth 60%. There is a required reading list and a recommended reading list through which each student is urged to read what he or she finds interesting. At Colgate, the small classes enable each professor to assess each student’s progress more closely through several assignments, participation, and exams. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages but it has beneficial for me to experience both systems.
Additionally, I LOVE all of the cafes around me to do school work in. I am a regular at the “Aroma Coffee Bar” around the corner from my flat. I even receive a discount for loyal customers. The employees here are too kind and I even just received a mocha “on the house” while writing this blog post. They even add special messages to my drinks like “Smile” or “Enjoy.” It is small acts of kindness like this that make my day.
Stay tuned for my next post about my weekend trip through the highlands and my homestay!
Growing up in Upstate New York, I was raised in a tight-knit community where I made many close friends and truly felt at home. I found leaving for college to be challenging, since I was so comfortable in my hometown. Although Colgate University is a mere two hours away, I grew to be independent apart from my parents and home friends. This summer, I spent the summer in Boston, working at a non-profit. During this internship, I learned that I am capable of acclimating to a city and living even farther from home.
As I prepare to depart for the University of Edinburgh, I am both nervous and excited for the semester ahead. I am confident that I will embrace the city of Edinburgh with its rich culture and history. I look forward to the self growth and knowledge that these kind of experiences bring. However, I am anxious about packing! My flight is in five days so I guess it is time to start…
A few weeks ago, the University of Edinburgh had its half term break, so I didn’t have any classes. Technically, it was Innovative Learning Week, and we’re meant to stay around and participate in the events going on, but in practice a lot of students use this time to go home or travel. My friend Katie and I decided to spend a few days traveling to London. During orientation, we learned that the train is probably the best way to get from Edinburgh to London. You can even get a young person’s railcard, which will save you a third on all train fares!
I finished packing just in time and took the bus to Edinburgh Waverley, which is the station in the middle of the city, between New Town and Old Town. From there, we boarded our train to Kings Cross in London. The train ride is about four and a half hours long, which is obviously longer than a plane flight would take, but it takes you from the center of Edinburgh to the center of London so it’s a little easier than flying. Plus, you don’t have to deal with security and getting to flight early and everything. We left Edinburgh at 4:30 and arrived in London at 9:00. From there, we caught the tube to our hostel and then checked in.
One of the reasons I’m glad to be studying away with IFSA-Butler is the trips they sponsor. Last month, me and many of the other students studying with them in Scotland took a trip to Argyll Forest Park, a few hours west of Edinburgh. We stayed at the Benmore Centre for Outdoor Learning, which is at a beautiful old manor amidst botanic gardens.
The first morning, we split into our activity groups. I should start by mentioning that most of the groups at the Benmore Centre are schoolchildren, so everything we did was pretty tame but tons of fun. I spent the morning caving with a group of seven others. We started by getting suited up with waterproofs, helmets, headlamps, and harnesses. Then, we drove to the trail in a minibus and hiked up to the caves. We entered the first cave by sliding through a small opening, then rappelling down a ways. From there, it was a pretty straight shot over a lot of rocks to the end, where there was a ladder so that we could easily get out.
Hello! Welcome back to my video blog! A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do the lighting design for the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear. As the lighting designer, I started by familiarizing myself with the show and meeting with the director. After finding out what the director wanted, I created a light plot, which shows where the lights go. This was basically my first time creating one from scratch, but I think it went reasonably well.
If you haven’t been bored to death with lighting jargon yet, let me tell you about the rest of the process next! I attended a number of rehearsals for the show. I took notes about where the actors were on stage and how I wanted them to look.
The weekend before the show, we loaded everything into the theatre. That Sunday, we did our cue-to-cue, where I created and recorded all of the cues for the show on the lighting desk. The main direction that I was given was that it should be sort of dark and cool throughout the show, but that still gave me a lot of options. I was reasonably happy with how it ended up, but I don’t think most people would notice the same things that I did!
Recently, IFSA-Butler organized a short Scottish food tour. It’s impossible for me to turn down free food, so of course I went! Our first stop was a Scottish food store called Cranachan & Crowdie. It’s named after a Scottish dessert, chranachan, and a Scottish cheese, crowdie. Every item that they sell is made in Scotland, or designed in Scotland and made in England, so it’s very authentic. While we were there, we tried a selection of mustards, chutneys, and salami on oatcakes. As we left, we also got to try some ginger shortbread, which was excellent.
