Edinburgh Trip

A friend of mine asked me to write about a trip I recently took to St Andrews, but honestly I went to Edinburgh today and it was much more exciting. St. Andrews was incredibly lovely, but you can get almost all you need to know from the photos!

I was really excited for my trip today. I was getting on a bus in the morning and heading to Edinburgh to visit the castle there. I was even more excited because I was getting to meet a girl I have been talking to online for a while who was visiting the UK. She and her friends are doing a study abroad program in France and are spending some time up here and she asked if I would like to see Edinburgh Castle with them. I was beyond thrilled!

The day started off pretty well, I got up and was ready to go long before I had to leave. I wanted to stop at the bank before I got to Edinburgh, so I left about half an hour before I had to be at the bus stop. This was waaay to much time. The bank machine is on campus (across the road) and then the bus stop is across the road from campus. It took me about ten minutes from the time I left my flat to the time I got to the bus stop.

I wandered around for a while before figuring out what stance (basically which bus stop) I needed to be at. I saw a line forming so I figured I would wait with everyone else, my bus was supposed to be there in 15 minutes so it seemed reasonable.

The bus driver was really nice, but it turns out I was on the bus scheduled right before mine. They were going to the same place and the bus was far from full so the driver said I could just stay on this one.

The ride there was really relaxing until one of the air hoses blew. It was not a pleasant noise to hear early in the morning. We sat there for about 15 minutes before another bus came and got us.

Finding my way to the castle from the bus station wasn’t terribly hard, but I had google maps open the entire time. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city to walk in. Every building just looks like it belongs in a fairytale.

Climbing up this hill, was the easy.

Climbing up this hill, was the easy.

The castle itself is amazing. It’s built on a dormant volcano, so the earth science geek in me was freaking out a little. Unfortunately, very little of the original castle remains, but our guide said that civilizations can be placed there up to 3000 years ago. Holy cow.

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The only original part of the castle grounds is the chapel, which you can still get married in today. It was gorgeous but so small. Maybe 5-10 people if you all squeezed in. Talk about a small wedding!

The majority of the interiors have been turned into different exhibits and museums, which was good and bad. While I would have liked to see the exact places where famous historical figures lived and visited, I understand why that would be almost impossible. We did however get to visit the royal apartments where Mary Queen of Scots stayed where she visited the castle and gave birth to her only son. Anyone who has been following me on social media knows that I am obsessed with the Tudor period of history, so I was incredibly excited about this.

Mary Queen of Scots, crowned when she was only 6 days old.

Mary Queen of Scots, crowned when she was only 6 days old.

A bust of a much older Mary Queen of Scots

A bust of a much older Mary Queen of Scots

We walked around the grounds for a while, trying to see everything we could. It was incredibly windy, and being in open courtyards on the top of the mountain was brutal. But we did get to see some amazing buildings, the war memorial and even this dog cemetery.

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After we finished at the castle (we stayed for about 3 and a half hours) we headed down to a Scottish pub for some food! It was such a cute little place, and it had an amazing lunch special. The other girls wanted haggis because they had never had it, and I got bangers and mash. It was so good. Slightly spicy, but I have a low tolerance and the Scots seem to like their spice!

The classiest pub food I have ever seen.

The classiest pub food I have ever seen.

We stayed at the pub for longer than we expected to, so I had to head to the bus station right after, but the girls were incredibly nice and walked back with me. We took our time and looked at the cool shops along the way. Edinburgh at dusk is stunning.

I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Edinburgh, but I do live in Glasgow and the cities have a history of rivalry. I was quite pleased with my visit, but I can understand why not all people are so keen on it. It is a smaller city, and even people in Edinburgh told us that after a few days of being in the city it gets rather dull. I am excited to go back at the beginning of March and perhaps get to climb up and see Arthur’s Seat!

Making Friends

I used to be very shy. I would actually argue that I still am sometimes. Meeting new people turns me into this little ball of a high pitched voice, short responses and hiding as soon as I possibly can. Well being on exchange doesn’t exactly let me have the opportunity to do that. I have to put myself out there, and I have to talk to people – whether I like it or not.

Since coming here I have met a lot of people, and I genuinely like a lot of them and am becoming more comfortable around a small group of people. But until today I never felt like I was making real friendships. I have found that it is really easy for me to hide in my room and only interact with people when I need to. While I do love spending time in my room, it can get a little lonely at times. But today changed that for me.

To be honest, I was dreading today a little bit. I start class at 10:00 and I keep going until 17:00. I was not excited. My first class was taught by a guest who put us into groups where we had to work together. The task was fairly simple and one I have done before: name the tv or movie based on the theme song. I actually bonded with a lot of people over my lack of knowledge of popular UK television. Doctor Who wasn’t even on the list, I mean that’s not fair!

