There are so many things to see in Edinburgh! The Royal Mile and the Castle are tourist hotspots and, of course, can’t be missed. My flat-mates (who are both American exchange students) and I went on a walking tour of the Royal Mile area. It’s just incredible to live in a place with so much history, a place where you can find McDonald’s sitting right next to a building that has been standing since before America was recognized as a country. The coast is just a short bus ride away from the town center and Arthur’s Seat – the hill that towers over Edinburgh and sits just at the end of the Royal Mile – is even closer. Climbing that hill was one of the best things I’ve done here in Edinburgh. It gets its name from a rather far-fetched legend that Camelot once stood on its peak. Still, the views from the top are breathtaking. On the day I planned to go, there was rain predicted for the afternoon. I decided to risk it anyway and it paid off when I got to the top and there was a whole rainbow stretching across the sky!
As far as day-to-day living in Edinburgh, I really rely on the buses to get to where I need to be, like between the different campuses of Napier University. It was a little challenging at first trying to figure out which number bus to take which direction and when to catch them, particularly since I have the directional sense of a malfunctioning homing pigeon, but within the first week I had a pretty good grasp on how to get where I needed to go. Another major challenge was learning to cook for myself here. First off, I had to find a grocery store (which, I discovered is a very Americanized term for what everyone here calls supermarkets) and figure out what dietary staples I needed. Through this venture I discovered that zucchini are called courgettes here and that peanut butter is almost as hard to find as Dr. Pepper. After buying my cooking and eating supplies, I had to figure out how to actually make the food. I’ve discovered that pasta is one of the easiest things to make! Now that I’m pretty comfortable cooking, I’ve started to experiment a little with different foods. By the time I move into my apartment next year, I’ll be a cooking champion!
Arguably the most distinctive thing I’ve experienced here in Edinburgh is meeting people from all over the world. Surprisingly, few of the people I’ve met are actually from the city, but have come here for university. I helped a Swedish classmate with a journalism assignment, went to a flat party with a group of German students and had lunch with a couple from Northern Ireland. In my classes at Napier, I’ve met people from all over Scotland and England, as well as from Poland, Hungary, France, Italy and Spain. To meet so many different people and get to know a little about what their lives are like – how they're different and still very much the same as mine – is one of the greatest rewards of studying abroad.
As far as experiencing Scottish culture? I went to a Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), that is, a traditional Scottish dance, and of course I’ve tried haggis, the Scottish national dish. If you don’t know what it is, you shouldn’t look it up before trying it. I think it’s pretty tasty, personally. I’ve been to a few of the myriad pubs around Edinburgh and let me tell you now, if you want to truly experience modern Scottish culture, go to a pub during a rugby match.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am having an absolutely wonderful time and learning so many invaluable things that will stay with me long after I return home.
by Rachel Lijewski