A Scottish Halloween

I’m not usually a fan of Halloween, but i decided to appease some of my friends and dress up. On saturday, we went out as the teletubbies, as seen below:

Me (Dipsy), Kristina (Tinky-Winky), Ellen (La-La), Julia (Po)

But in all honesty, I really enjoyed the festivities here in Edinburgh that actually took place on October 31st.  There is this celebration every year, called the Samhain, which was believed by scholars to be the celebration of the Celtic new year.  More importantly, its a celebration of the end of summer, the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter.  There is a large parade followed by this massive burning in the city square. The parade starts at the castle and comes down the royal mile, with lots of people dressed up in lavish costume. Then the burning occurs, and then there is a large show type thing, with lots of acrobats, dancing and performing.  Here are some pictures I took of the Royal Mile at night waiting for the parade:

Me with my crazy getup (thanks aunt Lisa!)

St. Giles Cathedral, still havent gotten to see it up close yet, but its gorgeous

The view up to the castle, waiting for the parade to start

A little more about the history of the festival (source: wikipedia)

It has some elements of a festival of the dead. The Gaels believed that the border between this world and the otherworld became thin on Samhain; because so many animals and plants were dying, it thus allowed the dead to reach back through the veil that separated them from the living. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.

The Gaelic custom of wearing costumes and masks, was an attempt to copy the spirits or placate them. In Scotland the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white.  Samhnag — turnips which were hollowed-out and carved with faces to make lanterns — were also used to ward off harmful spirits.

The Gaelic festival became associated with the Catholic All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and has hugely influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween, a name first attested in the 16th century as a Scottish shortening of the fuller All-Hallows-Even. Samhain continues to be celebrated as a religious festival by some neopagans.

And here are some pics of the parade, along with a video of it at the end 🙂 Enjoy




Oslo, Norway

Now some might say that going to Norway for the weekend is sort of a random thing to do, considering all of the fabulous cities in Europe there are to visit, but I really wanted to see a part of scandanavia, and a £20 flight was all the convincing I needed.  However, when I booked this flight I really didnt know what to expect out of a weekend trip to Oslo.

The plane ride from Scotland was only 1:15, I expected it to be more, but this pleased me. We arrived to a fresh coat of snow on the ground, even though it wasnt much.  You could definitely tell the temperature difference as soon as you got off the plane.  Seeing as we were budget travelling and took a £20 flight, we had to take a 100 minute bus ride to the Oslo city center.  After a lot of confusion regarding trains and trams and the public bus system, we finally made it to our hostel at around 1am friday night.

I have to say the hostel was VERY nice.  much nicer than the one we stayed in Dublin. The only downside was it was somewhat out of the city, which ended up being fine, and we had to climb this obnoxiously large hill to get to it. But it had lots of nice annemities, like a free breakfast, and really cool chess

Saturday we started our tour around the city, which included walking to the Opera House, this GORGEOUS building, which you could climb all over, and had incredible views of the city…

View of the city from the top of the Opera House

After this we walked to Akershus castle, which I was really excited about, because thats the structure they feature in the Norway pavillion in EPCOT at Disney World.  Unfortunately part of the building was under renovation, so it had scaffolding around it. But it was still beautiful

After Akershus, we headed to the Oslo Palace to see the changing of the guard.  I’ll upload a video of that later, it was actually really cool.  The guards werent all stone-cold and stiff like they are in London, they actually talked to you but still kept that intimidating stature with their gigantic guns with knives on the end of them…Not to mention they were cute

We got some lunch at none other than McDonalds, solely for the fact that everything else was crazy expensive.  Simple things like a candy bar cost 4x the amount that they do here in Edinburgh.  I got just a Big Mac sandwich, no fries or anything, and it cost me, after the exchange rate about $8.  Pretty sweet right? gotta love being in one of the most expensive cities in the world…

We did some shopping, but everything was just so darn much so I didnt buy anything, and then headed back to the hostel for a nap.  We then went out for some “traditional Norwegian food” which I’m not really sure what that is still, but we went to this little pub that locals like to go to.  I ended up getting weinershnitzle, which i know isnt very Scandanavian, but it’s still something I’ve never had before. It was absolutely delicious and I will certainly have some again.  Here’s seamoose trying some

Silje, who’s Julias roomate back in Edinburgh, is from Oslo and invited us to a party at one of her friend’s flats. Silje ended up coming to Oslo for the weekend with us to visit her family, and it was kind of nice cause she was able to point us in the right direction for where to go.

After taking several modes of transportation to get to this flat, we arrived in east bumshoe norway, just to turn around and leave again like 10 minutes later.  That was quite alright, it was an adventure, and it was cool to see a typical Norwegian flat. We went back to the city centre, walked around and saw some pubs, and then headed back to our hostel. 