Next, we headed up the Royal Mile to a pub called The Royal McGregor. Our meal there was haggis fritters topped in a sweet chili sauce. Haggis is a traditional Scottish food made of sheep organs, oatmeal, and spices. This was not my first time trying haggis, so I knew what to expect. The fritters, although not very traditional, were very tasty and I’d definitely go back and have them again.
Before I share the tale of my fun-filled Scottish adventure, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that I have been in Ireland for just about one month now!! Where did the time go?! We already have our first IFSA-Butler weekend starting tomorrow, and the other trips are right around the corner. Time most definitely flies when you’re having fun, avoiding homework, constantly socializing, and getting very little sleep.
Two Saturdays ago, I went to St. George’s Market with Cassie and Natasha, two of the other IFSA group members. It’s probably a good thing that we went close to closing time because we could have easily spent hours there, spending all of our money on food. The market is like a cross between a farmer’s market and a craft show, which are two of my favorite things. (Mom, you’d love it too!) The hall is packed with vendors ranging from fish sellers, to clothing booths, to lollipop makers. I was so excited to come across a booth that just sold vegetarian food!
TANGENT: When we first arrived in Belfast, I was a little nervous that my meat-free options would be limited, but so far, every restaurant and café has been super accommodating. Maggie Mays even has a vegetarian menu that I plan to work my way through! Tesco also labels everything if it’s “suitable for vegetarians” which is really helpful and makes grocery shopping a lot easier.
As I was saying… after circling the stalls at least two and a half times, we finally decided to divide and conquer, conquer our lunch that is. I ordered the macaroni and cheese from the vegetarian booth and it was the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had. My mouth is actually drooling thinking about it right now. It was cheesy, but not too cheesy, the noodles were just the right texture, and there were even vegetables mixed in. Oh, and it came with a side of buttered bread. To top it all off, I bought a hunk of chocolate-orange fudge that was supposed to last me a few days. I finished it in a few hours.
Ok, I just used 182 words to describe the food I ate last Saturday…. There is a connection between the macaroni and cheese and Scotland, I promise!
While we were devouring our delicious food and listening to the live music in the center of the market, Cassie looked up from her plate and asked Natasha and I, “do you want to go to Scotland next weekend?”
Ummm… Yes!!! Within a matter of seconds, Natasha, Cassie, and I decided to plan our first solo trip to another country. By the end of the day we added Jenny and Brooke to our travel group, and by Tuesday, we booked our ferry and bus tickets, as well as our hostel. Four days later, we arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland and embarked on a whirlwind 48-hour adventure.
I’ve been using the word adventure a lot in my posts, but I honestly can’t think of another way to describe this whole study abroad experience. When I updated my Facebook profile picture earlier today, I captioned it with a quote from Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
Everything about studying abroad is new and exciting, and for me, that is the ultimate adventure. It was so obvious that we were tourists in Scotland because we were simply in awe of our new surroundings, and we practically shouted it from the rooftops. Every little thing was new and exciting, from the food we ate, to the crispness of the air.
I’ve been on a ferry before, but this ferry wasn’t like the one on the Long Island Sound, this ferry crossed a border between two countries! This ferry was like a mini cruise ship, complete with a restaurant, shop, and even cabins with beds!
I have never stayed in a hostel before, and I have definitely stayed in more comfortable accommodations, but it was still exciting to spend the night in a room filled with 3 bunkbeds, 1 of which housed a stranger. The thrill of the independence that came along with checking into a hostel without my parents, or booking the ferry tickets on my own was enough of an adventure for me! BUT, the adventures didn’t end there!
Helen Keller’s quote can pretty much summarize our trip. There was not a moment when we did “nothing.” Sleeping doesn’t even count because we barely did any of that.
The hostel offered free walking tours, so bright and early Saturday morning we began Expedition Edinburgh. (It should be noted that the forecast wasn’t consulted prior to booking the trip, so some of us were not as prepared for the snow as we could have been. Ahem… me… i.e., I left my trusty Bean Boots in Belfast)
Our tour was led by a wonderful Scotsman named Greg, who reminded me a lot of Merida’s father in Disney’s Brave. Even though his stories and accent were captivating, the five of us made the educated decision to leave the tour halfway through and seek shelter in a pub. We watched the snow fall while cradling warm cups of coffee and hot chocolate and learning what authentic haggis is, and then watching Cassie enjoy said haggis.
