Getting Lost In Edinburgh

DSCN2763[1]Never think that just because you are confident in your abilities as a walker and traveler that you can get around a new city without help, especially one as big as Edinburgh. I decided that I’d walk to campus from my dorm via the union canal path. Google maps informed me that it would be a 38 minute walk. I was confident but I was unprepared for what I found out. Google maps has no idea what they are talking about. I wandered in the canal for three hours into a seedy part of town and through several parks. I finally met a nice Bulgarian family who offered to take me a mile out of their way to the school. I am so grateful to them! The woman was very friendly. She explained that she too had once been foreign here and that she saw a bit of herself in me.

table

The day wasn’t all bad though. I got home and went over to the CIS-Abroad welcome dinner. I met a lot of people from the states and we instantly became friends. I even met one German fellow who  seems nice. After the dinner a few of us stayed behind to chat and eventually made our way back over to the dorms to a school-run rock show. They were playing quite a few American songs. I had a pretty good time. I even danced (awkwardly). We’re all going on a walking tour today of the city with CIS-Abroad. So, I’ll make sure to post pictures of that as well.

 

Departed and Arrived!

School starts Monday! I feel like it’s the first day of college all over again. In a new home, in a new town with new roommates… starting at a new school with all new classmates. Which is crazy enough on its own, without the added bonus of being in a country where I don’t speak the language! (Please excuse the excessive use of exclamation marks… I can’t help how I feel :))

I arrived on Monday night with my friend from back home and stayed in a hostel. Tuesday I met my host mom and roommate, Katie from Ohio, at our new home in Barcelona! From the get go I realized I probably should have listed to a few more lessens of spanish before leaving home. Like, maybe all of them! Everyone is so friendly though and willing to communicate using mime and body language. It’s been a crazy week, but so far all is mostly as expected, surprisingly. I guess the one difference is that I wasn’t expecting to be able to understand or communicate so well. Don’t get me wrong, communication is tough; my host mom doesn’t speak english and my spanish dates back to two years in high school. Miming can only get you so far :). However, we get by just fine! She is so sweet and willing to slow down just a bit and chuckle at our poor attempts at conversation. Each day gets easier, and I grow more comfortable speaking the little spanish that I remember.

Today was our last day of orientation and we took a day trip to Tarragona (photos attached). Spain is so beautiful, I’m so glad that I didn’t let my fears (mostly of the language barrier) get in the way of coming here. There is so much history in all of these cities! I forget, when I’m in the US, that some places have such a long and diverse past. Tarragona is a city that was built on top of Roman ruins. New ruins are still being uncovered as the city buys old empty houses and takes them down to see what is underneath. Back when the houses were built they just reused what was already there, turning old roman walls and floors into part of the new construction.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of the sights in Barcelona and around Spain for the next three and a half months. I just hope that I don’t forget to do the touristic things while I’m here, as I already feel at home.

La playa

New friends and me at the beach in Tarragona. The sand is similar to our Oregonian sand but the water is much warmer :)

Castell

In Catalonia, the region where I am staying in Spain, they build human towers called Castells. This was a statue of a castell in Tarragona, the man in the foreground is playing music while those in the background form the base for a human tower, sometimes reaching nine bodies high. Children climb to the very top and wave to the crowd. I’m hoping I will see one at one of the several festivals that takes place in September here in Catalonia.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Elani

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.

Home, Glorious Home

My arrival home was much warmer than that of my arrival in London. My parents greeted me with hugs, kisses, and a cup of Oregon ice water! Compared to London, my flight home was not late nor were we scrambling to get from the airport to point b. Sadly, I feel that I was more excited about my return home than arriving in London. Upon landing in London, I was full of uncertainty because we were late landing, there were problems at the boarder patrol, and it seemed like no one had planed on any of the groups arriving late whereas going home, I knew that no matter how late I got in, there would be someone waiting for me at the airport to take me home. Furthermore, the US boarder patrol was a walk in the park compared to London’s.

It’s good to be home!

~Kallan

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

Home sweet home!

Hello!

I have made it back home safe and sound! The layover was brutal and long, but at least I was in the same time zone as my family and friends! It was so nice being reunited with my parents and being able to share everything that I had done while I was abroad to my family and friends. I will miss London but this was such an amazing opportunity and experience!

Going Home

London was not what I expected, but at the same time it was also so much more. The history is mind blowing and it’s people are interesting. And the landscape is simply breathtaking. I expected there to be a mixing of different cultures, but I was not expecting so much of an Indian influence. Everywhere I turned was curry or a worker with a Indian-British accent, which is very hard to understand. I knew that there was going to be a bit of a backlash at us being American, but I never expected so much. It’s very frustrating knowing that people are judging you for your accent. I eventually began telling people that I was Canadian. I also didn’t expect to feel so safe in London and I only had two scary experiences on the bus and was completely comfortable with the tube.

I’m looking forward to going home and seeing my family. This is the first time I’ve been away for home by myself for so long. It was truly a growing experience, I don’t know how, but it was.

~Kallan

Pre-Departure

Leaving London is so bitter sweet for me. On one hand I’m devastated to be leaving such a beautiful country, but I’m really excited to go home and see my family and friends! I also have to admit I’m looking forward to getting back to work! I’ve felt like such a lazy bum not working for so long! In a perfect world everyone I loved would just move to England. However, that’s not really reasonable. So it’s cheers to England for now, but i know I’ll be coming back.

Portland bound in the Morning!!!!

I haven’t been able to keep up with my blogging over this trip due to technical issues with my internet connectivity and ability to download photos, plus I’ve been having a fantastic time in London and the rest of the UK. I’ll post the rest of my weekly adventures when I return to the US and have fully functional internet access so that you all can see what I’ve been up to on my adventure!

This trip to the UK has been one of the most life changing experiences of my life. Over the course of this trip, I was implanted in a foreign metropolis and expected to be able to navigate the streets of London without looking like a helpless tourist. While I was not able to meet expectations the first few days (with my nine hour trek back to campus), I ended up mastering the art of navigating London without looking like a helpless foreigner. In my time here, I have been able to go to several London landmarks, from the Globe theatre to the British Museum and the British Library (my favorite place in the world, which you’ll hear about in my week 4 post), and have also had many opportunities to travel throughout the country and see the countryside and more picturesque areas of Britain. I’ve been to Scotland, Wales, York, and Stratford-upon-Avon during my stay in London, and have enjoyed nearly every place I’ve traveled. While I’m excited to get back home and start real life again, I’m going to miss my time as a fly on the wall in London. I plan on coming back here someday, and I hope I’m able to do so. While I’ve been to a great many places here, there are still things that I wanted to do but wasn’t able to (The London Eye, Canterbury, Bath, Dover). While it saddens me that I was not able to get to these places, it gives me more motivation to come back, as there is still plenty of stuff available at my disposal. London is a city of endless opportunity, and it’s impossible to see everything you want to see in any allotted amount of time. Here’s to hoping I’ll be coming back to London in the near future, and here’s to hoping you all enjoy my further posts going into more detail about my experiences here!