“Where are you from?”

First few weeks in Edinburgh have been very eventful, but in the most unusual ways.

So it’s been three weeks since I’ve touched down on the beautiful rolling hills of Scotland, and I’ve already been procrastinating on this blog (srsly you should see my Netflix queue). But don’t worry friends and family, I haven’t been completely wasting away in my dorm – between getting lost on campus for 2 WHOLE HOURS on the first day (lack of Google Maps makes life very confusing), climbing the wrong hill to not Arthur’s Seat, and somehow using up $200 on food in the first week I was here, I’ve managed to cram a lot of unusual activities into the past three weeks.

First week was like freshman year all over again: “Where are you from? Oh that’s so cool I’m from New York too! Oh you go to [insert college here]? Do you know Jessica/David/Hannah/Morgan/generic name that I don’t know?” Starting from scratch and making a brand new group of friends has always been the most burdensome part of traveling somewhere new (especially for someone like me who likes sticking to her roots), but once you get past the growing pains, the rest of your time is a breeze.

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No idea what hill we climbed.

The Scottish education system is very different from America’s – your final grade (or marks) is largely based off of your final exam score. There’s very little to no coursework, and classes usually meet just once or twice a week, for a maximum of 2 hours at a time. Learning is mainly an independent activity, not as closely monitored by your professors and TA’s as it is in the States. For example: even though most students don’t have homework, the Main Library is always full of jittery coffee-fueled adolescents reading a textbook or hammering out some notes. Learning is DIY. But for me, no homework = travel time (I’m sort it out the studying later)!

I live on the top level of a six-floor dormitory. The morning of my first day in Edinburgh, as I exited my flat and walked to the top of the staircase overlooking a glass-paned wall, my breath literally caught in my throat. From the top of those stairs, I could see outside of the glass wall, across the archaic rooftops of the sleepy city to the shimmering North Sea in the distance. At the peripheral of my vision, I saw one perfectly-cone-shaped mountain (or volcano?) across a span of salt water. It was a truly unforgettable “Wow…Where AM I?” moment.

During my first week, I met a group of visiting students, and we all climbed to the top of Edinburgh Castle, where you can see the entire city. It is STUNNING here – I never expected Scotland to be so astonishingly beautiful. When I think of gorgeous European countries, I tend to think of warm, exotic, Mediterranean places: Greece, Italy, France, Malta. So when I arrived, I was caught off guard by the beauty in the city’s serenity. Edinburgh is situated between snowy mountains, rocky plateaus, and an inlet of the North Sea, so it’s breathtaking in literally every direction you look.

I only have a morning class on Tuesday, so a friend and I went on a day trip to Glasgow. Not going to lie, a bit of a disappointment – it’s a more modern and international city, so the buildings weren’t as charmingly “Scottish” as Edinburgh. But there were a few streets where the city’s history peeked through.

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Streets of Glasgow
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Garden behind Glasgow Cathedral

Nonetheless, we had a lot fun, and ended up touring Kensington Palace (an excellent free 😉 museum), Glasgow Cathedral, and the University of Glasgow, had some EXCELLENT food and high tea, as well as wandered the shop-lined streets at night (would NOT recommend doing alone – was frequently creeped out by some of the guys on the street corners).

But my favorite part about Edinburgh is the FOOD (obvi). It’s a very international city, and there are restaurants from every corner of the world hidden amongst the streets. On my first day, I saw three Chinese grocery stores within minutes from my dorm. So far, we’ve had Sichuan hotpot (Lian Pu), Scottish cuisine (Howies Restaurant), Scottish seafood (Mussel and Steak Bar), Japanese (Koyama), and (of course) bubble tea at Chatime! The hardest part is remembering to take pictures before I start scarfing down food.

I’m so excited for the rest of the semester! A lot of traveling planned, a lot of menus scanned… I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling this weekend, so expect an awesome post soon! Cheers to trying new things 🍺

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