After our lunch, we continued to explore the Royal Mile and made our way to the castle. Boy was that a sight to see. The castle resides on top of an extinct volcano and looms over the rest of the city. Within the castle walls are multiple museums that share the history of the prisoners, soldiers, and royalty who spent time on the grounds. At night, we went on a ghost tour of the underground vaults in Old Town. Not naming names or anything, but a few of us were a little freaked out… Afterwards, we ended up at a club and proceeded to dance the night away!
We returned to the hostel in the wee hours of the morning and only got a few hours asleep before our final adventure, hiking Arthur’s Seat. Even though I go to school in Vermont, I can count the number of hikes I’ve been on with one hand. On any other vacation, I probably wouldn’t go on a hike, but when you’re abroad, nothing is off limits. Sunday was the perfect day; the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the air was fresh. The whole walk up to the summit was spent admiring the breathtaking views of the city below us and the surrounding water. Mountains in the distance were dusted with snow, and the hills below were as green as can be. The pictures barely do the view justice, but you can take my word for it. It was gorgeous up there!
Every time I needed to take a break and catch my breath for a second on the walk up, I called it a “picture break,” and took out my phone to take some pictures of the view. While looking through my phone, I realized that I never actually took any photos on the way up the mountain. When I stopped walking, I simply turned around and took a moment to take it all in. I want to do that frequently while abroad, just pause, take a deep breath, and look around at my surroundings. By June, I’ll probably have a suitcases full of souvenirs, and a Facebook album of photos, but what I’ll treasure most are these moments, the ones where I stop for a moment and remember why I’m here, what I’m doing, and how much fun I’m having (which is a lot by the way).
Last week, I worked on a production of The Pillowman put on by the Edinburgh University Theatre Company. The Pillowman, written by Martin McDonagh, first premiered in 2003 and won the Olivier Award for Best Play in 2004. The EUTC last produced it in 2009. It is an extremely dark comedy set in a totalitarian police state. The main character, Katurian, is a short story writer who mostly writes stories about children dying in horrible ways. In the play, he is brought into to be interrogated by detectives who are investigating murders that are based on his stories.
Bedlam Theatre is the home of the EUTC and the location of most of their productions. The first thing that you notice about the theater is the beautiful architecture — it’s a converted neo-gothic church built in 1849. The second thing you notice is how cold it is inside. The building isn’t heated and it’s usually colder inside of it than outside. I usually arrive and then put on more clothing, instead of taking off all of my winter outerwear.
I was the sound and video operator for the show, so the first rehearsal I attended was tech rehearsal. We skipped through the script to the various sound, light, and set transition cues. We also rehearsed certain difficult or intricate moments involving the actors, like lighting a fire and shooting a gun. As we moved to these points, we built the cues for those sections. I constructed sound and video cues in a playback program called QLab. The video below is from this rehearsal and it’s interesting to watch the changes in scenery and lighting throughout this rehearsal.
While working on the show, I met many students who attend university here, and I’ve turned out to have unexpected mutual friends with many of them. For example, the sound designer is from the US, and he knows a few people who go to Connecticut College, which is my home school. Another student from Conn studied away here last year and participated in theater. Some of her former cast mates were involved in this production.
In the upcoming weeks, I’ll also be working with the Shakespeare Company on a production of King Lear and then again with the EUTC on a new play later in the semester. I definitely recommend getting involved to other students; I think that many of the connections I make in societies this semester could last for a long time!
I spent the last weekend in January on a homestay in Penrith, a town in the northern English county of Cumbria, along with a number of other people on the IFSA-Butler program. Every IFSA-Butler student here at the University of Edinburgh goes on a homestay, where they stay with a British family in their home over the weekend. While some families will host many students, my hosts had just me and my friend Katie. On Friday afternoon, we boarded a bus that took us on the two and a half hour drive to Penrith. Our host family picked us up from the town center. They lived in a flat about ten minutes outside of the town center. Once we got there, we ate a quick meal and then headed to bed.
