Saturday, January 22, 2011

Graveyards, Sea Glass and Golf

I feel like I've been really busy the past few days! Classes went well for the week, but of course the most exciting things come when I'm not in class. After class on Wednesday, Ken, Litta and I did a bit of exploring. We had lunch at The Elephant House, a cafe which has been made famous because J.K. Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter there. Not a huge HP fan but it was still pretty cool to be there. We had a great lunch and there is an awesome view of the castle from inside. After lunch we wandered around and found some interesting things. One was the statue of Greyfriar's Bobby (a little dog). The story goes that this dog stayed by his masters grave for until he died (13 years!) After seeing that, we went into Greyfriars graveyard which is also where Greyfriars Kirk church is located. We didn't get to go inside but it was beautiful from the outside. The graveyard itself was so interesting. Most were from the 1700s and 1800s and they were really elaborate! Quite an experience to wander through it.

Greyfriars Bobby Statue

Greyfriars Kirk
After Greyfriars we headed to the National Museum of Scotland. It's huge! Six floors, we only made it through two that day. But still, some really cool stuff. A lot of what we saw were ancient Roman artifacts from when they had invaded a long, long time ago. We will definitely go back to see the rest of the museum eventually.

Friday I had no class, so a few of us explored a part of Edinburgh called New Town. It was "off the beaten path", at least that of tourists, and was really fun to walk around. I had my first Fish N Chips while in Scotland and it was good! Later we stumbled upon a really nice pond that had a TON of swans in it and got to see a nice sunset on the way home. That night was a friend's birthday so we had a fun time celebrating that at a pub or two. Now for the second time I managed to forget my ID but somehow got in with my meal card... go figure.

On the way to New Town

Today was a big day: St. Andrews! St. Andrews is about an hour and half from Edinburgh and considered the home of golf and the Scottish reformation. It was a trip put on by the International Student Center, so all 250 of us boarded busses and headed out around 9 am. The town was great! It is much quieter than Edinburgh and is a quaint seaside town that happens to be the birthplace of golf and home to St. Andrews University, the oldest university in Scotland. We started off by checking out the golf course a bit, which was really fun to see. Next we went to the ruins of the St. Andrews Castle (fairly new, built in 1200.) Yep, 1200, that's unbelievable! Apparently King James the II stayed there pretty often. There is some great history behind that castle, too much to explain here.

Part of the castle

Next we made our way over to the ruins of the St. Andrews Cathedral. The architecture was beautiful, and it also was surrounded by a very old yet fascinating graveyard. It is located basically on top of a bluff looking out over the ocean. We also climbed the tower there which provided an unbelievable view of St. Andrews. After grabbing some lunch at a local cafe, we went to the beach. No bathing suits this time! The beach was beautiful and I even found some sea glass which was a nice surprise. The beach actually reminded me of the Outerbanks in North Carolina. It was wide, long, and surrounded by sand dunes. It felt great to be back on a beach!


View from the tower

West Sands Beach

Practicing my swing

So after an action packed day, we headed back to school around 5. I really enjoyed St. Andrews and can't wait to see more places like it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who says it rains all the time?

It's only rained one time since I've been here. And the five day forecast says sun and temperatures in the high forties. I think I was fed a lie my whole life that it rains all the time in the UK, or I've just been really lucky! So besides the weather being great, other things have been too.

On Friday I had no classes, so I went to explore a little with two friends. We ended up at the Edinburgh Castle which was very, very impressive. We didn't actually take the tour because it was pretty expensive (I will eventually), but we still got to walk all the way up to it and have a look around the entrance. It's massive. And sits on top of a hill looking over the city. It was hard to believe that I was actually in a castle! Very cool. After that we had a great lunch at an Irish pub called Biddy Mulligans. I had a really good chile and we each tried an IRN BRU, a soda which apparently outsells Coke in Scotland. It was not my cup of tea shall we say. It's orange and ridiculously sweet. It tasted like a mix of a creamsicle and bubblegum. Later that night a big group of us went to a few pubs and didn't get back till the wee hours of the mornin' as they'd say here. It was a lot of fun.

Looking up on the castle!

