Because tomorrow is my final, as well as my final day here, I wanted to write a bit about the end of my journey. Its been a wild ride, starting with my first solo TransAtlantic plane ride, and ending with new friends, tons of amazing memories, and a whole lot more knowledge of the world beyond my porch. I am certainly a different person, whether or not this turns out to be a change for the better. When a person decides to study abroad, they tend to try and find a school which isn’t difficult so they can go off and do tons of things. I didn’t. My classes were challenging and made me think differently about the way I study. So I got the fun of the experience, as well as the shock to my academic system, so to speak.
Overall, I started here with this cynical view, because I was cold and the food was different and I felt that I didn’t belong. Thursday morning I’m leaving here with the knowledge that no matter where you go, you can adapt and become a part of that culture, as long as you have an open mind and heart.
I’m going to miss my favorite restaurants. I’m going to miss all of the friends I met here. I’m going to miss being a 10 minute walk from the beach. And I’m going to miss all of the accents. So many accents.
I’m off to pack and study for my last final tomorrow. “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, because as much as I’m going to miss it here, I can’t wait to go home as well.
I feel like there is such stigma when you come to another country. Mostly about the people. Before you go, you’re told horror stories about Americans who unwittingly got swindled by some local and didn’t have money to get back to their hotel, hostel, dorm, etc. And by others you’re old that everyone is incredibly friendly and sweet and you’re going to be loved for being an American. This overgeneralization continues when you actually make it over to the country you’re going to be visiting. The other Americans you meet tell you about their very first experiences with the natives, whether they are super nice or they just about got into a first fight in a local pub. You also get the flip side of the coin as you being chatting up the students from the country you’re staying and instantly pass judgement on their status as a person of worth. You also get their opinion of other local students as well as the Americans studying abroad. You’re told, “that group over there? They will rip out your heart if you so much as look at them. But us, we accept you silly Americans.”
So where does the opinion of others and that of your own separate? Can you separate them? As I began pondering this I realized that any opinion or thought that forms in your head will always have some influence from another person stamped on it. Because no matter if you agree with that person or think they’re completely bonkers, you have to analyze their thought first. I guess the hardest part is actually realizing this when you come to a decision on a person. No one can be completely neutral. There is always some factor which has led them to this point and I think people should remember that before ostracizing someone for what they think. Yes, I might not agree with all of the rules/norms that the university and the culture here abides by, but that’s only because I grew up with a different set. Had I started here as a fresher, the rules would have been the only thing I had experienced and thus wouldn’t have had nearly the negative reaction I experienced upon learning them.
I suppose what I’m saying is that living in another country gives you perspective. Not only by seing new things, but also by reevaluating your thoughts through the culture of another. I’m not saying that I’m embarrassed of my nationality nor am I saying that America always does the right thing. What I’m really saying (I think?) is that each culture has its own sigma which it created about itself and about others and because of that, we need to be cognizant when we form opinions.
Wow, heavy stuff right? Who’d have thought I’d leave my study abroad experience with self-awareness? Certainly not me.
On a lighter note, today is my last Friday here in Scotland and I am enjoying the bitter cold and rain you can only find here, indoors with my textbooks.
My first final is done and now I have a little time to relax before my next (and last!) one. I do have to say, they do finals a lot differently here in the UK. I was placed with my class and 2 others into the basketball court to take the first one. Also, all grading is anonymous. Finally, you cannot leave in the last 30 minutes of the exam. You can either leave before the final 30 minutes or you have to wait until the clock has run out and everyone exits. I found this out at the last 28 minute mark. Woops.
Oh well. I decided a run on the beautiful West Sands beach would make me feel better, and it did. I consistently wish I had my camera whenever I’m out, but since I was running I’ll give myself some slack. It was sunny with that ever-present wind, and actually a decent temperature. All the makings of a great run and I came back with the exams tension out of my shoulders and that lovely soreness of physical activity.
With only one final left and 7.5 days, its coming to a close. I think we all sense it; there’s been a lot more of hanging out “just because”. I’m really going to miss this place. The people, the beach, the really old buildings, and the strange sense of calm that hits you as you cross the Scottish border. I recommend a trip.
That’s all for now, relaxing and getting ready for a busy week ahead.