After breakfast the next morning, we walked into the town center. Penrith is home to St. Andrew’s Church, parts of which were constructed in the 12th century, while it was completed in the 1700s. The churchyard also contains two monuments from the 10th century, the Giant’s Grave and the Giant’s Thumb. After seeing the church, we walked to the ruins of Penrith Castle. It was built in the 15th century and was granted to the future Richard the Third in 1471. After his death, the castle passed through a number of owners and eventually fell into ruin. We also visited a small museum in the local visitor’s center that had everything from ancient artifacts from the area up through displays about Penrith during the World Wars.
After that, we had a relaxing night. Katie and I completed a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle of Tower Bridge. Later, we went to a nearby pub called Cross Keys for a pint. The next morning, Katie made breakfast and I did the dishes, then we packed up and walked into town to catch the bus back to Edinburgh. All in all, it was nice to get out of the city for a weekend. I definitely recommend the homestay to future IFSA-Butler students. That’s all from me, and I’ll see you next time!
Before I begin video blogging about my experience abroad this semester, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Elissa and I’m a junior at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut, although I’m originally from California. I study computer science and I’m getting an interdisciplinary certificate in Arts & Technology. I’m spending this spring semester at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where I’m taking some courses in computer science but also taking courses in humanities, which I haven’t done in a while.
I decided to study away in Edinburgh after visiting Scotland a couple of years ago and spending some time in the city. We were here during the festivals, and I had the chance to see some shows during the Fringe. The vibrancy and accessibility of the arts in the city were definitely a big part of my desire to study here. As I learned more about the University, I found out that it has the best School of Informatics, which encompasses computer science, in the United Kingdom, so it seemed like a perfect fit.
While I’m here, I’m planning to get involved in the student theater groups. I’m already working on one show, The Pillowman, at Bedlam Theatre, which is the home of the Edinburgh University Theatre Company, and I’ll be lighting King Lear, which is being produced by the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Company, later in the semester.
I’m also excited to explore the city, Scotland, and the rest of the UK while I’m here. I’ve climbed Calton Hill a few times and visited the castle, but I haven’t gotten to Arthur’s Seat, the tallest hill in Edinburgh, yet. This weekend, a friend and I are going to our homestay in northern England in a town called Penrith, so I’m getting a start on my goal of seeing the rest of the UK!
This weekend I took a flight “across the pond” to Edinburgh to visit one of my best friends from Johns Hopkins, who is studying abroad through IFSA-Butler and interning in the Scottish Parliament. One of the first things we did was go to the Elephant House, famous for being the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the entire first Harry Potter book. We then walked past an adorable statue of a scottish terrier (look up Greyfriar’s Bobby if you’re interested in the story behind it!), and on to a graveyard behind the Elephant House where JK Rowling used to take walks, and accidentally named some of her characters after the names on the headstones (see Tom “Riddell”‘s grave photo). Later we took a tour of Hollyrood Palace, where the Queen of England stays when she visits Scotland. The palace was also where Mary Queen of Scots lived during her days in Edinburgh. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos inside the palace, but you can see some photos of the front fountain and abbey.
The next day we hiked to the top of Arthur’s Seat, a famous mountain right in the middle of the city. Although it was difficult, we were really proud of ourselves for getting to the top!
I made the video while on top of Arthur’s Seat. I apologize for the quality, the file was too big and in converting it some of the quality got lost. Sound isn’t the best because of the wind high up. I’ll follow up later with another video with more details.
I’ll talk about classes as well since I am about half way through my semester..before February! It just sounds crazy and amazing at the same time. Classes are great so far and so are all the people I’ve met.
Look out for another video sometime this week.
Hello there loyal blog followers, and welcome to the start of my 3 week spring break! Yes, you read correctly: 3 weeks! Yes, I know spring break started March 30, but seriously, for the past 6 weeks, my life has been crazy. Here’s what I’ve been up to: March 30-April 23 = spring break, April 21-May 2 = my dad came up and visited me in Cardiff, so I was traveling between London and Cardiff for that time. After my dad left, I had to focus on final exams and essays. So, as you can see, I was very, very busy.