Finally made it

Saturday was a pretty low key day that involved sleeping late, the gym, dinner, and then the exciting part of the day: a Ceilidh. Once again wikipedia will help me: a traditional Gaelic social gathering, which usually involves playing Gaelic folk music and dancing. That sums it up pretty well. It was hosted by the international student center, so we felt more comfortable not being the only ones in the room not knowing what was going on. I would describe it as Scottish square dancing. They had a live band playing folk music and one of the members was instructing us on the dance steps. It was actually a workout! Lots of skipping, running, jumping, etc as well as lots of people in kilts! Very fun night.

Our friend from the Ceildih... I promise he was happier than he looks

On Sunday Ken (only other person from Gordon!) and I went to a church of a girl who I had been in contact with called Charlotte Chapel. It was in the middle of the city on a side street. It was beautiful inside and really pretty old. It was packed with people when we got there, and it was awesome to be there. The best part was that afterwords there was a student lunch (there's one every Sunday) so there were about 40 or so students mostly from the University of Edinburgh there to hang out, do a Bible study, and eat. It was so nice to meet and hang out with "non Americans" since that's mostly who I've been with (which hasn't been a bad thing!)

Now the school week has started up and we will see what else comes my way in the next few days!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arthur and I

Yesterday I only had one class, and after that headed to the library to do a little reading that I had to get done. The library, by the way, is awesome.

A view of the park from one area I was in

The view from the second floor with Arthur's Seat in the background with a cute taxi!

It was about 3 in the afternoon, the sun was out, so obviously I decided it was time for me to get out of the library and decided to walk up Arthur's Seat. Thanks to Wikipedia, I can tell you that: Arthur's Seat is the main peak of the group of hills which form most of Holyrood Park, a wild piece of highland landscape in the centre of the city of Edinburgh, about a mile to the east of Edinburgh Castle. The hill rises above the city to a height of 251 m (823 ft), provides excellent panoramic views of the city, is quite easy to climb, and is a popular walk.

I went to the reception building by my dorm to ask where the entrance was, essentially got yelled at for calling it King Arthur's Seat when "It has nothing to do with King Arthur", and started my 1 minute walk to the entrance. Not bad. There were lots of people either walking up or running up the pathway, which is more like a road, so I was in good company. I had my sneakers on, backpack with my camera inside, and a banana. Set to go. I started my trek up, which all in all probably took about 30 or so minutes to the top, with multiple stops to take pictures. I didn't go to the very top of one of the peaks because it was wet and icy, but that is something I will definitely do on another day.

I was amazed by what I could see only 5 minutes into the walk. There was a beautiful view of the city and mountains in the distance on the right and on my left was lots of cliff and green grass. As I got to the top I could see the ocean. I forget that I'm so close to the ocean from where I am, so it was really cool to see it from there. There was also a pond at the top with swans, which seemed sort of unreal!

On the walk down it was starting to get dark so I was able to see the city in lights. I also managed to wipe out on a small patch of ice in front of runner, so that was nice. No worries, I'm fine- so far that and ordering a juice instead of a real drink top my embarrassing moments- I'm sure there are more to come!

So that was my first trip up Arthur's (not King) Seat. Eventually I'd like to run up it, or at least part of it. I will probably be sore for a week after but oh well. Today I have a class at 3 and then again at 4. Tonight the International Student Center is having a "pub night". They've rented out a pub called the Greenmantle for the night, so that should be fun. No classes tomorrow so hopefully I will be able to do some good exploring tomorrow! Adios.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Arrival, Getting Settled, and Classes!

I'm alive and well in Scotland! The trip here went smoothly until about an hour before landing when the captain came on the air and said, "Due to snow in Edinburgh, the airport is closed. We will be landing in Glasgow instead." Well that was a shocker, but thankfully things went pretty smoothly. After landing in Glasgow, they provided a shuttle service to Edinburgh (about hour and a half ride) and from there I was taken to the University. Its funny that 2 inches of snow here is enough to close the airport. So needless to say, I was slightly delirious when I finally got here, but everyone was very helpful and friendly. I got to my dorm, the John Burnett House, and its beautiful. It was just built in 2009 and I am living in a single that is so much nicer than anything at Gordon!