As everyone is well aware (or at least, NOW is well aware), today is Mother’s Day. Although holidays are so much fun and brings joy to those giving and receiving love, they can sometimes be sad. Today was the first Mother’s Day that I was not home for and it hit home for me. I’m starting to realize that this is what my life is going to be like once I leave the nest for real. I’m not going to be home to make my mom her annual breakfast-in-bed. As a study abroad student, you start swapping some of the memories you would make at home for the memories you make abroad. Next week is my brother’s last day of high school and his senior prom and I’m going to miss them. I really wish I could be there for those moments but then I remember that if had been at home, I never would have eaten a baguette on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower or stood on the top of the Oslo Opera House.
Being a study abroad student has truly opened my eyes to the reality of growing up and living apart from your family. You stop doing some of the traditional things you always did as a kid and start making your own experiences and traditions. The hope is that one day you can teach your own children the traditions you had when you were their age and share that joy with them.
I will always love my family. I’m just starting to come to the realization that they won’t always be physically there with me, but I know they will always be with me in spirit.
Last night was the Valedictory Meal at my dorm, which in case you didn’t read my last post was for all of us who are leaving the dorm in the next couple of weeks. It started with a wine reception and then we were taken to the dining hall where we got a special table that was decorated. It was so nice! For dinner, I had fruit salad as a starter, then cannelloni and cheesecake as a dessert. We were served first and actually got waited on by the dining staff. It was a really sweet gesture and I felt like I truly was a part of the hall community. After dinner, there was an after party, where we talked for hours. I met so many new people that I hadn’t come in contact with before. It was a bit of a downer, if only because I was just getting to know these people and now we are all getting ready to leave.
I’m never going to forget the new friends I made and the experiences I had while in Scotland. I can already feel how far I have come as a person and am now excited for the growing I still have to go.
My life has been strange and fun-filled the past few days. Sunday, we were supposed to go to a beach party but it got rained out. Instead, we stayed in and hung out. Monday marked the beginning of Revision Week. I still can’t believe that students get a whole week to study for finals. In the States, you’re lucky to get one day. The first day was spent studying, goofing off, and enjoying time with friends. Tuesday was a busy day. I woke up early for the first time in a while and got all of my studying done before lunch. There was a going-away reception for all of us Study Abroad kids. We got gifts (including a maroon St Andrews shirt, which happens to be one of the colors of Salisbury U, so I was quite excited!) and met up with some of us that we hadn’t seen in a while. My main group pf friends left early in search of caffeine. I had my first iced Chai latte, which can only be described as heaven. Or like a Chai milkshake. One of the two.
Last night was probably the biggest event of the last few days. After much pleading and wheedling, Kira convinced me to come play Manhunt with a bunch of other people when it finally got dark. It was a tough decision because I enjoy my sleep and it doesn’t get dark until 11 PM here. I adopted the “sleep when you’re dead” philosophy and donned my ninja gear. Playing felt like childhood, remembering all the times you held your breath because the “seeker” was right next to you. I also met a lot of new people; it surprising how easy it is to form bonds with total strangers when you have a collective goal. After getting muddy, winded, and scraped up, we walked to the beach and looked at the stars. A couple of us are astrophysics majors and were pointing out the constellations to those of us not as scientifically-inclined. Comprehensively one of the best nights I’ve had in St Andrews. With only 15 days left, I’m starting to realize how much I enjoy being here and the extent to which I will miss it when I’m gone. Sobering thought.
On a lighter note, we were informed that Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth are filming in St Andrews this week for an upcoming movie. Obviously, a group of us took it upon ourselves today to go looking for them. Although the trip came to no avail, it was a lot of fun speculating where they could be. Tonight there is a dinner for all of us, Leavers (what Americans call graduating Seniors) and those of us only here for a short time. I’m really excited to celebrate, but once again sad that this chapter of my life is coming to a close.
Last night was the Melville Ball, an annual event for my dorm. It was free for all us of residents, and included refreshments, ice cream, and tons of delicious cupcakes. We danced the night away, first with a traditional Scottish band. From there, a local band came on and played jazz tunes and some Journey. Finally, a DJ came on and we had fun dancing to popular music and a cool light show, smoke machine included. It was it great to let loose after classes and see everyone dressed up, especially the guys in their kilts. We finally left around 1 AM, exhausted but happy from the experience.
It felt like cross between prom and a fancy adult event. So I guess it prepared me for the Black Tie parties to come! Love dressing up!