Sunday morning arrived quickly and we had a whole other day of sighsteeing ahead of us.  We walked around the city center some more, and took a boat tour of the Fjord. (pronounced Fey-yord, or if you’re Julia, F-jord, hehe). The boat ride was fun, it definitely gave a different perspective of the city, but it was absolutely freezing!

Akershus from the Fjord

In the background, if you look closely you can see the ski-jumping stadium, which I thought was really cool

The boat tour took us across the Fjord, where all of the museums were located, and we ended up going to this outdoor heritage museum, which is a lot like Williamsburg, or Sturbridge Villiage or something.  It was cool, we got to see how they lived in the viking times and beyond, but it was so cold by the end of the day.  We grabbed a bus back to our hostel and it was time to head back to the airport.

Some things I observed about Oslo are:

 1. There are a lot of 7-11s, but no slurpees! There was litterally one on every street corner, it seemed like.  We found this highly amusing, but it ended up being to our advantage because everything else was so expensive this ended up being our cheapest option for food.

2. The city has a way different feel than Edinburgh or Dublin.  There are a lot more newer buildings which are much taller, and the architecture is very modern. But, there are still older sections of the city, and lots of cool views.

3. This is the cleanest city I’ve ever been to. Hands down. Granted I didnt go to all of it, but everything I saw was gorgeous.

4. Some day I would love to go to the northern part of Norway to see the countryside and the beautiful cliffs and all this stuff I saw in the post cards in the gift shop.  And I would love to see more of Scandanavia. The people were sooo friendly and helpful, and a good majority of them spoke very good English.

I’m not going to any other parts of Europe until Corey comes to visit me in just three weeks, when I meet him in London! I am so excited.  I think next weekend we’re going to see some abbeys around southern Scotland, and then maybe go to Glasgow (a city about 100 miles due west of here) and there is some fireworks show to see too.  We’re also going to a Scottish Premier League football game too, so exciting!

I am so blessed and thrilled to say that I have now been to Ireland. Being that my family is very proud of our Irish heritage, I was very excited to learn a little more about the country.
We got flights there for about £30, which is $45 round trip. That’s right, round trip. Unfortunately, this cheap price came with consequences. Our flight left at 8am Saturday morning, and with all the new US citizen Europe travel advisory crap, we decided to get to the airport a wee bit early just to make sure we got cleared.

So one thing I am super excited about is the ease of getting to the Airport here in Edinburgh. There is a shuttle bus, for £6 round trip, that runs about every 10 minutes starting at 4am to the airport. Its about a 15 minute walk away from me, I really cant beat that. So at 4:45 we went over to Waverly Bridge and caught the 5:05 bus to the airport. We made it to the airport by 5:30, and made it through security by 5:45. So we had an hour and a half till boarding. Nice. After a quick nap in the terminal, we boarded our flight.

Now I know what people mean by “budget flying”. This plane didn’t even have seat back pockets, and I felt like the chairs I were sitting on where built by Hasbro. Alas we made it to Dublin in one piece, found our way to a bus and hopped on towards downtown. I thought for some reason that the bus would be scenic, but it really wasn’t I ended up dozing off for a few minutes.

We made our way to the hostel, but weren’t able to check in cause it was still only 10:30 in the morning. We went and grabbed some food, and decided to start exploring Dublin. Since it was a Saturday, it seemed like it was very touristy, lots of tour busses and people walking, pretty crowded in the streets.
We headed to Trinity College, which I heard is a must see, and wow all I can say is that the Trinity campus rivals Harvards. It is enclosed by buildings similarly to Harvard, with a beautiful center area. A famous attraction is the book of Kells, which is some very renditions of the Gosepels, written by Celtic Monks in 800A.D. After the ogling of some Irish football players, we walked around the Liffy, which is the river that runs along Dublin. The views from the Liffy were beautiful, especially some of the bridges that cross it.

So fortunately my friend Kristina knows about this free tour that is offered to college students in certain European cities, and to our delight, there was one in Dublin. Basically what this consists of is a college-age or recently graduated student who knows a lot about the city provides free tours to students travelling. The tour lasted about 3 hours, and we got to see Dublin castle, the Christ Cathedral, the Temple Bar District, the “Stiffy on the Liffy” (sorry at this point I cant remember the real name of the gigantic pole in Dublin), the Parliament type house, and a few various statues throughout the city. After about 3 hours, and some interesting characters along the way, we ended up in a beautiful park, and lo and behold, there was a wedding!
We did a little bit of shopping, which even though I was warned that Dublin is expensive, they also use the Euro there, so I had to be careful to think about the Euro value vs. the dollar value vs. the pound value, and whether or not I was getting a good deal. It started turning into some sort of algebra equation, so I ended up just getting some stuff if I thought it was a decent price.