My second class was actually the first lecture we were having so I was a little nervous about having to meet a new group all over again. While I was walking there, I passed a teacher who leads one of my lectures and one of my seminars. She recognized me and stopped to say hi and ask how I was doing because she remembered that I was an exchange student. That was amazing. It turns out, she was teaching this class as well. She likes to start a new class by having everyone share a bit about themselves. I dreaded this the first time she had done it, but this time it was fun because she already knew me and she knew what kind of questions to ask so that it wasn’t awkward (mainly: weather here versus weather in Canada). A lot of the students in the class had just returned from exchange so we all shared stories for a bit. The best part was that people were actually interested in listening to me talk about my life. One girl stayed after class and asked if we could go for coffee sometime. She said she would love to hear more about Canada and she could even show me around Glasgow. That was amazing, and I am really looking forward to making plans with her.

I was excited for my last class, with the same teacher I mentioned above. I spent a lot of time before class talking with a few of the girls beside me, one of them even knew the town I grew up in! It’s a pretty small town so even up in Ottawa some people don’t know where it is. We’re working on an experiment in that class, and I really like the girls in my group. There is another group doing the same topic as us, so we spent most of the class together running the experiment ourselves and taking turns putting our hands in ice water. After we had finished, we had some time left so we all sat and talked about our travel experiences (one girl had just come from exchange in Holland and another had travelled to Thailand not long ago). It was nice to sit with a group of girls and just chat like I might do at home with my friends. It was also the first time I really noticed a difference in the way they speak. Not so much the accents, but the actual language being used to express different things. It was awesome but kind of hard to follow at times…

The cherry on top of the cake was running into people that I knew on the way home. One of the girls from my flat was going for a run and she said she had knocked on my door before she left and was upset that I wasn’t there. This is such a random thing, but it makes such a difference when you are new somewhere. I remember the first time at Carleton I ran into someone in the tunnels. It makes you feel like you are starting to get to know a place and the people in it.

So for the first time today, I felt like I was really fitting in here. It’s not like I have been miserable since coming here, I actually haven’t been hit with the homesickness yet. In fact the closest I’ve come to wanting to go home is when I talk to people from work – I kind of miss my job. But 23 days into this adventure and I feel like I am starting to make real friends as opposed to the people you hang out with out of convenience. And that feels pretty damn good.

My First Scottish Ceilidh!

I love to dance. That’s not something new, I’ve been dancing since I was in the fourth grade, but as I’ve gotten older I haven’t gotten the chance to do it much. I stopped dancing with a studio in my senior year of high school to be apart of my school’s production, and since then I have just been taking a few classes here and there. Being abroad, dancing was something I not expected to get to do.

Well then my university had a ceilidh. A ceilidh is basically a giant Scottish party. When I was dancing, I attended a few, but usually I was with a performing group so I didn’t get to quite experience it.

I went with a couple friends, and by the end of the night we were quite the large group, which I really enjoyed. I loved being able to spend a night with people, and know nothing about them but their name and their dancing ability.

Some of my flatmates and me, and a photo bomber!

Some of my flatmates and me, and a photo bomber!

I don’t want to come off as bragging or full of myself, but this is a personal blog so I guess talking about myself is not out of the ordinary. I did have some experience with the type of dance we were doing. I actually knew a few of them and I was able to help teach the people around me. Which felt good in itself, but eventually people started realizing that I knew the dances and was keeping time and helping those around me, and people started asking me to dance. Like people wanted to be my partner in the dances. What?! Not only is this type of thing totally unheard of in Canada, but I am usually not the best dancer in a room. I was having a great time and it was kind of fun to have different partners for each dance.

Getting ready for the Gay Gordon with my partner!

Getting ready for the Gay Gordon with my partner!

We had a great Scottish meal (complete with haggis). They did have hamburgers just in case all us exchange kids couldn’t handle the traditional cuisine. I did try everything, but the hamburger was much appreciated.

Canada should really start doing things like this. I’m sure some communities do have dances and get togethers like this, but I wish it would become more common. I met so many lovely people, we had a great time and I know that everyone was glad to be able to let go of stress and dance and eat good food and be surrounded by a great community.

Now, would I have had more fun if everyone knew how to count music, and knew the difference between a polka and a waltz? Maybe. But it was fun not having to worry about remembering all the steps, no one cared if someone was going in the wrong direction or used the wrong foot. It was fun to be silly and dance for a night. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

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I didn’t even think to pose for this picture. I was having that much fun.

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Group Work

I used to hate group work in school because it meant I had to talk to my classmates. I would make sure that I was sitting alone in my classes, and spread my stuff to the seats beside me so that nobody would talk to me. I would go to my lectures, learn what I needed to, and go home and hang out with my friends.

That is not exactly an option here. While my lectures are large, all my modules have seminars that are about 20 people each. During these seminars we do a lot of group work. Like they are based around group work. So I have to meet people, which usually I hate, but I am starting to welcome it.

Back home I have my group of friends so I don’t really need to meet people in my classes. Over here I still don’t know a lot of people so meeting people in my classes is really nice. Since we’re all in class together, we already have something in common so striking up a conversation isn’t that hard.

Now I probably won’t go back to Carleton eager to do group work or meet new people in my classes, but I’m enjoying it while I am here.