Title says it all. I only have less than 21 days left in Scotland. Time has flown!!! I really can’t believe that soon I’ll be on a plane back to Maryland, USA. Now I just have to survive two finals (50% of my grade for each class!) and pack. Plus all of the last minute travelling I have planned. This weekend is going to be super busy as well. Friday (tomorrow) is the last day of classes, resulting in celebratory soft serve ice cream with friends. Saturday is the Andrew Melville Hall Ball, so we’re getting all fancied up, eating free desserts, and dancing! It will be in the Old Course Hotel, which is the beautiful hotel right on the golf course. Pictures will be up. Sunday is Waltzing on West Sands, a beach party with bonfires and local music entertainment. There will be no running into the water for me this time though. Once was enough.
Last night/this morning, my group of friends, myself, and a majority of the St Andrews student population took the plunge into the North Sea at dawn. It was probably one of the most memorable things I will ever experience. We spent the time before 3 AM hanging out in our friend Mike’s room, then began the trek to the other side of town. Large groups had already gotten there before us and several fires had been built on the beach. Everyone was milling around or huddling to stay warm.
*Side note: IT WAS SO COLD.
The wind was blowing off the water while we were sitting there, waiting for the sun to rise. Then, when we decided it was light enough out, we raced towards the water in our undergarments and then waded into the North Sea. Some people chose to completely submerge themselves. I could barely put my pinky toe in, so only the bottom half of me got wet. Afterwards, we hightailed it back to the dunes where our clothes and towels were. Looking back, there was so much of a time build up for that very short moment of actually going into the water. But it was worth it.
Post-robing, we walked back to our dorms to clean ourselves up and get some shut-eye. Many of us, including myself, had classes today. You only live once though.
Since its April 30 my time, I’m starting to think about tomorrow, AKA May 1. This day has a lot of significance for me. It begins my last 24 days in Scotland. It also is the anniversary of the May Dip. The May Dip is a tradition where any St Andrews students whom have committed an academic sin must take the plunge into the North Sea and “wash away” the academic sin. I don’t think I’ve done any sort of educational no-no, but to experience the true St Andrews student life, I feel it’s necessary to participate. Disclaimer: I MAY chicken out. We’ll see. The North Sea is quite cold. I am trying to mentally prepare myself in advance. It’s a one-in-a-lifetime experience, it won’t be that cold, etc.
In any case, I’m reaching the end of my time here. It feels very strange. I remember first arriving here and feeling cold and scared. Now I’m still cold, but comfortable with the life I’ve made myself here. Friends. Traditions. Familiar sights. I’m not quite sure I’m ready to leave all of that yet.
Well, this is my second-to-last week of classes and things are really starting to slow down, but yet speed up. I only have 28 days left here in the UK. Its really a strange concept to be in the 20s. Nothing big has happened this week really, but I’m looking forward to this weekend. My hall is co-hosting a ceilidhthis Saturday. For those of you who don’t remember, its a traditional Scottish dance, a lot like our Western line-dancing. Lots of fun. We also have something big planned for Sunday but you’ll have to wait until I can reveal it.
Yesterday was warm and sunny, so my friend Kira and I attempted what is called Lady Brae’s Walk. Its a loop that totals around 7 miles of path that follows a stream. Neither of us had been before and had no idea what to expect. Several terrains later (including what looked like a jungle, marsh, and bluffs), and we ended up at a park which must have been very cool in its heyday. There was a mini traintrack, a playground in the middle of a pond and lots of fields. It was decided there and then that we would be back on another nice day for a picnic. By the end of the hike, we were muddy and burnt out, but also that feeling on contentment that only comes from conquering a hard task.
The last few days have been a lot of fun and therefore, quite exhausting. It started with Wednesday, when I finished my final paper. To celebrate, a few of my friends and I took a special bus to this dance club called Fat Sam’s. We got back to St Andrews around 4 AM, tired but exhilarated from dancing up a storm. The next night, my friends invited me to the neighboring dorm’s ball. It entailed a wine reception in the Old Course Hotel (which is GORGEOUS, very posh) and then continued at the St Andrews Aquarium. We all got dressed up and hit the ball. It was neat to see all the guys in either tuxes or kilts and the girls in very pretty dresses. The aquarium is small but quaint. We still had a good time with the fishies. On the way back to the dorm, I saw a Great Blue herron just walking through the same park. I swear I wasn’t hallucinating. *Side note: the bunnies have multiplied again and there are tons of new babies all over. Its adorable.
Yesterday was not quite so busy, mostly consisting of walking around town and turning in my final paper. I did stop inside a local bakery and got the cutest little cake, which looks like a frog. I’ll put a picture up.
