First Few Days in Scotland

The view outside my window

The view from outside my dorm window.

The plane rides over to Edinburgh from Portland, OR were horrible to say the least. I’ve got several bruises from my bags, bumping, and the airplane bathroom sink I clung to while sick with food poisoning. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how I did it. I’ve never rode an airplane by myself before let alone internationally. Yet- somehow I managed to figure it out and arrive here in one piece. I’m proud of that! I sucked it up and did something even though it terrified me.

I met some other girls from around the world on my way to the dorms. They are really nice and I hope we can hang out later. The dorm is not what I expected but I soon adapted with the help of some of the people that were already living here. I found out where the stores were located and walked the two miles to them- much to the surprise of one of the fellows that was trying to get a rise out of me. I feel quite accomplished about that as well.

I tried haggis and tatties. I do not like it. It tastes like bad sausage. I’m never eating that again. I also bought some steak and kidney pies, and some blood pudding. We’ll see how that goes over. Tomorrow I start the harder stuff – the socialization and integration into the University environment over here at Napier. I’m really fretting it. I barely have a handle on things at WOU, how am I supposed to manage here? I guess I’m feeling culture shock because all I keep thinking about is home. It’s lonely here.

Perhaps it will get better with time?

 

Home Sweet Home

Well, it’s been almost a week since I got home and I have finally finished unpacking and caught up on my sleep. I’ve also had a lot of time to think over my recent adventures in Scotland and what I have learned from it.

After traveling about 18 hours, I was pretty exhausted but also exhilarated to see my family in person after two months of just skyping. As soon as I landed in Portland, I got huge butterflies in my stomach, because I was so excited to see my family. They had a sign and everything! As soon as my Mom saw me, she started crying, I swear, I have never been hugged so much in my life! My Mom, Dad, sister, and Aunt were all there to welcome me home.

And we have takeoff!

And we have takeoff!

I didn’t realize how much I missed Oregon until I came home again. While Scotland and Oregon have a lot in common, I missed the smaller things, like the trees everywhere, or the smell after it rains (it surprisingly smells different in Scotland). It was also nice to sleep in my own bed again after over two months.

Me and my sister at the airport!

Me and my sister at the airport!

Even with a common language, the US and Scotland are very different. One thing I loved about the UK was the public transportation over there, it was amazing! The people over there were all so nice and welcoming, I am going to miss talking with them.

My sister and friends made me a welcome home cake!

My sister and friends made me a welcome home cake (they aren’t the most artistic people ever)!

Overall, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to study abroad, and more specifically, choosing Scotland. I originally was looking at England, but I think that Scotland was the perfect place for me. It gave me the opportunity to learn about my ancestry and heritage in the most incredible way possible. I feel like I have grown so much about myself personally and what I want in the future. Even though I have traveled outside of the US before, I feel that this trip has shown me just how big the world is. No matter how much you think you know, just remember that there is so much more out there than any of us can imagine.

Week 8: The End is Here

This has been my last week abroad in Scotland. The time has just flown right by, I don’t know where it could have gone. This past week has been a bit stressful with things like packing, buying last minute gifts, and realizing that I will soon have to say goodbye to the people I have met and befriended while here.

The ISS Group in front of Broomhall Castle

The ISS Group in front of Broomhall Castle

This week my program, the International Summer Session, at the University of Stirling put on another farewell ceilidh (a fun get-together with a band and traditional Scottish dancing) to say goodbye to everyone and look back on all of the fun we have had. This time, the ceilidh was held at a local castle (how many times do you ever get to say that!), Broomhall Castle, which was a beautiful castle on the top of a hill where we could see the entire town of Stirling. It was a pretty amazing sight, and a little sad when I realized I wouldn’t be seeing this again any time soon. The ceilidh itself was a lot of fun, I danced so much, I was a bit sore the next day. When it was over, it finally hit me that I would never see some of these people ever again, which was a bittersweet thought.

At the Ceilidh

At the Ceilidh

Then, on Friday, which was the day before I left for home, me and two of my roommates went into Stirling to do some last minute souvenir shopping and to go to Stirling Castle (since one of my roommates STILL hadn’t been to see it). It was nice to spend some time with them because I had gotten really close to them and we were all n our separate ways the very next day.

Me and two of my roommates at Stirling Castle

Me and two of my roommates at Stirling Castle

Overall, this week has been a pretty calm and laid back one. It has been filled with tons of packing and hoping that everything will fit back into my suitcase!