That night we went out for some traditional Irish food at a pub, I ended up having the beef stew. All the years of eating my grandma’s yummy beef stew, I love it, and this one had lamb in it. Quite delicious. We ended up meeting some people from Boston (they’re everywhere) who were next to us, who actually had some mutual friends. As I bored my friends discussing Engineering plastics manufacturing, we decided to head to the temple bar district.
This district is sort of known as the touristy pub area that you think of when you picture a Dublin night scene. Lots of singing, people in the streets, tourists and shenanigans. Oh and Guinness. It was a good time though.
Sunday brought us to a self guided tour around St. Patricks Cathedral, which was absolutely breathtaking. The outside alone was gorgeous, and unfortunately I couldn’t see the inside.

We went to Dublinia, which is a Viking museum, that highlights the Viking invasion of Dublin. Apparently it had a big impact on the culture here. It was a very interactive museum, and I think we all thoroughly enjoyed it. There was an observatory at the top, which had a nice view of the city, and lots of pretty stained glass. For some reason, the museum is connected to the Christ Church, so we got to see that as well.

After this, we headed to the Guinness factory for some good ole Guinness fun. Not going to lie here, I was pretty disappointed. Instead of it being an actual factory tour, it was more of a museum devoted to the process of brewing Guinness, with fake equipment and video screens simulating what actually happens. While it was interesting, I would’ve preferred to see the real thing. My favorite part of the factory was the design of the inside, even though I’m petrified of heights (who knew?!). The inside of the factory is shaped like a pint glass, and as you tour the museum you eventually make it to the top, which has the gravity bar, the best part. Every entrant gets a free pint of Guinness (provided they’re above age, of course) so I gave Andy my voucher (I think Guinness is gross) and let him enjoy it (Almost too much, hehe). The gravity bar has spectacular views of the city, and although the visibility wasn’t the best, it was still really nice.

By this point we were all really tired, looked around a few more shops, had an early dinner (bangers and mash, YUM!! And sticky toffee pudding with ice cream, YUMMER!, and called it a night. We had a 6:30am flight the next morning and didn’t want to be totally exhausted for class, what good students we are 😉

Oh yeah, so this was my first time ever staying at a hostel, and I have to say it was a pretty pleasant experience. I felt like I was at summer camp again, which really isn’t a big deal to me. We had our own room, which was nice, and it had a sink and stuff, we only had to share toilets and showers. The beds were more comfortable than here in Edinburgh! While it was a little loud, it definitely suited our needs.
Ultimately, as much fun as Dublin was, I am very glad that I am here in Edinburgh. I’ve been here for over 5 weeks (I know, right?) and I still haven’t seen the whole city. Dublin is pretty quaint compared to Edinburgh, but definitely a fun place to visit for a couple days 

Day trip to Loch Ness

 I’ve been wanting to post this for quite a while, but its been kind of difficult because there is so much historical stuff I wanted to include in this post, and make sure I had my research correct.  So….here goes nothing.
Last saturday, a few friends and myself decided to take a day trip to Loch Ness through Haggis Adventures. While I spent 12 hours on a bus touring the upper parts of Scotland, it was a ton of fun! Here is the map of the route the tour followed: 

Map of Scotland

We met where the tour departed from at 7:45, which fortunately for me was only about a 10 minute walk from where I live on the Royal Mile.   We got on a bus that was very fancy, a mercedes complete with leather seats that reclined. Here is Matt (Tulane) and I on the bus:

Our tour guide ended up talking a lot about Edinburgh as we departed the city, and the most interesting thing I learned about was the levee.  When the levee was drained a few hundred years ago, they found over 100 female skeletons at the bottom.  Why? witches.   Just like we learned about in middle school, if a woman was suspected of being a witch in the medieval times, she was tied up and tossed into the river.  If she floated, she was then deemed a witch and suffered a horrible death.  The alternative, sinking, and ultimately drowning, means you werent a witch.  Then the townspeople would send a written apology to your family for wrongfully accusing the woman of being a witch.  Interesting stuff.

I just thought that the bus was going to take us to Loch Ness and back, but we ended up stopping at a bunch of different places, the first being Stirling.  After passing the place where Monty Python and the holy grail was filmed

we stopped to see Hamish, the higland cow (pronounced kew).

