A Whirlwind of Arrival

Well, ladies and gentleman– here I am in the brilliant, beautiful city of Edinburgh. The last two weeks have been a haze of mad explorations, countless new faces, and enough walking to thoroughly break in my new shoes. But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

On September 6th, I stumbled into the city after a solid 24 hours of traveling. Dragging my suitcase behind me, I stepped out onto the Royal Mile and my heart leaped into my throat. I had fallen into some kind of fairy tale. Stretching into the sky were ancient stone buildings that looked to my architecturally-inexperienced eyes like rows upon rows of castles. The cobblestone street wound around colorful square storefronts like a strand from stray ball of yarn. And then the rain began to fall.

The Royal Mile

I scurried down Blackfriars Street and through the narrow doorway of the High Street Hostel, where I was to spend my first four days in Scotland. It was far from luxurious, but for a meagre £13 per night, I had a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head. Soon, I considered members of the staff and other visitors among my first friends here, and by the second night, the place was home.

The four days that I spent in the High Street Hostel were some of the fullest days I can remember living through. Two days after arriving, I met my friends Ann-Kathrin and Peter at an international student meet-and-greet event at the university. Ann-Kathrin (a German grad student in physics) and I spent the week exploring the knick-knacks in the Museum of Childhood, sharing the essential Scottish experience of eating Haggis (which was sort of a sticky ground meat on top of mashed potatoes. Not my favorite, but not awful), and discovering the best bars and restaurants. Something that has been interesting is that Edinburgh is a much more international place than I had anticipated– I have only met a few actual Scottish people, yet know heaps of Americans, Germans, and Australians.

The High Street Hostel

After what felt like a lifetime, I left the hostel and moved into my flat on East Newington Place, where I met my flat mates Sarah, Jenny, and Leila. They are all delightful, and all older international students like me. Many Scottish students start uni at seventeen, so it is quite nice to be living with people my own age who are already used to independent living. My flat is on the sixth floor of a big building of dorm-esque flats, and is about a thirteen minute walk from my classes (Yes, about a thirteen minute walk. The combination of vague and specific seems appropriate.)

The view from my bedroom window.

Suddenly, without enough settling-in time to even buy a blanket (I slept under a pile of sweaters for three days, what of it?)  freshers week began. It was CRAZY. There were dozens of activities I wanted to attend each day– tours, talks, shows, society meetings– and most of them were all at the same time. Every day was an endless sprint from one event to the next, and each night was spent out at pubs, meeting more new people than my brain could possibly retain. Now, for you Americans reading this, the concept of even being permitted into a pub before the age of 21 is a bit foreign. The thought of having, oh say, a bar in your university student center is even more bizarre. Our student center, Teviot, has SEVEN BARS IN IT. Yup. One building, seven bars, all run by the university for students only. The best of these, in my opinion, is the Library Bar. My new found friends and I have spent countless hours sitting in the dim pub, chatting and people watching. Tables are tucked away into alcoves, walls lined with old books sealed behind glass, red-lit cabinets, and though the floor always seems a tad bit sticky and the air a bit thick, it’s our favorite haunt.

To close freshers week, I spent yesterday hiking Arthur’s Seat. If you ever go to Edinburgh, DO THIS. The hike is steep but quick (about half an hour in total at a steady pace), and it is absolutely breathtaking. The view from the top is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever encountered. First, green hills tumble over themselves into verdant billows, pooling below you. Past that, Edinburgh stretches taut and grey, out towards the sea where the water meets the sky, disappearing into the horizon.

(from left) Leila, Ann-Kathrin, me, and Jenny at the top of Arthur’s seat.
From the top of Arthur’s Seat.

I will leave you, friendly reader, with that image. In closing, I will just say that these past two weeks have been absolutely amazing. Despite not having a moment of rest since arriving, and occasionally having no idea what I’m doing, I really feel that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Until next time,