Jacquelyn Voghel Herald Foreign Correspondant – While my friends at home have been slogging through their workloads for weeks now, universities in the UK kick off the academic year a little later than American schools; at the University of Edinburgh, classes won’t start until Monday. UoE has a lot of events and orientation activities planned until then, but I’ve also been using my spare time to acclimate and explore the city I’ll be calling home for the next few months.
Like New England, the weather in Scotland often changes quickly. While most of my days here have seen at least patches of rain, this past weekend was warm and sunny–making it the perfect weather for wandering around the city. On Saturday, I seized the opportunity to climb Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano and the highest point in Edinburgh. The way up was very steep and quite a leg workout, but the view from the top was absolutely worth each step! On my way down from the mountain, I took a longer but gentler trail that allowed me to really take in the sights and see some different sides of the hills.
So far, I have booked two additional excursions: a day trip to Oban and Loch Lomond next Saturday, and a weekend outing to the highlands and Isle of Skye in October. Many organizations here gear tours toward students, offering accommodation, transportation, and breakfast in an affordable package deal, so there are plenty of opportunities to see beyond the city. The harder task is trying to budget with so many amazing options available!
And of course, I want to set some time aside for traveling elsewhere in Europe. I don’t have any concrete plans for traveling outside of Scotland yet, but before the semester ends I would love to see Copenhagen, Ireland, Iceland, and London, so hopefully I will be able to fit in at least a few of those destinations! Who knows what other ideas I might get meanwhile. Until then, I plan to take advantage of the remaining free time before classes factor into my schedule!
Not everything study abroad-related is about constant adventure, however, as much as your friend’s Facebook study abroad album may seem to suggest otherwise (and I’m certain I’ll be just as guilty of perpetuating this image). One of the more difficult aspects of settling in was definitely starting out without essentials like food, cooking materials, and other supplies that wouldn’t have been able to fit into my luggage. While my first few days in Scotland have induced some contemplating on how easy I had it when I had a meal plan and lived less than a ten minute walk away from Commons, I know the challenges that come up are a small price to pay for the chance to live in an amazing European city as a college student.
Furthermore, I don’t feel like I have experienced any huge instances of culture shock, being in another Western, English-speaking country, although certain small details have been surprising; for example, “You okay?” or “You alright?” are common greetings here, similar to “How are you?” Although I was informed of this different meaning at orientation, I was still taken off guard a couple times when greeted that way before I remembered that shopkeepers and local students weren’t telling me that I look like I need help!
Currently, I am still waiting to experience just how different or similar the Scottish education system is compared to American academics. Otherwise, I feel ready to make Scotland my home away from home and have some great adventures while I’m here.