Hamish was quite the fellow, he liked to entertain the crowd with his lovely eating habits.  After our little stop in stirling, we continued our tour up into the highlands.  The roads were very narrow and windy, and I was a bit uneasy at times, but the scenery was gorgeous and it was absolutely beautiful.  We passed Glen Lyon, which is the longest Glen in Scotland. That is not why it is most famous though, it is probably more famous for the fact that Pontius Pilate was born there.  He had a Roman father and Scottish mother, was born in Scotland, and when he became an adult he decided to go and find his father. Lo and behold he ended up being the one approving the crucification of Jesus.

Our first stop in the highlands was Glencoe, a beautiful place to take pictures.   This is me with Kristina (Penn) and Becca (McGill):

Actually, some nasty historical stuff happened here in Glencoe.  In February of 1692 in the bitter cold, Captian Robert Campbell and 120 of his men attacked the MacDonald clan while they were sleeping in their houses in the middle of the night.  38 people were slaughtered in their homes and another 40 women and children died after exposure to the bitter cold.  To this very day, anyone with the last name Campbell is looked down upon in this northern area of Scotland, for this very low massacre.

We took a longer ride through the countryside, and heres a lovely video of the goregous scenery.

It is pretty cool, because there are a series of Lochs in Scotland that connect to each other, those of which run from the east coast to the west coast of Scotland.  It is possible to take a boat from the east to west coast.

Our next stop was in Loch Ness, about after 5 hours of driving. We got our picinic lunches (vegetable sandwich and a biscuit (thats scottish for cookie)).  We sat to picinic next to a beautiful canal. Then we had our boat tour around loch ness, which was really cool.  Loch ness is very cool itself; If you were to drain all of the lakes in Scotland, Whales and England, their combined volume wouldn’t even fill Loch Ness. It is over 1000 feet deep in the very middle, which is pretty crazy.  It’s also shaped like a bathub, so the dropoff is very close to the shore, which is pretty atypical of your standard lake.

I ended up talking to this guy on the boat, who does a lot of research with MIT and the whole Loch Ness monster stuff.  I didnt actually believe that there was such a thing as a Loch Ness monster, but I do now believe that there is some sort of creature that lives in there that is hard to know anything about. He showed us this picture on his phone that he took while he was kayaking on Loch Ness, and had it researched by NASA to see if the picture was genuine.  It was this large hump of a fleshy type creature that was suspected to range in about 15′ in length.  Apparently he was offered $20,000 for the picture, but he refused it.  I’m not sure how much of this mumbo jumbo i believe, but I do think there is some sort of creatures in there that is hard to learn about.  There is another creature carcass under the water that was discovered and studied, but due to the Scotland national preserve, they aren’t allowed to take it out of the Loch, which is silly to me. Talking to this guy was definitely well worth the price of the trip. Here is me and Kristina on the boat!

Unfortutely I didnt snag any pictures of Loch Ness itself, but I did get a nice picture of the boat.

After we got off the boat, the canal that I was talking about earlier was actually being used.  I was geeking out so  much it was so exciting.  I’ve never seen a canal working before, so this was definitely cool

On the way back to Edinburgh from Loch ness, we made a couple of more stops.  The first was at the Commando Memorial and the highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis.

The Commando Memorial was very moving, I really enjoy learning about historical things like this.   A lot of British soldiers go to the scottish higlands to train, and once upon their completion of this training, they recieve the green beret, which is the most prestigious honor a British soldier could get.

Here is the full story of the memorial

Sitting behind the memorial was Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain.  Didn’t seem too high for me, but then again I couldn’t see the top.
We stopped at one more place on the way back but I was so tired I sort of didnt pay attention to the tour guide.  One thing I do remember is talking about the Edinburgh Bridge.  This bridge, which is pictured below, was the inspiration for the Eiffle Tower structure.  How bout that, them Scots influence a lot of stuff 🙂

The Forth Bridge- courtesy of history-uk.com

Overall, the tour was fantastic, well worth the money, and I would recommend Haggis Adventures to anyone.  I think that it would’ve been better to do a longer (2-3 day tour or something) to see more of the sights, but I got to see so much in just one day.  Our tour guide talked a lot about the braveheart movies, and the actual people that the characters were based off, and he knew so much about the Scottish history.  I particularly enjoyed his take, because it seemed like he knew a lot about Engineering.

Next up- my weekend trip to Dublin! chao!

So I had this whole post written about my first week of classes, and how ridiculously stressful this last week has been, but I decided to skip over all of that mumbo jumbo and just get to the good stuff.  So on Saturday there was another International Student Center trip to Lindisfarne, and Berwick upon Tweed. The day started out pretty poorly, we had to meet at the ISC at 8, and somehow I woke up at 7:47.  I managed to get there at 8:04, but the bus was an hour late, so it didnt even matter. It was particularly windy and cold that day, which kind of sucked, but we were happy to get on the bus.