Today was a lot of fun, mostly because Autumn and I went and saw The Hunger Games at the movie theater! I had read the book and wanted to see how closely the movie matched up (it was pretty dang close). We took the bus into Dundee, the nearest big city. We had never navigated its public transport and were incredibly surprised how easy it was to get there, mostly through dumb luck. The movie theater was massive and modern looking, which was not what I was expecting. After seeing the movie, we took the bus back into the city center and walked around as the bus back to St Andrews wasn’t due for a while. Two chocolate milkshakes from McDonalds (don’t judge, its sometimes nice to get a taste of something from back home) and we were on our way back to school.
Overall, a long and exciting few days. Hope to have many more of them in the future.
For those who might be wondering what I’ve been doing since I got back to St Andrews over a week ago, I must tell you, its incredibly glamourous. And by that I mean, tedious and painful. Last Thursday I had a 15 page paper due for one of my history classes, so I spent the first week back confined to my room with my laptop and books. I then gave myself the weekend off to relax, and have now started my next and final paper for the semester. This one has begun a bit slow, as I was unsure how to start it. A massive pile of reference books later, I am now chugging away (hurray!). This will be due on Friday after which, my life will become a lot more simple.
This weekend, myself and some friends will be venturing to the nearby town called Dundee to see The Hunger Games, finally. We are all very excited, not only to get out of town, but to see what everyone has been talking about.
Finally, I am attaching some pictures from yesterday, as it was gorgeous and thus required a small adventure.
We reached our beautiful country club hotel in Edinburgh in the morning on Saturday and attempted to decide what we were going to do during the day. We resolved to visit the Royal Mile, see the castle, get a coffee at the Elephant House (more on that in a minute), and do a ghost tour. With some help from the accommodating front desk, we arranged a nighttime tour of Mary King’s Close, an old alleyway that remains underneath the ground of the Royal Mile, which we were all excited for.
The fam took the bus into the city and proceeded to try and scrounge up lunch. We settled on TGI Fridays (don’t judge!). After lunch, we walked up this steep path to the castle, which is at the very top of the Royal Mile, a stretch of road from the castle all the way to the water. Its famous for its shops and restaurants and generally cool history that remains. The entire city of Edinburgh is like that, as most of the buildings are from the 1800s or earlier, renovated or restored to fit new shops/restaurants, but with the same architecture. We walked down the Royal Mile, went into a few shops, then went in search of the Elephant House. For those who don’t know, this is where J.K. Rowling wrote half of the first Harry Potter book. Its a very neat building with amazing cappuccinos and lattes. We had a bumpy start getting there though, as we were given directions to Elephant and Bagel, its sister establishment. But eventually we got there.
The rest of the day was spent walking along the Royal Mile and the streets that veer off from it. Dinner was spent at a very good Italian restaurant and then we made our way to Mary King’s Close. From the entrance of the close (the Scottish word for a street that only has one end, where people live. Almost like a cul-de-sac) you would never guess that it was a major tourist attraction, but as you continue on, it opens up to a welcome center with a few unmarked doors which raise a lot of questions. I don’t think anyone knew what to expect with the tour, making it all the more fun to be led by an actor in traditional garb down a dark passageway as he told real stories about the occupants in the close, from murder to plague tragedies. All-in-all, a very academically structured ghost tour with a really great tour guide. So much fun.
After the tour, we tried to go back to the hotel, but had some public transit issues. Eventually we made it back, safe and sound, to our super comfy beds. The next morning was Easter and my mom’s birthday so we had a little celebration in the room. Then we just spent time together until it was time for me to take the bus back to St Andrews. My dad drove me over to the bus station. It was hard to say goodbye to all of them again, I think even a little more than the first time.
It was a great week and I enjoyed getting to show my family around the UK and exploring new things and places with them as well.