Cheers!

Natalie

Pre-Departure: Bittersweet

So I have less than 24 hours left here in Scotland. While I am super excited to see my family and my dog, I really don’t want to leave. Scotland feels like a second home now, it’s so familiar. I never expected to love it as much as I do or have as much fun as I did. While the first couple of weeks were the hardest for me, now life here has become like second nature.

I'll miss seeing this view everyday!

I’ll miss seeing this view everyday!

Tomorrow I leave the University of Stirling at 7:30 am for the Edinburgh Airport. From there, I will fly to Newark and then after a four hour layover, finally to Portland. While I am excited to see my family, I am not excited for the super hot weather that we have been having in Oregon, I will probably melt as soon as I step off of the plane.

And the beautiful Scottish highlands (the favorite part of my trip).

And the beautiful Scottish highlands (the favorite part of my trip).

I won't be seeing any castles like this back in Oregon.

I won’t be seeing any castles like this back in Oregon.

I know that this post is pretty short, but that’s really all I have to say at the moment. I will still post about my last week and my arrival home later this week. Now I am off to finish up packing my stuff and enjoying these last couple of hours I have here in Scotland. There are still so many things that I want to do and see but they will just have to wait until I come back!

 

Natalie

Week 7: Only One Week Left

I know it’s pretty cliche, but one thing that my study abroad experience has taught me is that time does indeed fly when you are having fun. This past week, I have had to start thinking about packing, and more specifically, how I am going to fit all of the stuff I bought into my suitcase.

This week was a very nice one, on Tuesday, my program put on a kayaking event in the Loch here on campus. Even though it was a bit cold and it rained a bit, I had a lot of fun. We got to kayak and canoe around the Loch. We even played kayak polo, with nets, a ball, and everything. I had trouble at first getting my kayak to go straight, but after a while, I finally got the hang of it. It was a blast, but my arms and back were really sore the next day.

Kayaking on Airthrey Loch

Kayaking on Airthrey Loch

Another big thing I did this weekend was take a trip to Prague (which is in the Czech Republic in case you didn’t know). I went to visit one of my good friends who lives there. He was an exchange student at my high school and it was really cool to see the city and where he was from. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but Prague is an absolutely beautiful city with so much to do!

My trip to Prague

My trip to Prague

My friend (Bob) and I did almost everything there was to do in Prague (or at least it felt like it). He works as a tour guide, so he was a great person to see everything with. We did a ghost tour, an underground tour, and a nuclear bunker/communism tour. It was interesting because all of the history I learned while there started centuries ago and went up to about only 50 years ago. The underground tour was really cool because the city of Prague was actually raised hundreds of years ago because they had (and still have) bad floods that destroy everything.

Me and Bob

Me and Bob

Famous Astronomical Clock in Prague

Famous Astronomical Clock in Prague

While in Prague, I also went to the opera for my first time. We saw Don Giovanni, which wasn’t as hard to follow as I originally thought even though the whole thing was in Italian. The theatre was beautiful and was where that opera actually premiered when it was conducted by Mozart. One of my favorite parts of my trip had to be going on a segway tour of Prague. My friend Bob works for the company, so he took me around the city on a segway! It was really scary at first, but once I got the hang of it, it was so much fun! It was much better than walking up and down hills all day (which we had been doing before).

Segway tour!!

Segway tour!!

With my adventures quickly coming to an end (something I really don’t want to think about), I have to start thinking about packing and the things I have to do once I get back to the States. Even though this is my last week, I still am cramming as many things as possible into these last couple of days to make sure I get to see and do everything before I leave. Anyways, until next time!

Cheers,

Natalie

Week 6: In the Homestretch

Well week 6 has come and gone and I can safely say that even though I am loving Scotland, I am missing my family. These last couple of weeks have gone by much faster than I thought they would and now I have to start thinking about packing and how I will fit everything into my suitcase.

Since I last wrote, I have done a lot of work at my internship with the School of Sport. I got to assist in two bicycle trials where we measured lactate levels in the blood during different difficulties of cycling and also compared them to the participant’s heart rate and other values we took during the trials. During the first trial, I mostly observed and just handed things to people when they needed them so that I could get the feel for the trial protocol and such. Then during the second trial, they let me take the helm. I got to take the blood samples (which I thought was really cool) to test the lactate levels and also controlled the resistance on the bike. Even though I was really nervous, I feel like I did very well and I learned a lot from it.