Our first stop was Lindisfarne. This is a small island off the coast of the English/Scottish border, but *currently* it is considered a part of England. I guess which country it belongs to changes every once and a awhile.  So the population of this little island is 160, and there is no bridge to get to it.  During low tide, there is a little road that connects the island to the mainland, (and I’m using the term “road” loosely) and you can drive on and off the island.  However, if you miss this window, you could end up getting stuck there overnight.

We got there when it was low tide:

This is the outskirts of the Lindisfarne castle, one of the islands main attractions

I felt like by the time we drove to Lindisfarne, the temperature dropped by 20 degrees.  It felt like a chilly/windy fall day in Boston.  This would be a cool picture, if it werent for the silly tourists in the background…

The castle was pretty cool, it is much more like a castle than Edinburgh or St. Andrews Castles, there were actual bedrooms and living spaces and stuff, instead of a fort (Edinburgh) and ruins (St. Andrews)

This is the view of the center of town from the top of the castle:

as you can see, Lindisfarne is very rural. Those little white specks are sheep!  We got to go to a free Mead tasting, which was interesting. I dont know what I was expecting for  a taste, I didnt particularly love it, but I didnt hate it either:

After we had some good lunch and met a nice man from Wales, it was time to get back on the bus and head to Berwick Upon Tweed.  In the 30 minute bus ride, the weather managed to change from awful wind to mildly warm and sunny.  It was a nice change. Berwick Upon Tweed is one of the oldest walled cities in England, and was a very quaint town. The view from one of the hills was amazing.  The waves were crashing a lot, but it was hard to get a good picture.  The bridges to get into the town were beautiful.

This is one of my favorite pictures 🙂

It took us a LONG time to find the castle, which you can sort of see just behind this bridge on the right hand side. Its in ruins, and looks like it was very small.  We had to go on a trek through the wilderness just to find it.

After we walked around some more, some of us had to use the bathroom. We ended up finding a “public toilet” on the outskirts of town, and needless to say a lot of hilarity ensued.  Basically, it was like you were entering something on the starship enterprise.  This futuristic British woman barked commands at you the entire time, informing you of what the bathroom was doing.  It was giving instructions the entire time we were in there.  It also made a lot of noises like it was going to take you to another dimension or something, it sounded like there were a lot of hydraulics or pneumatics to open and close the doors.  Oh and I forgot to mention that it cost 50 pence. We definitely got our 50p worth of entertainment! lol. I think the entire town could hear us laughing.

I think its pretty cool that the International Student Center hosts trips every Saturday.  So far they’ve been 8 pounds, which is a pretty good deal in my opinion.  Its a great way to see the subtle beauty of Scotland/England, and each trip so far has been a lot of fun.  I’m not going on the trip this weekend, theres a lot of homework to be caught up on, and by the way, did I mention next weekend I’M GOING TO DUBLIN? We got flights for 40 pounds, RT, can’t beat that! 🙂

Day Trip to St. Andrews

Julia and I

St. Andrews is about a hour and a half drive through the Scottish countryside north of Edinburgh. We got on a bus and left at 9:30 in the morning, expecting to arrive around 11.  Well with tons of construction and traffic, we didn’t get there until 12, so we had only about 4 hours in the town.  For those of you who’ve been to California, I would compare St. Andrews to La Jolla. Lots of beauty, quaint, small town, lots of shops, and very touristy.  Of course the main attraction here is the most famous golf course in the world, and also the birthplace of golf, the St. Andrews Old Course.

We got off the bus and headed to the cathedral, or what was left of the cathedral.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I saw “Cathedral” and “castle” on the map, but I didn’t know that it would be in ruins! Goes to show my Scottish history knowledge… Anyways, surrounding what was left of the cathedral was a rather large cemetery, with the ocean on the eastern side. It was absolutely beautiful! The ruins were very cool.

What was left of the Cathedral, the eastern side

I believe I said "I feel like I'm in Harry Potter 4" While taking this picture. The graveyard scene anyone?

The views were incredible as usual, I was surprised to see people surfing!

We then walked over to the castle, which was again in ruins. But the views were beautiful and it was still a great historical adventure. We went down to these tunnels that were dug out by the prisoners, and had to climb through them.

Good thing I'm not claustraphobic!

From here we checked out St. Andrews University, which is Edinburgh’s rival, looked around it’s museum and then headed to the golf course. I was sort of giddy because I like to golf, so this was pretty exciting for me to see. The public can walk around certain areas of the course, so we checked out the British Golf Museum (and were excited to get free admission!) and then walked around the course a bit.

