Week 1 – I Survived!

Wow. I have officially been in Scotland for a full week now. Wooo! It has been busy, exciting, breathtaking, and all around AMAZING. My lovely ten hour flight from LAX to Heathrow was relatively painless – you know, about as enjoyable as a ten hour flight can be – and then a smooth flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh (though I did get in the wrong line at customs… oops! Remember, even though you’re flying internationally from home, once you fly within the new country, it becomes domestic!). Once I arrived in Edinburgh (Thursday, September 10), I had two days of orientation hosted by the UCEAP program that sent me here. Most of the first two days consisted of mental preparation for us California students – talking about cultural and academic differences. And weather… A lot about weather. I know we’re from California, but, believe it or not, I have actually seen rain before. We took a few hours to walk around the Edinburgh Castle which was beautiful and majestic and gave a great view of the entire city. Though I was surprised to see that it sat smack-dab in the middle of the city. It feels like the focal point of all the hustle and bustle in Edinburgh – appropriate for a castle, I suppose.

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Part of the castle – pretty cool, eh?
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View of Edinburgh from the castle – It’s okay. I would be jealous too.
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Another view from the castle – Try not to be TOO jealous…
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View of the castle from the street – Okay, go ahead and be jealous.

On Saturday, I moved into my university accommodation. I have my own room in a five person flat with a couple of shared bathrooms and a kitchen. It is quite nice and in a good location. I am living with a guy from the Highlands, a guy from London, a girl from Ireland, and a girl from New York – a good mix of people and all really lovely. Saturday also kicked off Fresher’s Week, a week dedicated to socializing, getting to know the university, and adjusting to this new life. There were a TON of events happening from tours to parties to club fairs. I did join the Photographic Society and Modern Dance Society which I am super excited about. To be honest, though, what I enjoyed most about this past week was really getting to know the city on my own. I spent a lot of time just walking around and getting lost. It was fabulous. You start to figure out where the main areas and streets are, but instead of always going the same route, I would walk in the general direction of my destination and take streets that I hadn’t gone down before. It is such a great way to discover the city and start establishing that map in my head. There are so many hidden gems that seem to only be found by those who are lost (and I’m good at getting lost).

We also have a great international office here that provides support for all international and visiting students. Yesterday, they organized a trip to St. Andrews for us. We explored the castle and cathedral and had a great time just wandering around. I got to catch up with a friend living in St. Andrews and got a personal tour of the city which was great fun! It’s quite a bit smaller than Edinburgh but still amazingly beautiful and, well, Scottish.

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St. Andrews castle – it has seen better days, but still amazing!
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St. Andrews cathedral and cemetery – There sure are a lot of cemeteries in Scotland… all beautiful, though!
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View of St. Andrews from a tower in the cemetery – To get up the tower we had to climb a super narrow, never-ending spiral staircase (it was a bit freaky!)
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Me at the castle 🙂

In terms of adjusting, I think I have adjusted really smoothly, especially considering I have been out of the country only one other time for a mere week and that was relatively close to home. Yes, the weather is a bit cooler (though I LOVE that) and there are a few cultural differences. But I was surprised by how I didn’t find being in a new country as jarring or strange as I thought it would be. The last few days, however, I am beginning to notice the little differences that I think will take the most getting used to. For instance, the streets and driving on the wrong side of the road still really throw me off. When I cross a street, I don’t look left-right-left or right-left-right (or whichever one it’s supposed to be). It’s more of a right-left-right-left-right-left-right so by the time you’re on the other side, you have a little bit of whiplash. Also, the grocery stores here are much too small and have all the wrong brands (though, luckily, Oreos are pretty easy to come by). And the drinking culture is MUCH different and seems more my speed to be honest. I am more of the “quiet, sit back and relax” type as opposed to the “go out and party” type. So I was very pleased to experience a night out at a bar as being more of a “sit and chit-chat with your friends as you listen to the live band playing some smooth jazz in the corner” type of night out. All in all, my first week has been full of new experiences, new people, and great fun. Yes, it has been scary at times, but those moments are completely overshadowed when I look around at this beautiful and exciting place that I will be living in for the next nine months. I can’t wait to see what I will discover about Edinburgh, about myself, and about the world! But for now, I must mentally prepare for classes to start tomorrow. Wish me luck!!

xoxo

Alex

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