So to recap, we had just seen Stonehenge and then proceeded to drive to the outskirts of London. (It should be noted that only 2 of our hotels were planned in advance and so it got a little tricky to find lodging some nights with the holiday). The hotel we finally found was within walking distance of the train station to take us into the heart of London. So the next day we hopped the train and found ourselves in Trafalgar’s Square. Max wanted to see the National Gallery, which is situated on one of the four sides of the Square (amazing, geometry..). We enjoyed a ton of beautiful paintings, including some by Van Gogh and Vermeer. From there, we got lunch and sat in Green Park by Buckingham Palace. Max followed a duck. Then we took the Tube to St Paul’s Cathedral, which also happens to be near the Globe, which everyone knows from my older London post, right? :)
In any case, I finally got to go inside the Globe (!). We got a guided tour, complete with the history of the building and the chance to stare at our guide’s terrible British teeth. The inside of the Globe is beautiful, reconstructed to look just like the original. The original burned to the ground in 1613 during a performance, but the one we toured was created to the almost exact specifications of the original, so you got the feel of what it was like to see a play there in the 17th century. After the Globe, we headed to Picadilly Circus (which is aptly named, as there are a million people there milling about, shopping, etc.), and Selfridges, a massive store much like Harrod’s but with an entire floor for fresh food and groceries. It was neat to look around in and a little overwhelming with all of their stock options. We headed back to the hotel after Selfridges, stopping to grab a grocery picnic dinner at Sainbury’s, a local supermarket, emphasis on the super.
The next day, we drove out of London and made time to the castle Alnwick, where part of the first Harry Potter movie was filmed. The castle and its estates are massive, which allows for the family that is incredibly lucky to live there to set up several tourist events and attractions, like a fake dungeon and a military museum. We also toured the family’s private quarters, each room more elaborate and beautiful than the next. After Alnwick, we drove to our hotel, about 8 miles from the Roslyn Chapel, where they filmed the final scene of the Da vinci Code (noticing a theme yet?). We walked around the cute town and got dinner in a local pub with some small-town characters.
The next day we started off by driving to Roslyn Chapel. At first, we just wanted to see the outside and look in the Welcome Center, as payment is required to gain access into the chapel itself. At some point, I couldn’t find my dad, so I wandered into the chapel to see if he had tried to sneak in. Turns out he wasn’t there but I successfully managed to make my way in and so I didn’t waste the opportunity. The chapel is small yet incredibly ornate, built over centuries. Maybe I was nervous about breaking the rules, but to me it had a very eerie vibe. The rest of the family found me and we all got to experience the chapel sans ticket. Honestly, they really shouldn’t be requiring for payment on entry as a church. But that’s neither here nor there.
After the Chapel, we made our way to Edinburgh, our final destination.
Its going to get its own post, as there is a lot to say about it.
So back to the Krolls in the UK. After Inverness and Nessie, we travelled down to the Cotswolds in England. The Cotswolds are a grouping of little towns that have maintained all of their old architecture and small-town feel. Lots of thatched roofs and white-washed sided houses. The names were the cutest part, including Stowe-on-the-Wold, Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace/final resting place), Warwick, Gloucester, and Malmesbury. We stopped several times to look around and went into the chapel where Shakespeare is buried. From the Cotswolds, we headed to Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
Stonehenge is possibly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. They had a whole audio tour and I learned that there is still so much that scientists don’t know about the structure, like how they transported all the rocks and got them to stand. A lot of people take the stones very seriously, including the Wicca people who stood and said a bunch of spell-things with capes and staffs. Weird.
From Stonehenge, we made our way to the hotel near London.
When we were in Vienna, we spent the first nice day around the estates of Schönbrunn, which has a palace, massive gardens, a zoo, and two indoor gardens. We got lunch at a stand, where each of us partook in a Leberkäse sandwich (for those who aren’t Austrian, this is a hot meat that tastes like bologna but better). I also got the German soda, Almdudler. Then we headed back to Tante (Aunt) Annemarie’s to freshen up for dinner at my cousin Gabi’s house.
The next day as spent trying to find our way around Vienna in the cold rain, so there was a lot of ducking into cafes. We also went to the famous Figlmueller for schnitzel (fried breaded turkey cutlets). Divine. Then we headed back to Tante’s to dry off and get ready to go over to Gabi’s again.
The last day I was there, I just headed to the train station, so I didn’t really get to see much of the city. But it was still nice to be in my homeland and share it with my friends.
It’s been a really long time since I’ve been able to sit down and write. The rest of my European holiday was a lot of fun. The girls and I headed to Vienna to visit with my family and see the city. It rained most of the time but it was still very cool to be back and reconnect with my Austrian relatives.
On Saturday I took a train to Salzburg to catch my plane back to the UK. From London, I took the overnight bus again on a return trip to Edinburgh. I got there in time to meet up with my parents and brother at the airport. (Much rejoicing!) From there, we drove to St Andrews so they could see where I’ve been living the past few months and I could do some repacking. The next day we set off for the Highlands. We saw Loch Ness and the castle Urqhart right on the water. Nessie didin’t appear but we got to take some close-ups of the Highland cows, which are the cutest things ever.
I have to run to class but later I will finish this!!