Holes #1 and 18

After the course, we went over to this little tea shop to get some lunch. I got a chocolate cake that was to die for, so yummy. Then we mosey’d our way back to where the bus was going to pick us up.  From there, we got to see a bride and groom taking pictures on their wedding day in the cathedral ruins.

Taking pictures of the bride and groom taking pictures

They had beautiful weather, too

We got back on our cramped little bus and headed back to Edinburgh. Fortunately this time the bus ride was much shorter. Saturday night was the fresher’s ball, which ended up being a blast. Everyone got fancied up, heres a pic of me with my new friends 🙂

Reba, Rebecca, Kristina, Me, Julia, Ellen and Sarah

My First Week In Edinburgh

The ride from the airport to my flat was pretty exciting.  I was so happy to finally make it here that I was glued to the windows looking at the gorgeous scenery. It was a surprisingly sunny day, and about 60 degrees out.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures, I was too overcome with excitement!

My first impressions of my flat were: 1. Holy cow I’m exhausted from hauling my bags up 5 flights of stairs and 2. Look at the view! Here is what I get to see when I open up my curtain every morning.  (picture to come!) When I look to the far right outside my window, I can see the sea, too. My room was furnished very nicely, I was surprised to get a bedside lamp, bulletin board, mirror, hangers and a bookshelf.  My flatmates are all very sweet. I met 3 of them the first night, and the last came the next morning.  Emily is from Melbourne, she arrived just before I did, Karen is from Glasgow (a city about 50 miles west of Edinburgh) and Kirstie is from Aberdeen, located in northern Scotland. Melissa, who arrived on Sunday is from southern England.

After I spent some time unpacking, I headed out with my flat mates to meet other people from my building, and we got free burgers for dinner. By 9pm Emily and I headed back to our flat from exhaustion, and I was passed out by 10.  The next day came rather quickly with ISD!

Sunday the 12th was known as Edinburgh University’s International Student Day, which started with a “Welcome Ceremony” at 10am. I headed over with Emily, also an international student, and the sounds of bagpipes eventually lead us to where we needed to be. My walk to the main campus area is uphill the whole way, which kind of sucks, but has been good for the legs! Its about a 10 minute walk from my room to the central area.

After the welcome ceremony, Emily and I shopped a bit, then we split off so I could attend other International Student Day events. This started with a seminar about making the most of our time here, and this is where I met Julia, from Penn and Matt, from Tulane. I overheard Julia talking about biomedical engineering, and the familiarity of the subject drew my attention and I guess you could say the rest is history.

She, Matt and myself headed over to a different building to get a free sandwich and soup (notice a trend here?) and met up with the 2 Andys from Northeastern. There was an informational seminar for students in the School of Science and Engineering, and then a seminar about “British for North Americans”  I’d say the biggest thing I learned was that “Pavement” in Britain means “Sidewalk”, so when someone says “Get on the pavement” they don’t mean jump into the street.  Also, the floor listing here is slightly different, the first floor actually means the second floor, and when we refer to the first floor in America, its their Ground Floor. When I was at a store the other day, I was actually on the -1 floor when I went into the basement.

Julia, Andy and myself decided to go on the coffee crawl for international students, and we went to 3 places. The BeanScene, which had delicious hot chocolate, Starbucks (ummm not exactly what we were expecting with a coffee crawl) and then finally, the Elephant house.

The Elephant house is famous for being known as the place where JK Rowling first started scribbling down her first ideas for Harry Potter.  There’s drawings and pictures of her in the shop adorning its walls. It is also known for its beautiful views of Edinburgh Castle, and its décor consisting solely of hundreds of elephants.  I got the Scottish Breakfast tea, not to be confused with Scottish Breakfast food, which apparently is something I did.

Me and Ellen in front of the Elephant House

Another great thing about the coffee crawl was that I got to meet a lot of students from around the world. I met Erkal, from Cyprus, and other students from Germany, the Netherlands and a student from England.  One of my favorite experiences here so far has been talking to as many students I can and learning about where they come from and what brought us together. It really is an experience I can’t get at Northeastern.

We met up with Matt again, for “Scottish Yummies” which was basically a tasting of typical Scottish foods, but they were out of food by the time we got there. We instead went to a place called Che, and I got a gigantic pizza for 3 pounds. We all could of shared it and been full.

We decided to head to the Ceilidh, which was my first taste of Scottish dancing. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had SO much fun. There was a traditional band, decked out in their Kilts, with bagpipes, accordions and all. I learned a bunch of different dances, and was able to step back and just observe for a while, which is something I love to do. One thing I’ve noticed is that generally, the Scottish people are very proud of their heritage. The men wore their kilts to the Ceilidh proudly, and had fun showing people with two left feet like me, how to dance. The Ceilidh is also a great way to meet people. They made us shuffle around and pick new partners, so we weren’t dancing with the same person every time. This kept things lively and fun, and overall it was a great experience.