Anyway, let’s talk about my first week of spring break! That’s an amazing amount of time considering I am used to one week of spring break in the States. While the regular full time students revise and study for final exams, us study abroad students travel all across Europe. We aren’t necessarily irresponsible students, but this is our biggest opportunity to travel with this much time off. The biggest challenge for me was figuring out where I’m going to go and who I’m going with. My flatmate Sarah offered me to stay at her house for a few days, and I gladly accepted that opportunity. Sarah lives in the village of Hawkshead, a small village with a population of 300 that sits right in the middle of the Lake District in northwest England. The Lake District is like no other place in England: it’s full of mountains and meres, tarns, waters, waites (like a mini lake, but not deep enough to be classified as a lake, and these 4 classifications have slight differences to them), and it has its own rich Cumbrian culture. This place is definitely no London, and for all those who say they’ve been to England because they’ve been to London, they have not truly experienced England.
Friday March 30 – This was the last Friday of classes before break began. Since I have no Friday classes, I was able to enjoy my Friday without any interruptions of class. The Taf, Cardiff Uni’s student union pub, organized a special event this Friday: VIP Breakfast Club and Drink the Bar Dry (D.T.B.D.). What does that mean? It means you pay £8 to get a D.T.B.D. T-shirt, breakfast, and entry into The Taf for reduced priced drinks. All the students were leaving for break, and The Taf needed to get rid of its alcohol. It’s a great concept, and the students were eager to help The Taf. The theme of the event was the American West. Here’s the UK’s interpretation of the American West: baked beans at breakfast (though I later found out beans are a part of a “Full English” breakfast), pictures of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood as cowboys, random Indians everywhere, country music, and lots and lots of Confederate flags, with a few American flags thrown in. It was quite a spectacle, and I absolutely loved it, even if they mixed the West and the South up a bit. After breakfast and mimosas, we went straight to The Taf. I won’t go into too much detail here, but I spent the entire afternoon at The Taf and had a great time with friends and new acquaintances. It was a fun way to start off break, and I will never have that experience again. No American university will agree to such an event, and that’s why I love Cardiff so much.
Monday April 2 – Traveling. Traveling, traveling, and more traveling. I swear that’s all I did on this day, oh!, but I did go on a pub crawl, but I’ll get into that later. This is the day we (Sarah & I) traveled from Cardiff to Hawkshead for 6 hours. It included an hour layover in Manchester, 2 train connections, a walk down to Sarah’s mom’s workplace in Windermere, and finally a 20-minute drive to Hawkshead. Thank god I bought some Welsh cakes at the Cardiff Market before we embarked on our journey. Despite the longevity of our trip, it was pleasant viewing the Welsh and English countryside. It’s quite beautiful and green, and nothing like the boring Midwest countryside of endless brown farms.
After we settled in a bit, Sarah’s two high school friends joined us for the infamous Hawkshead pub-crawl. We started at one end of town and crawled our way back to the center of the village, stopping at 6 pubs along the way. The only rule: local ales only. It was a great time, and I got to hear the local Cumbrian accent as well as walk along a ton of sheep. We retired back at Sarah’s for an epic night of Cardiff Monopoly until 2 am. It was definitely a long and busy day.
Like my view?
This was my first time over a style. They keep the sheep from escaping while people use the public footpaths.
One of our 6 pubs
Tuesday April 3 – Forget it being “spring,” on Tuesday, I got to enjoy a nice surprise: a blizzard! Sarah and I were running errands around Ambleside and Hawkshead most of the day, and it was frigid. The week before had 60 degree weather (15°C), so the snow was not a welcome change. I felt bad for Sarah because she was only wearing a sweatshirt, but at least we stopped for some hot chocolate at a local café. We had planned to go see The Hunger Games in the late afternoon, but unfortunately everyone in the L.D. had that same idea, and it was sold out right as we got to the theater (or cinema as the Brits say). We ended up going at the evening show, but driving back home through the blizzard at night was a headache. Props to Sarah for being the expert driver and not crashing us
Where I stayed. The pharmacy is on the ground floor.
Stopping for some mint hot chocolate!