Another big part of my internship with the School of Sport is data analysis. I have been taking the data from the trials and putting them into Excel to make spreadsheets and charts. I also have been working on formatting a feedback form for the participants of the studies so that they can see their results as well.

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

Apart from my internship, I took another trip to London with two of my roommates and it was a wonderful trip. We saw and did so much that I can’t believe we fit it all into only three days. The highlight of my weekend had to be going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. It was amazing to see where the films were actually shot and walk on the sets. It was surreal to be there, the detail in all of the props and sets was astounding to see. We also got to try butterbeer, which was delicious.

At the studio tour!!

At the studio tour!!

The Hogwarts Castle Model

The Hogwarts Castle Model

While in London we also saw the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Baker Street, Paddington Station, Piccadilly, Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, and even did a night bus tour of the city. The night tour was one of my favorites because it gave us a chance to see the whole city all lit up, it was also a very warm evening so that we didn’t get cold sitting in the open top of the bus.

Night bus tour view of the London Eye

Night bus tour view of the London Eye

Rainbow we saw from the train back to Scotland

Rainbow we saw from the train back to Scotland

Another week has passed, which is a happy and sad thing. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I have spent over six weeks here now. I can’t wait to see what my last two weeks in Scotland will bring!

Natalie

Week 5: My Highland Adventure

Another week has gone by and the Scottish adventures continue. This week I started my internship as a research assistant with the School of Sport here at the University of Stirling. So far, I haven’t done too much, mostly because it’s hard lining up everyone’s schedules. Hopefully though this coming week we will be able to run some trials with cyclists to measure lactate levels. My mentor’s name is Ian Walshe, and he is super nice. He has made sure to introduce me to a lot of people in the department, both professors and students, which had made me feel very comfortable and welcome. I am already starting to feel like part of the team!

This week, me and some other students decided to go into Stirling and do the Ghost Tour. We went and we had a great time. The guide we had was in full costume and character as the old town “torturer”. He was hilarious and all of the stories he told us were very good as well. After walking through the old part of Stirling, he took us up to the cemetery, which was very old and beautiful, not as creepy as I thought it was going to be. But our guide was very knowledgeable and told us not only ghost stories, but also a lot of the history behind them which I really appreciated.

Our Stirling Ghost Walk Tour Guide

Our Stirling Ghost Walk Tour Guide

This weekend though, I took a guided three day trip of the Scottish highlands. I have to say that this trip was definitely the highlight of my trip (at least so far). There were 16 of us on the tour, and we were all from the International Summer School at the University of Stirling. Our guide’s name was Nory, and he was frankly the best tour guide I have ever had in my life. He was hilarious and told us tons of stories and history about all of the places we went and made it interesting, not a boring history lecture. The first day we drive through the highlands to Glencoe, Fort Williams, and even stopped at the Genfinnan Viaduct, which is better known as the Harry Potter Bridge. It was amazing how beautiful and green everything was, things in Oregon are green, but it is nothing compared to the shade of green in Scotland, it looks almost fake! Going into every valley (or Glen) I expected to see Hogwarts or characters from Lord of the Rings, it was like something out of a fantasy film. It was also really cool because Nory pointed out several places that had been featured in the Harry Potter films, which I really enjoyed being a huge Harry Potter fan myself.

Representing WOU in the highlands!

Representing WOU in the highlands!

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Me and the Glenfinnan Viaduct (Harry Potter Bridge)

Me and the Glenfinnan Viaduct (Harry Potter Bridge)

The second day we spent exploring the beautiful Isle of Skye off the coast of mainland Scotland. We first went to the faerie pools, which if you have never seen pictures of, Google them right now. They are these beautiful clear blue pools and waterfalls that you can swim in and walk along. We ate lunch there and waded around in them for a bit. Since it is mountain run off, they were refreshingly cold, but it wasn’t anywhere near as cold as the Oregon Coast so I was fine. After the faerie pools, we headed out and stopped at many places to take pictures of various mountain ranges, kilt rock (which as the name implies it a rock that looks like the pleats on a kilt), and the old man of Storr (which is an interesting rock that is supposedly made by a fairy). The last stop of the day was Faerie Glen, which is where the entrance to the Faerie World in supposed to be. Nory warned us that we better all believe in faeries or we could be dragged into the faerie world where we would be stuck for a whole year until we could get pulled back out again.