I also have an awesome view of King Arthur's Seat.. I'm going to climb up it eventually..

On my way into my dorm, I met another American from Texas named Litta who helped me bring my bags in. She invited me to go along with her and a local named David to walk around the city. We walked around for almost two hours, but it was great! I love Edinburgh so far, the buildings, shops, pubs, etc. are amazing. Later that night there was a pizza night for all of the international students followed by a pub crawl so I was able to meet some other internationals then. One funny story: In between the pizza and pub crawl, another girl and I went to order our first drink in Scotland at what's called the "Library Bar", a really cool, old library room that was converted into a bar/restaurant. Well we saw a apple raspberry drink which looked good, so we ordered it. After the first sip I realized it really was just apples and raspberries, it was a juice! Woops! Later on we went to the first two pubs on the pub crawl and they were really fun to see. One was more of a sports pub, there were lots of people watching a rugby match and later a band came in. The other one was called Frankensteins and was more of a club like style. Both very unique places that I'd like to go back to! Oh and was also able to correct my first drink mistake too!

The next day was orientation, which included some talks, a tour, and an information fair. I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I went to bed fairly early. Today was a bit chaotic: the first day of classes. Most of the main campus buildings are about a 20 minute walk from my dorm. I was able to find all of my classrooms which was good. I had 3 classes today, and the buildings they are held in are awesome! I'll put pictures up of them eventually. One looks like it is from the 1700s, and probably is. I enjoyed my classes and think they will be good: lots of reading involved. The academic system is different here, instead of homework or frequent quizzes or exams, the course grade typically comes down to one essay and one final exam. On one hand it sounds like a good thing with less collected work, however puts more pressure on those few things that are required. My classes are pretty large, probably the biggest had 250 students. Once a week we break down into what's called tutorial groups, about 10 people, and go deeper into the topics covered in lecture.

The weather here has been good so far! Its been in the mid to high 30s, the first two days were sunny, and today was a bit overcast and damp. But overall better than expected!

The building right next to my dorm

The view from outside my dorm

Some random shots of the city...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Day is Finally Here

I leave today to spend 5 months in Edinburgh, Scotland. A lot of people have asked me, why Scotland? To be honest, I don't really know, it just sort of happened. I knew I definitely wanted to study abroad, but at the beginning of my search Scotland wasn't even on my radar. And then, just like that, everything fell into place. I talked to several people who had been to Scotland and loved it, so I started to investigate it. Around that same time I learned that my great grandfather was born in Scotland and that I still have relatives who live there. That was pretty cool to find out. Then I found that Gordon had a connection with the University of Edinburgh, and the rest was history. The University of Edinburgh was established in 1583, pretty hard to believe! It's located in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland's capital. In terms of size, it has 28,000 students, I guess that's a few more faces than Gordon's 2000. I will be taking 3 classes while I'm over there, as of right now they are Visualizing Scotland, Democracy in Comparative Perspectives, and Politics of the Welfare State.

I'm already signed up for a pizza night the first night I'm there put on by the International Student Center so I'll hopefully meet some people there and experience what Scottish pizza is like, I can only imagine. After that they are taking the group on a pub crawl where we'll get to stop at some of the most popular pubs and get a tour of the city. I'll probably be running on about an hour or two of sleep at the time, but when in Rome...

I have mixed emotions about leaving, I'm so excited to go but of course am sad to leave home. It's definitely bittersweet. I'm excited to live in the city, to meet new friends, to become a regular at great pubs and cafes, to explore as much as I can, and to see what God has in store for me. Maybe I'll even pick up an accent. At the same time I'm going to miss the good old US of A. I'll miss my family, friends, American food, my couch, cats, and many more things . I will be out of my comfort zone for a while, which I'm sure will be tough.

Good last breakfast state side!

Of course a snowstorm on the day I have to go

I'll do my best to update this as regularly as I can with what I'm doing and pictures. I'm hoping to get to travel to a bunch of places in Europe while I'm there to the delight of my parents, right? Anyway, please keep me in your prayers and email/facebook/skype me all the time!!

Talk to you from the other side of the Atlantic,