Wednesday April 4 – Edinburgh. This was my one opportunity to travel to Scotland, and Sarah and I decided to make a day trip out of it. We took the train from Oxenholme to Edinburgh Waverly. Of course, starting out on our adventure didn’t go exactly as planned. Firstly, Sarah and opted to have her train tickets delivered to her home, but they never arrived. She needed to buy new tickets at the station. Secondly, we needed to pay £8 for our parking spot at the station. The dumb machine doesn’t take bills, so we had to compile all our change, which only came out to be £7.40. So I stayed out in the freezing cold to guard the car and look for lost change in the parking lot (Brit word= car park). Thirdly, our train was delayed by around 40 minutes. Lastly, I slept for most of the train ride there. I usually don’t oppose to sleeping, but the ride into Scotland has fantastic views through the mountains. These mountains had new snow on them from the day before. Oh well, c’est la vie.
Edinburgh is quite a unique and beautifully old city. It has its own atmosphere that is clearly “Scottish” and not necessarily “British.” We walked around a lot and were the ultimate tourists. We got hop on/hop off tour bus tickets that took us through much of the city while we listened to the Haunted Histories stories of Edinburgh. It was a cold day on the upper deck of the bus, but it was all worth it. The sights were beautiful and historic. We stopped at Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish National Museum. Regrettably, the museum was closing in 5 minutes when we got there, so we ran around the place and saw as much as we could within that 5-minute timeframe.
View of Edinburgh
At Edinburgh Castle
Thursday April 5 – After the past few cold days, the weather finally warmed up a bit, and Sarah and I went on a lovely hike up large hills (possibly mountains) to check out the nice views of the L.D. The Lake District is a huge tourist destination because it has one of the most beautiful vistas in the country. At our highest peak, we had a picnic in a tree and ending up hiking throughout forests for the rest of the day. We walked by a ton of sheep too! Sarah definitely took the city girl out into the country, and it was a wonderful change of scenery. This was probably my favorite day in the L.D. It’s rare I get in touch with nature, and I wish I was able to do it more often.
One of the route signs we passed along the way
At the top. Like the view?
Through the woods
More beautiful sights along the way
Friday April 6 – This was just a lazy, relaxing day. We were recovering from yesterday’s long hike day (or at least I was).
Saturday April 7 – I was traveling back to Cardiff this day, but I decided to make a stop on the way back: Liverpool. I spent about 7 hours in Liverpool sightseeing and going on a Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. On the tour, we went to the childhood homes of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, Strawberry Field, Penny Lane, Brian Epstein’s house, and the Cavern Club. I was definitely the youngest person on the tour, with the average age being 55. The tour guide was hilarious, and he had a thick Liverpudlian accent (I couldn’t understand a word he was saying at times). After the tour, I walked around the docks a bit and headed towards the main shopping district. Liverpool was hosting Manchester United that day for a huge football match, so the city was crazier than normal. All in all, it was a great time, and I’m glad I made my Beatles pilgrimage out there.
My awesome tour bus. I was actually on the Magical Mystery Tour!
“And nothing to get hung about…strawberry fields forever”
Where the Bealtes played over 250 times
My first week of break was definitely exciting, and it was one of the highlights of my study abroad experience. I loved the atmosphere of the Lake District with nature surrounding me, and there was a calming effect waking up to a view of mountains out the window. Whenever I come back to the UK, the Lake District is definitely one of those places I will visit again.
It is just about halfway through May and I have just under a month left in London until I’m on a plane back home. It’s an odd feeling. I’m kind of torn between being excited to see everyone at home and knowing that once I leave I might never return, or if I do get a chance to come back I’ll just be a tourist. At this point I just want to move everyone over the ocean so I can see them more often and still live here. But I’m being a little bit unfair. I do love living in the States, being an American and I certainly wouldn’t have chosen a different life than the one I’ve been blessed with. But the change and new perspective has certainly been nice. The relationship between England and the US fascinates me. The difference in perspectives about the home country and the other is very interesting and I’m not sure I’d be able to explain it. But it certainly does make good fodder for a lot of the standup shows here. That is one thing they’re good at here, humor. There’s 3 or 4 comedy news shows that I’ve gotten into here that have similar styles and yet are all still different and really funny. I think they all keep a good balance and keep both countries at equal standing. If you can find them 10 O’clock Live and Stand Up for the Week are two that I’ve been watching here though the shorter tv seasons here mean there aren’t’ as many episodes as I’d like.