Faerie Pools

Faerie Pools

Faerie Glen

Faerie Glen

Faerie Glen

Faerie Glen

The third and last day of our trip started out with us getting the chance to go out onto Loch Carron with a local fisherman to catch Queen’s scallops. It was quite an experience going out onto the Loch. When the catch came up, we all had fun picking through all of the different organisms that had been caught in the net even though we didn’t catch too many scallops. After sorting through it all, the fisherman cooked us some scallops. and it was pretty good even though I am not a big seafood fan. After that, we headed back out on the road and went to Loch Ness and then to Rob Roy MacGregor’s grave to round out our trip. To my disappointment, I did not see Nessie, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t exist!

Fishing on Loch Carron and we caught a Sunstar!

Fishing on Loch Carron and we caught a Sunstar!

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Some pretty awesome highland cows

Some pretty awesome highland cows

Well that’s pretty much it for this week’s adventures. As I hope you can tell, I had a fantastic trip seeing more of Scotland. The views alone were well worth the trip. I think that if you ever get the chance to explore the Scottish highlands, you will never regret it. This has been an experience that I know I will treasure for the rest of my life. It was absolutely amazing.

Week 4: Halfway Done

Well, I am four weeks into my eight week adventure, and it’s a pretty weird feeling. This week was my last week of classes, I am done! To celebrate the last day of our classes, my psychology professors put on a movie and afterwards they said we were going to have a discussion, but instead they surprised up with a tea party! It was the most adorable thing ever! We had tea, biscuits, cupcakes, and loots of other treats to celebrate our four week psychology of evil class.

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End of Class Tea Party!

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My delicious cup of tea

Thursday, I went to Stirling Castle with one of the other classes, I was excited because I hadn’t made it to the castle yet and I wanted to check it out. I was very impressed with the castle, it was a lot nicer and bigger than I thought. We walked around and even saw Mary Queen of Scots bedroom. The whole entire castle has been kept in beautiful shape and they even refurbished many rooms to make them look like they would have back when royalty lived in the castle. I didn’t realize that Stirling Castle had so much fame and history behind it. Apparently, it is the only Scottish Castle that has never had an English Lord, there’s your fun fact of the day!

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View from inside the castle walls

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Me and some friends in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle

 

A lot of people went home this week, which was a bit sad, since they were only staying for four weeks instead of eight. Because of this, the University put on a Farewell Ceilidh (pronounced like the name Kaylee), which is a dance and social gathering that is traditional in Gaelic communities. It was held at a very nice hotel in downtown Stirling. It was so much fun! They had a live fiddle band there and they taught us tons of traditional dances as well, it was a blast (and quite a workout too)! I didn’t participate in all of the dances because I had a bit of a cold that has been going around. It was the perfect send off for those who were going home and a great celebration for those of us staying for another four weeks.

Next week, I start my internship at the University at the School of Sport as a research assistant. I am excited to work with people from another University and can’t wait to tell you all about it! See you soon!

Natalie

 

Week 3: Off to England and Wales!

Hello everybody! I can’t believe that it is already the end of week 3 over here in Scotland. As the title of this post probably points out, I traveled to England and Wales this weekend! Thursday we went to Edinburgh where we went to the Elephant House (cafe where J.K Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter), The National Museum of Scotland, and Edinburgh Castle. Most of the castle was closed off for a private event, which sucked until we realized that the Queen would be arriving when we were there. So, we hung around and I actually saw the Queen of England! It was pretty exciting.

At the Elephant House (I had a huge nerd moment)

At the Elephant House (I had a huge nerd moment)

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The Queen of England!

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The view from Edinburgh Castle

From Edinburgh, a group of us took a train to London, where we would be spending the weekend. It was my first time on a train, so I was pretty excited, but eventually my exhaustion took over and I slept most of the way until we arrived at Kings Cross Station. After going to the wrong hotel and realizing that our reservations were for the wrong weekend, we eventually found a hotel with vacancies and got some much needed sleep. The next day (which also happened to be the fourth of July) we did a lot, we didn’t waste any time. We went to Buckingham Palace and saw the changing of the guard, went and saw Titus Andronicus at the Globe Theatre, rode the London Eye (my personal favorite-the views were amazing), saw Parliament and Big Ben, saw Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, and Trafalgar Square. It was a jammed packed day of sightseeing. It was surreal to see all of these landmarks that we all know in person, it finally hit me that we were actually in London when I saw Big Ben all lit up as we were walking around that evening.

