Studying abroad in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, has been teaching me a lot about Scottish culture, whisky and the basics of living in a foreign country.
First off, getting to the country your studying in is probably the worst experience you will have on your trip. Flight delays almost made me miss my second flight, for which I had given myself a generous three hour layover. I have also learned that on a red-eye, never, ever take the window seat unless you plan on sleeping on the way over. Sure you may not get to see the view when you land, but because it’s a red-eye the passengers next to you will be sleeping until the very last minute. And yeah, they get angry when you wake them up so you can use the lavatory.
But arriving in the United Kingdom was fantastic. The first thing you see upon arriving in Edinburgh is the small mountain they have in the center of their city. And for those of you somewhat familiar with the city, I do not mean the castle. They actually have a giant hill-like rock in the center of the city called Arthur’s Seat which you can climb; I’ve done so twice, and both times were at night.
The Scottish Highlands themselves are absolutely gorgeous. My second weekend out I joined a few friends in hiking some of the smaller hills near the city, smaller being a relative term. The “hills” were at least 1000 feet high and involved quite a hike to get to.
Our hike ended up taking us over six hours and involved almost 10 miles; quite a journey for experiencing only the smaller hills of Scotland.
I decided to see what the pubs were like during the first night of my stay. The first thing I saw was a man wearing bright pink snow gear and a tutu. Not a kilt, a tutu. Keep in mind, this was a Sunday, one of the slowest days at the pub. I later saw this same man at another pub that night and found out he was taking part in a stag party.
Surprisingly, I went the first five days without making friends with a single Scotsman (or Scotswoman). There are a lot of Americans in Edinburgh though. I met some Germans, a few French, but for the most part it has been Americans. It’s often surprising how many foreigners are in Edinburgh, but it certainly makes the experience all the more unique.
Surviving in a foreign country is not as tough as it would seem. It quickly becomes clear that the currency here has a system to it, and I even find myself enjoying the one and two pound coins that they have instead of notes. The accent, while a little hard to understand at times, quickly becomes easy on the ears and communication is hardly hampered. It is, without a doubt, more expensive to live here than in the states but it isn’t something that has yet to damper my enjoyment of the country.
The overwhelming use of the word “cheers,” however, is one thing that I have definitely gotten used to and even started to adopt into my own vocabulary as well. “Cheers” is said almost as a simplified way of saying thank you, goodbye, and governs many simple transactions throughout the day to day basis. It may be a small thing, but it’s probably my favorite part of Scottish culture.
My course load is still somewhat of a mystery to me. At my University, we are not required to do work on a week to week basis, but rather we are expected to read to prepare for an end-of-the-semester exam and a paper that is due in the middle of March.
However, much of the reading that is given is suggested reading, meaning there isn’t required reading for any particular week. On top of that I only have to meet for lecture and a discussion session once a week. I managed to get most of these onto Thursday, with only one other class on Monday, leaving the rest of my week more or less free.
I have yet to travel outside the country but largely that’s because Edinburgh is so fascinating all on its own. With things like ghost tours that take you through the hidden passageways of Edinburgh, the castle on top of the hill and events like masquerades (I’m going to one this Thursday) there is so much to do that it’s easy to forget that there are other places to visit.
Scotland is definitely a country worth visiting. The country is beautiful, the people are friendly (for the most part), and there is hardly a dull day or night in the city of Edinburgh.
Tappan Parker is a Collegian columnist currently studying abroad in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. He can be reached at [email protected]