Television addictions aside, the title of my blog today actually comes from a song that pops into my head whenever I think of Scotland. It’s called “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond” and it’s one of those songs where I’ve known part of the chorus forever, but I have no idea where I learned it. Anyway it’s only relation to this post is that I did finally get to visit my friend in Edinburgh and while I didn’t get to go up to the highlands or search for Nessie, I did have a great time in a beautiful city. Every time I leave London and go any considerable distance into the surrounding country I’m always amazed at how beautiful it is (and how many sheep there are). Edinburgh is a beautiful old city very close to nature it seemed. Though this may have been because I spent most of my time in the old part of the city and not in the newer built up areas. The city definitely had a different feel from London, but it wasn’t the small town I was expecting (I probably should have done some research first). It’s definitely smaller than London, but Edinburgh is still pretty big and there’s a lot to see though if you’re keen to do a lot of walking you can probably see a good portion of it in a day or so. I was only there for 3 days, but I felt like I really got a feel for the place. That being said, I definitely could have used more time to get a better feel for Scottish culture. As it was I couldn’t spot too many differences between Scottish and English culture besides different bank notes (though British pounds are accepted too), a slightly different accent, and that the top selling soda is Irn Bru and not Coca Cola. It’s a very interesting drink; it’s bright orange and has a sweet taste that’s like bubblegum but also kind of orange. I can’t explain it. It’s not bad, but definitely very sweet. Probably a little too sweet for me.
I wasn’t ambitious enough to try and climb Arthur’s Seat, a large hill/mountain overlooking the city, but I still got a work out going up and down all the hills in the city. Definitely a different landscape than here in London. I did get to see my first working palace in my time here (since I never did get to go into Windsor and they don’t give tours of Buckingham). I visited Holyroodhouse which is where the Queen stays when she visits Scotland. It was an interesting visit, very informative. My favorite part was probably the grounds though. There were so many beautiful plants and there were the ruins of an old Abbey which was still pretty despite being, well ruins. I also visited the National Gallery while I was in Edinburgh which was very nice. It was set up similarly to the National Gallery here in London, but it was smaller which I kind of liked because I got to enjoy everything whereas every time I visit here in London I get lost and feel like I’m missing important paintings. Anyway the trip was very nice and I had a lot of fun hanging out with my friend. She showed me all the best places to eat. While it wasn’t all Scottish, it was all very good and it was definitely nice to have a tour guide (and a free place to sleep).
This post is almost 900 words already. I wish my essays had been this easy to write. I did finish them though in case I didn’t mention that. It was a very stressful week. But that’s all behind me and I am officially a senior. Now that’s a scary thought. I’m trying to stay focused on what I need to do to make my independent study happen next semester and all the prep I need to do for grad school applications, but it’s really hard when all I want to do is relax and enjoy the rest of my time here. It really is coming to a close. Butler had a farewell burrito dinner Tuesday night for all of us London students. It was delicious, but just another reminder that I don’t have much time left here. I have a lot to look forward to at home, but part of me just isn’t ready to give this up. I don’t have much choice though; they will kick me out of this room on June 17th. That’s just something I’ll have to face when it gets closer.
Cheers for now
Once I was all settled in to Lancaster, my American friends who were also studying abroad started thinking about places they wanted to go. First up on our list was Scotland! We just went to Edinburgh for the weekend (Friday day to Sunday night), and it’s possible that we’ll go to Glasgow on a future day trip.
One of the best things about Edinburgh (pronounced like Eddin-burrow, but you should slur that last syllable a bit so it’s not heard) is that it was so European! When I first came to London I was disappointed that it felt so much like New York City. The stores were all chains that we had in America, except for a few little boutiques. The traffic was the same, the crazy street performers, it all felt very familiar.
I hated that! I was here for some culture, dangit, and I did get that a little bit when I came to Lancaster. Going to Edinburgh though, it was so beautiful! Everything was so rich with detail, all of the buildings and the roads, and it was done on a massive scale. I felt like I could take a picture of anything and it would be something to share with my friends at home.
We took a tips-based walking tour around the city so we could hear all the back-stories to the big touristy attractions, and I totally recommend that to anyone going to a big city.
Last tip, bring extra cold-weather gear if you’re going in the middle of winter. I felt like I wouldn’t be warm ever again by the time we got on the train back to Lancaster.