We headed downstairs to the Underground, which is kind of like a small club in the student union. A Scottish hip hop and rap band was performing, Stanley Odd, and while it was very different, I really liked it.  It was basically a rap band. This is where I met Ellen, someone Julia met on the plane from England. After the performance was over, we headed over to Potterrow for some more dancing.  This was the “Freshers week welcome party” which was basically a huge club scene, complete with lazers, a fog machine, and a bumping DJ. We had to wait about 20 minutes to get in, but it was cool.

So. All of these activities were put on or sponsored by the Edinburgh University Student’s Association, also known as the EUSA, a non-profit organization, and supported by the University. There is an entire week (known as freshers week) designed to get new students to know each other, to get tons of discounts on tours, and to have parties and fun events going on all day, every day. All of my American friends and I agree that there is nothing like this back in the US. The school sponsors parties for students to drink (the drinking age is 18) and everyone who’s over 18 gets a wristband, with security guards at the doors like you would see at a bar.  After much debate, I actually think this is a great idea, because it keeps students on University property, which is monitored, and their alcohol consumption is monitored as well. If a student is going to drink anyways, why not make it in a safer environment?  Anyways, that’s enough sociological banter.

Monday September 14th

Monday was really the first and only yucky rainy day that I’ve had here so far. Julia, Andy and myself decided to meet to do a Campus tour of the main campus area, and then we went on a trip to Edinburgh Castle. This is where we met up with Ellen from Worchester, Jess from NU and Sarah who goes to McGill and is from Canada.  The castle was really fun, despite the windy weather.  The view of the city was amazing, and there was quite a bit of Scottish history to learn about. Without getting into too much details, I’ll just show you some pictures

The front of the castle

Northeastern Students Represent!

One of the amazing views from the castle

We headed to the Elephant house again, and then decided to meet up later for the beach party back on campus.  We ended up going to a headphone party, which was hilariously fun. You pay a 5 pound deposit, and you get a set of headphones that can tune to different channels, and then when you go into the room, everyone is listening to their headphones and therefore its relatively quiet in the room. There were 2 different DJs spinning music, so it was funny to see people dancing to different music. Somehow all of my friends headphones were on the same channel, so we ended up dancing to the same music.It was a lot of fun to take off my headphones and just listen to people singing, it was quite the experience!

The crew with headphones

I’m going to call Tuesday “Kim’s day of struggling to determine what classes she is allowed to take in Edinburgh”.  I had an engineering welcome thing at 11am, and Andy did as well, so we decided to walk to the Kings Buildings area together.  According to the University website, the Kings Buildings area is about a 45 minute walk from our flats. (Andy lives right next to me). We ended up leaving at 9:45 and lo and behold we got there around 10:30.  After much confusion, my welcome session didn’t start until 12pm, and I signed up to meet with my “Director of Studies” also known as the “DOS”.  It was at this welcome session that I learned I wouldn’t be able to take the classes I wanted to, which really disappointed me. The University follows this policy that visiting students must take a minimum of 2/3 credits in the college of science and engineering, and 1/3 credits in the Arts/Humanities college. Basically, the course schedule I originally wanted to take was the opposite. After some panic  and frantic e-mails to Northeastern, I choose a course schedule that I am okay with, but I have to take 5 classes in order to follow that 1/3 2/3 rule.  So here it is:

Math for Engineers 3 (Basically Differential Equations)

Fluid Mechanics 2

Thermodynamics 3

Mechanical Design Principles 3

Scottish Studies 1A: Conceptualizing Scotland.

Finding classes that worked for both my schedule and their schedule turned out to be a lot more difficult than I thought. I originally wasn’t approved to take Thermo, but after some pleading they let me in.  This schedule is very different from what I was originally anticipating, but ultimately I will come back to Northeastern a little ahead of where I thought I’d be originally, allowing me to take more desirable classes when I get back to Boston. But anyways, you don’t want to hear me mumble on about it anymore. Moving on!

At 4pm there was the welcome for Science and Engineering Visiting Students, where we were lectured about what to expect in our classes, and that basically we should be prepared to work our little tails off.  They served wine (again, University sponsored event serving alcohol?!?) and pizza, and they sent us away fat and happy.

Tuesday night myself and my new friends decided to go to the International Student Center pub crawl, which was more of a hop rather than a crawl, we only ended up going to 2 places. I met a Mechanical Engineering student from Italy, another student from Norway, and a student from Sweden. Sometimes the language barrier was a bit difficult to get around, but overall I really enjoyed talking to them. I talked to Silla, from Sweden for quite a while, and I’m not sure she understood the concept of sororities, but I did my best trying to explain.

