Today concludes the first month of my study abroad. It has been an incredible month filled with laughter and adventure. Here are the top 10 things I learned this month (in chronological order):
1. Going through roundabouts clockwise is terrifying.
After getting off an overnight flight where I didn’t sleep well and waiting in the airport for a couple hours for the study abroad program representative to pick me up, I finally got on a shuttle with the other study abroad students. As soon as we got to the exit of the airport, we went through a roundabout. I knew people in the U.K. drive on the left side of the road, but I had never considered what that meant for roundabouts. While our driver was totally safe and following the rules of the road, every atom in my being was panicking because going counterclockwise has been so ingrained in me. Over the course of the month I have been through roundabouts many times and it’s getting easier! Maybe by the time I get back to the U.S. it will be strange going through roundabouts counterclockwise!
2. Haggis isn’t that bad.
On my second day here the study abroad program took the other students and I out for lunch and we got to try haggis. Surprisingly, I liked it! The restaurant served “haggis bonbons” so I didn’t try traditional haggis, but the bonbons were delicious and I would definitely order them again! I have not tried traditionally prepared haggis yet, but I will before I leave.
3. Unicorns are not very intimidating, even when on a crest.
The unicorn is the national animal of Scotland, so it shows up somewhat frequently on royal crests and tapestries. I got to see many examples of these when my study abroad program toured Stirling Castle on our second day. The unicorns were not very threatening, even though they might have been intended to be.
4. The university campus sometimes gets used as a filming location for TV and movies.
As the other students and I were getting shown around campus, we were told the university has been used as a set for shows such as Outlander. Some of the other students are big fans of the show, and they said they recognized a couple spots around campus from a few episodes. Nothing has been filmed on campus in the first month of school, but the video geek in me is hoping I’ll get to see something before the semester ends.
5. Scottish people are incredibly nice and friendly.
As I met students and faculty from the university in my first couple of days, everyone was kind and helpful as I adjusted to my new environment and asked lots of questions. I thought this might have been because they were all prepared to work at student orientation activities, but every person I’ve met in the last month has shared these same qualities. Having so many wonderful people around has made my transition much easier.
6. I need to add extra time on my walk to class on nice days.
The university campus is huge and absolutely stunning. My accommodation is a 15 to 20-minute walk from academic buildings, but when the sun is out I have to leave at least 30 minutes before I need to be somewhere because I get distracted by the scenery. Campus has its own loch, golf course, and castle and there is a large hill right behind my accommodation and the Wallace Monument is visible all over campus. There have been multiple times where I realize I have stopped walking and am just taking in the views. It’s been a month and I am still not used to being in such a beautiful place.
7. There isn’t a bad option in a Quality Street chocolate box.
One of my flatmates got a variety chocolate box called Quality Street for the entire flat to share. We have since gone through three more boxes. While I definitely have my favorite flavors, I am never disappointed by the piece I get. My flatmates and I even decided to rank them. We are all evaluating each flavor and will compare notes soon.
8. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard bagpipes play R&B.
The Wallace Wha Hae! celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Wallace Monument opening. The festivities included live music, crafts, and plenty of food. One of the groups that performed was The Red Hot Chilli Pipers. I had heard of the group but never listened to their music and now I am a big fan! My flatmates and I had an amazing time and I danced throughout the performance. I had never realized I was missing a bagpipe rendition of Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” in my life, but now I never have to be without it again!
9. The hike up Damyut is 100% worth it.
The hill behind my accommodation is called Damyut (pronounced Duh-my-uht). It took my flatmates and I a little over three hours to get up and back (not including stopping for lunch), but we also got a little lost trying to get to the trail head from our flat. It was a fairly easy hike minus a few steep sections, and the views were incredible. We packed a little picnic to have at the top, but we ate pretty quickly because it was quite windy. I took hundreds of pictures and had an amazing time. I cannot wait to go up again!
10. You can make grilled cheese in a pot.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve been facing is cooking with extremely limited resources. It seems like a waste to buy tons of supplies only to leave them here after three months of use, so I’ve been making do with a single pot to cook all of my dinners. I thought I was a pretty decent cook after a year of off-campus living, but it took coming to Scotland to realize how many dishes I use at once. The food I’ve been making has all tasted pretty good and I’m getting better at making one-pot meals. This is a skill I was not expecting to develop but I look forward to bringing it back to the U.S.
My first month in Scotland has been absolutely incredible. Time is flying by and I’m trying to make the most of my experience. I cannot wait to learn even more wonderful, random, and silly things next month!