Anyway, here are a few pictures!
The Edinburgh castle is behind us:
Jo Rowling walked through Greyfriar Kirkyard looking for inspiration and names:
New School Edinburgh:
The Scott Memorial:
Looking down into New Edinburgh:
Old royal living quarters in the castle:
We arrived on Wednesday at around 12pm. Although many of us had just met, after a long flight and layover times it really felt like we knew a whole lot about each other (despite the fact that most of us couldn’t recount the names of most everyone). The airline that IFSA-Butler had booked, Virgin Atlantic, was phenomenal. It is beyond a doubt the best airline I’ve ever encountered: free blanket, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, dinner, wine, breakfast, snacks, dessert, salad, water, pens, movies, TV shows, music albums. These were the outstanding features bestowed upon us by Virgin Atlantic (not to mention a funny introduction cartoon). Upon arrival at Edinburgh airport, we met with Ruth, Deirdre, and Katharine, the Scottish representatives for IFSA-Butler. They were (and continue to be) very friendly! We hopped onto two shuttle buses which drove us to our destination, the Apex International Hotel. Again, an outstanding part of the trip. The Apex is a premier hotel throughout the UK (and possibly Europe?). According to my British friend, Rosanna, it’s quite “swish.” The rooms, which are big and awesome, come fully furnished with a large flat screen TV, free Wi-Fi, two queen beds, tea, coffee, water, and one of the oddest bathrooms I’ve ever seen. The shower doesn’t have a curtain, it has a glass cover which only goes past half of the bathtub-oriented shower. It’s very confusing. More on the topic of confusion is the toilet, which will be an utter mystery for uninformed Americans. It took days to figure out, but we finally found an answer: there are two buttons on each toilet, a large one and a small one. The small one is for number 1, and the large one is for 2, but don’t expect them to flush like American toilets. Instead, they are slow and gruesome. The first night, though very slow and full of jet-lag (though not for me personally… I have a great ability to stay up for long periods of time), involved a small (student-organized) pub crawl, a popular activity for students in Edinburgh. On that note, I’ll end this post for today. Enjoy the video! The next post will contain some information on the drinking culture in Scotland (and the post should surely calm the nerves or a worried parent).
It was December 9. A musty odor lingered in the air as I pecked away gingerly at my keyboard. I could hear the distant sound of tapping… tapping… tapping; it was my roommate, of course, working on essays and studying for finals. Finals were to begin on Monday and we were using our Thursday/Friday study days wisely, for once. 2am hit, still working. 2:30… 2:31. The night lulled along in slow motion, ignorant of our wish for this semester to be over. 2:52… 2:53… ugh, if only something could come rapping on our door, something to violate the treachery of work. 2:56… 2:57… then laughing. Laughing? It’s 3am… who is awake– more importantly, who dare laugh whilst we wither away wearily working. Lumby? No, no, he tires too easily to be up at such hours. Ian? No, he’s an RA. He wouldn’t dare shirk his duties by making noise during 24-hour quiet hours. Some other, maybe? Some Outsider? How dare an Outsider enter our hallway! Pat and I acknowledged the noise but decided to let it be. 2:58… 2:59… more laughing. The thought was building now, the thought of Foreigners, Outlanders, Aliens inhabiting and terrorizing Our Hallowed Hall. Like the Grinch’s heart, which has grown three sizes larger, so too does my outrage. I stand; the inception of the Interlopers I could no longer ingest and their ignorance I could no longer ignore. I wrenched the door open and, lo, it is Colin… Matt O… Josh. And the rest, as they say, is history.
[As a note, because this video was recorded with multiple different cameras, it was utter misery to attempt to compile. Audio/video synchronization constantly messed up, sound pitches varied, quality dropped; it was a miserable time. So, I am finally giving up. This is as edited as it will ever be, so please find it in your heart to forgive everything that is wrong with it. Also, sorry to all of my friends who’ve been waiting since the middle of December for this. My bad!]
You will learn nothing from the video posted here, but that’s okay because it’s winter break and you shouldn’t have to learn anything. Special thanks to all of my “friends” at Hofstra who helped me out with this introduction! As a note, the footage was heavily edited… one must expect some shenanigans. (Sorry for the low quality; I’m still working out the kinks in this video editing thing.)