 

Kings Cross Station

Kings Cross Station

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Big Ben

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Me on the London Eye on the Fourth of July!

Me on the TARDIS set at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff.

Me on the TARDIS set at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff.

The next day, we took a day trip to Cardiff (which is in Wales) to go to the Doctor Who Experience, which was pretty exciting for me, being a huge Doctor Who fan. They had a huge exhibition of costumes, props, and even some sets to look at. It was really surreal to see all of the things I have watched on TV. They also had models of all of the monsters that are in the show, which was also really cool. Sunday we took a train back to Scotland and we were all exhausted by that point. I took the rest of the evening to relax, Skype with my family, and unpack all of my stuff. While this trip had its ups and downs, it was a lot of fun. I realized what a great thing it is that my Dad taught me how to read a map, because if not, we probably would have been hopelessly lost. I also learned that the London underground isn’t as complicated as it looks. Overall, I made some great memories and can’t wait to do it again.

Until next time,

Natalie

Week 2: The Scottish Adventures Continue

Wow, I can’t believe that week 2 here in Scotland is coming to a close. I feel like I have done so much since the last time I posted! Let’s see… last Monday, we had a golfing event at the campus golf course (which is right next to a castle I might add) where we practiced various skills and even got to play a few rounds of golf. I’m not going to say I am good at golf, I’m not, but I did end up winning a prize for the longest drive! My Dad and Grandpa will be so proud!

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The campus castle next to the golf course.

Then later in the week, we had a day trip to Glasgow. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know much about the town, but I had a blast. We went to a couple museums (all of which were free), did some shopping, and even had tea at the famous Willow Tea Room (which was delicious). It was also fun because Glasgow is hosting the Commonwealth Games this year, and they were setting things up and had merchandise everywhere (it was like the mini-Olympics).

My favorite part of the day had to be finding not one, but three police boxes (like the TARDIS from Doctor Who) and taking pictures with them, I was nerding out pretty hard to be honest. Another great part of the day was going to the Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis. I have never been in such a beautiful building in my life. It was HUGE! Then, walking around the necropolis and looking at all of the graves was actually cool, and not as creepy as it sounds, I swear! Oh, but the best moment for me was going into Waterstones (UK version of Barnes and Noble) and buying Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It may not seem significant, but that day also happened to be the 17th anniversary of when the book was first published!¬†Needless to say, it was a pretty magical moment for me.

Me with a Police Box!

Me with a Police Box!

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Inside the Cathedral

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Another picture in the Cathedral

The Necropolis

The Necropolis

Then Friday, I went to Edinburgh on an excursion to see St. Giles Cathedral and Greyfriars Church and Kirkyard. The cathedral wasn’t as large as the one in Glasgow, but still quite a sight to see. Then, we walked down the road to Greyfriars Church, which also contains the Covenenters Prison in the graveyard, which is supposed to be one of the most haunted (and best documented) places in the UK. They keep it locked up and you can only get in with a tour guide, I didn’t find it too creepy, but then again, I wasn’t there in the dark either. Also in the graveyard are headstones that JK Rowling got inspiration from when writing Harry Potter. We saw one with the name McGonagall and one with the name Tom Riddle (aka Voldemort), which was pretty cool. Then we headed back to Stirling, and when I got back, I went to bed because I had had two long days of traveling and sightseeing.

Me next to Tom Riddle's Grave

Me next to Tom Riddle’s Grave

Sign that was next to the gate leading into the most haunted part of the graveyard.

Sign that was next to the gate leading into the most haunted part of the graveyard (the prison).

Then today (Sunday), after a good days rest, I went to Bannockburn Live, which was a celebration/festival commemorating the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, where the Scots (led by Robert the Bruce) beat the English and drove them out of Stirling. The activities included storytellers, music, food, ancestry tents, games, and even a reenactment of the battle. The battle reenactment was a lot of fun to watch, it was very well done. After watching the reenactment, we got the chance to walk around the “camp” and see what life would have been like back then. There were soldiers, animals, crafts, artisans, and even a blacksmith. It was a really cool and unforgettable experience. With so much to do, we pent nearly all day there checking everything out, there were people from all over the world there, I even met some more American Wallaces! Even with all of the fun events and places I have been going to, I still have to remember to do my homework, that is where I am off to now. Until next time!

Natalie

Robert the Bruce during the battle reenactent

Robert the Bruce during the battle reenactment