When we got to the second pub, the Glasgow Rangers Manchester United football (that’s right, football :p) game was on, so the place was packed with football supporters wanting to see Glasgow defeat ManU. I don’t think the International Student Center volunteers were expecting this, so it kind of made things a bit awkward, but it was fun nonetheless. I met some guys from England and Scotland, and ended up talking to them for hours.  I’m pretty sure Andy and I annoyed Mark (from Edinburgh) with our hundreds of questions regarding Scotland, it’s culture, its history, their perception of Americans etc, but I thoroughly enjoyed talking to him and learning from him.  It was at that point that I learned that those are the kinds of experiences you can’t get from studying out of textbooks, and this is part of what studying abroad is all about.

Wednesday was a light day, were we went to the Student Societies fair and the Sports fair. There’s over 300 clubs here, not counting the sports. I signed up for the Chocolate Society, the Swing Dance Society, and checked out some of the acting/brass band societies, but didn’t want them to occupy all of my time. But, when we got to the sports society, and I saw all of the wonderful things that are sports ahead of me, I just couldn’t contain myself. I wanted to sign up for everything. My main interests were Fencing, Curling, Archery and Roller Hockey, but I decided I wanted to try something completely new to me, and I think I’m going to go with Fencing and Archery. Eric, one of the guys I met the night before, is on the Archery team, so it was cool to see a familiar face.   I am excited for Curling as well, based off of my obsession from the Olympics in Vancouver, and something I didn’t know was that Curling actually originated in Scotland! Sweet!

Wednesday night we decided to get some traditional Scottish food, and went to this restaurant, the Royal McGregors on the Royal Mile, which is known as being the main stretch of Scottish Tradition in Edinburgh, leading from the Parliament and Palace all the way to the castle.  I got chicken with Haggis and Bacon stuffing, a “Black Cider” and Sticky toffee pudding.  Haggis is everywhere here in Edinburgh, its also known as pig intestines. Andy got the vegetarian Haggis, I’m interested in trying that next.

Thursday consisted of one of my best days in Edinburgh yet. Ellen, Julia and myself met Andy and Matt and we climbed up Arthurs seat. This is a gigantic old volcano that is located due east of where I live, and is about a 15 minute walk away from where I live. I didn’t expect it to be such a hike, but the climb up to the top was definitely worth the spectacular view. It was a clear and sunny day that day, so the view was incredible.  We saw a ton of smoke in the distance and we thought people were protesting the pope being there, but it turns out there was a large factory fire off in the distance.

I was pretending I was in the opening scene of the “The Sound of Music”

The view was incredible

It took a few tries to get this right

This is how steep the walk was

I spent the afternoon exploring some of the city by myself, and walked down to the esteemed princess street to check out some shops, and take some pictures.  It was pretty neat going by myself, and I definitely felt comfortable doing so.

View of Edinburgh castle from Princess street

That night, us ladies took a swing dancing class, where we learned the “Lindy hop”. We’re going back again tomorrow night to learn some more Zoot swing.  It is a lot of fun, and you can learn a decent amount in just the short amount of time. The swing dancing club charges 5 pounds for the semester, and you get free lessons every week, its a great deal! We then headed to the chocolate society party (yeah thats right, we are chocolate condeseurs) and ended up making this lovely dinosaur out of chocolate candy and gummy bears…

Our candy dinosaur

We participated in some more Ceilidh, and ended up staying there practically all night. My friends and I absolutely love it, if you couldn’t tell from how much fun we are having in the pictures and videos


Friday was another slow day. They had this event for Freshers week that was part of this recycling program, where basically students from the end of last year donated anything they didnt want anymore. Then students this year can pay a small donation (suggested, 2 pounds) and can go in and “shop” for whatever they wanted for free. Basically you just take stuff that you could use. They had clothes, shoes, coats, books, school supplies, plates, cutlery, cups, mugs, hangers, towels, old appliances, costumes, basically ANYTHING. It was really cool for the green initiative the campus is taking, and great for students like me, who only packed one towel (dont worry, I washed it!) and hangers. I ended up getting a few plates and cups too, along with a couple interesting books, and a shirt. Overall, I think it was a great success, and hope to see other campuses doing something similar in the future.  It was a good thing we got there early, cause it was incredibly popular.

Friday night was the Glee themed party. Enough said. They had “The best Glee tribute act in Edinburgh” (Cause there are multiple?) and they were actually pretty good. They sang pucks version of sweet caroline, and of course Andy and I had show off our Boston pride.

Saturday brings us a day trip to St. Andrews which also means a new blog post.  Good night!