When you are an exchange student you tend to meet a lot of other international students – exchange or not. Especially in an university as cosmopolitan as Edinburgh. It is a great experience, you get to discover many traditions from all over the world. Everybody is far from home and want to try to keep a bit of their country with them. I, for example, experienced my first Thanksgiving with an American friend in November. I already planned on inviting my friends for dinner in February for la Chandeleur – a popular feast in France where you have crêpes for the whole meal.
My point is, you will experience so many things that will open you up to the world and it is amazing. However, what about Scottish traditions ? Living in a new country makes you want to know as much about it as possible, especially if your time is limited. How to meet Scottish people in the crowd of international students?
My first advice is pretty simple : rugby. Coming from France, I know my fair share about rugby. It is not the national sport – this honour belongs to football – but it still has a great popularity. Especially in the South-West. It is a well-loved sport, French teams can compete on a European level and the national team is part of the A-list. However, nothing is alike the enthusiasm for rugby I experienced here in Scotland.
I truly think, especially if you come from a country were rugby is virtually nonexistent, that one of the best way to get to know Scotland and its population is to take an interest in rugby.
You will get the occasion to participate in rugby events pretty easily. Seize this opportunity! Early in the first semester I went to a rugby match between the University of Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews. It was unlike anything I experienced in my home university – it is that afternoon that I understood that rugby was a pretty big deal here.
I was out with a friend the night Ireland beat New Zealand in a historical match. The mood of the whole night in every pub was so different than usual, everybody was cheerful in the most particular way that only sport can give you. With the Six Nations tournament coming I know I will have some other great experiences with Scotland and rugby.
If you know nothing about rugby it is not a problem. Don’t be shy, try to understand, ask to people to explain it to you. They will be more than happy to do it and you will be part of the community.
If you are used to sports fans being violent and full of hatred, have no fear. I remember fondly going to a Scotland-Australia match this fall – seeing supporters of both teams sharing beers in pubs before the match. And the following morning, meeting one Scotland supporter and one Australian supporter climbing Arthur’s seat together, their jerseys still on and the look of people who didn’t stop to sleep one minute since the match the day before.
You will understand that sport is never just sport. Scotland’s heart is vibrating with their rugby teams and there is nothing you can do except cheer with everyone else.