Archive for the ‘Edinburgh’ Category

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




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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!

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I dont have time to write a really long post, so I thought I would share a few videos of me and my friends taking part in a Ceilidh. This has definitely been one of my favorite parts of being here so far, its a great way to meet people, and a ton of fun!

This first video is a bunch of my new friends, and I apologize but I cannot remember the name of the dance

This second video features myself showing off my Boston pride in “The Boston Tea Party” my partners name is Aurthur, he was a recent Vet school graduate from Brazil.

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My apologies for the lack of posts, its been quite the adventure over the last 5 days, and I am finally having some time to settle down and write all about it! I’ll start with my trip across the pond. I was privileged enough to fly Virgin Atlantic from Boston to London (Heathrow) and then had to make my trek through the largest airport I’ve ever seen, and then take a short connecting flight from London to Edinburgh.

So I’ll begin with my flight out of Boston. I was on a Boeing 747, which sat almost 400 passengers, with an upper deck and a full bar! Its the biggest plane I’ve ever seen. Let me just say, Virgin Atlantic is the most accommodating airline I’ve ever flown on, and my experience is great. I had a free blanket and pillow, they gave us a little bag with an eyemask, socks and a toothbrush (which I didnt realize until the end of the flight) and they served both breakfast and dinner.  Not to mention there were free booze. I didn’t feel the need to drink, but it was interesting being offered a free full bar service on a plane. The entertainment on the plane consisted of this interactive list of movies, tv shows, radio stations and games, which were all very recent.  The movie selection wasnt gigantic, but I was able to find 3 movies to snooze to during the duration of the flight.  The only drawback was that I was sitting next to the little kitchen for the beverage and meal service, so during the flight they had the lights on for the majority of the time, and it was difficult to sleep. The visibility was pretty low when we landed in London, so I couldn’t really see far. The only taste of England that I got were those red double decker busses driving near the airport!

And then the fun began.

I trekked for what felt like an eternity until we got to the main staging area for heading to either baggage claim, or other terminals for connecting flights. My plane ticket said that I was flying Virgin Atlantic from London to Edinburgh, so I looked on a map were Virgin Atlantic was (Terminal 3) and proceeded to go through terminal 3s security. By the time I got thru security, I had about 30 minutes till boarding started on my next plane. Plenty of time, I thought. I found another student from Northeastern, Jess, and we walked around terminal 3 trying to find our gate, gate number 8. Turns out there is no gate number 8, and since we were on a domestic flight, we were actually supposed to be in terminal 1.  Even though our tickets said Virgin Atlantic, they were actually Virgin Atlantic operated by BMI.

So as we were heading out from terminal 3, I spotted 3 more Northeastern students, Andy, Andy and Charles. Jess and I informed them of the misleading ticket, and we all headed out to terminal 1. 20 minutes till boarding. We took a shuttle bus to the terminal, which took about 6-8 minutes, and when we got there, we had to wait in the customs line. Again, I thought customs was done upon landing in Scotland, not in between terminals in Heathrow. After struggling to find the correct line to get in (there were at least 5), here is where we stopped to wait. And wait. And wait. There were probably 80-100 people in front of us, and the line just didnt move. As time ticked and our time to board the plane came and went, and we asked about getting expedited to the front (with no luck), I soon realized we may be in London for the day. Our plane was supposed to depart at 8:50, and by the time all 5 of us got through customs, it was 9:00. I was pretty upset. After going through customs, we had to do the biometric body scanner, then get in another queue for security. After getting through security (for the 3rd time this trip) I looked on the board and saw that our flight status was “Closing” not “Closed” not “Departed”. Here is where the running started. We ran all the way from security, through another ticket checkpoint to our gate, and I’m pretty sure it was a funny sight. 

Needless to say: we made it.

Apparently since all 6 of our bags were on the plane, they held the plane for us, for 30 minutes. I’ve never heard of anything like that happening before. I had to store my carry on in the very back of the plane, while my seat was in the front, but I didnt care. I was sweating so much by the time I got to my seat, I was giving Rocky a run for his money. Some guy was in my seat, so instead of making a fuss, I happily settled for the window seat in the row before it.

The flight to Edinburgh was very quick, helped by the short nap I took, and our landing in Scotland was beautiful. I was on the eastern side of the plane, so I did not get to see the city of Edinburgh as we landed, but I got some cool views of the beautiful country side and water.

It took quite a awhile to get our bags due to “technical difficulties” with the carousel, but we all got our bags no problem, and proceeded to the Edinburgh direct transport, designed for students studying at Edinburgh University who are arriving internationally. We waited a good hour for our shuttle bus to our rooms, but at that time, I didnt care, I was just happy to have arrived in Scotland. This being my first taste of Europe, even the little cultural differences excited me.  The ride to my dorm was beautiful, and after many struggles with my bags, I arrived at my flat.

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