Friday, September 27, 2013

Lectures, Calton Hill, and Loch Katrine

Heya people. Maybe one day I'll decide to write posts at normal hours and not at 11pm whilst simultaneously watching About A Boy. But alas, here I am. So it'll have to do for now.

Right. So, since I last posted, I've started lectures! And that's not a sarcastic exclamation point! I was genuinely excited for my lectures to start. After all, they're the main reason I'm here. Usually the first week of class is the most stressful week of my semester- I panic all week long about what intimidating people will be in my classes, how much prior knowledge my professors expect me to have on the various subjects, if I have to delve through my brain for "interesting facts" about myself to share with the class, etc. But this time, I had NO nerves! Or, at least, not an overpowering amount.
Along with not having my usual first-week-of-class fears, my schedule here is also different from a normal schedule at UMW. For instance, at UMW I'd have 150 minutes of each separate class per week. Class could consist of lectures, group activities, or the professor calling on individual students, whereas here courses are split into lectures and tutorials. Lectures are run by lecturers, not professors, and they're essentially just that: a lecture. The amount of lectures per week varies based on the course, but most courses' lectures are accompanied by tutorials, which are smaller groups amongst the class that meet once a week to discuss a previously chosen topic relating to the course. I had my first tutorial this week for my course Religion, Violence, and Peace-building. I found it slightly uncomfortable at first since nobody wanted to be the first to talk, which created an expanding bubble of awkwardness in the room until someone brave spoke up. Once the conversation became slightly natural, I found it surprisingly thought-provoking and captivating. I'm looking forward to more tutorials so I can decide if I actually prefer them to the style of teaching that I'm used to.

Walking down the Royal Mile on my way back from lectures.

To take a break from lectures and readings, I ventured out to Princes Street last Friday to do some shopping for warmer clothes. Princes Street is an insanely busy (aka tourist-y) street full of all the best shops. I'm happy it's a 2 mile walk away otherwise my money would disappear quite quickly. Whenever I get to Princes Street, I usually turn left to where the shops are, but this day I decided to take a right instead and see where I wound up. Turns out, I was only a short walk away from the entrance to the Calton Hill walk. At first, I thought it might be weird to hike up it by myself, but I'm learning through this trip that it is okay (maybe even better, sometimes) to do things alone. I don't mean that in a pessimistic "meeeh I hate the world and people and all the things" way - just sometimes there's a higher feeling of accomplishment when you know you did something on your own. So anyway, I walked the short path, was nearly sent tumbling back down the hill by the wind, and then reached the top and its' indescribable view. There are many monuments on Calton Hill, so it was an informative and overall pretty incredible hike. I sat on a bench that faces Arthurs Seat and the city and tried to fully wrap my head around how historic this place is, but it's difficult to fathom all the people that have already stood on your ground, so instead I just marveled at the sights.

After my first week of lectures, the International Student Centre (ISC) at the University of Edinburgh scheduled a trip to Loch Katrine on Saturday. Loch Katrine is an 8 mile long loch (lake) in Stirling, Scotland- less than two hours away from Edinburgh- and was the inspiration for Sir Walter Scotts poem The Lady of The Lake. The ISC scheduled two busses to take students there for the day, and it was well worth waking up at 7 am on a Saturday after only getting four hours of sleep. The short journey there mostly consisted of sheep, fields, winding roads, sheep, a giant bull called Hamish, mountains, and sheep. It was wonderful. Once we got there, we basically had the day to wander around on our own, so some friends and I decided to pay the extra few pounds and go on the optional cruise (not as fancy as it sounds..) around a portion of the loch.

Although we didn't travel the full length of the lake, we were able to see most of the mountains that surrounded it. I felt so, so small in comparison. The clouds were low, the water was calm, and it all felt very serene. Afterwards, we walked along one of the paths surrounding the lake towards a two mile marker, took pictures, and quickened our pace when walking back to seek refuge from the cold at the Loch Katrine cafe.

While it wasn't an extravagant trip by any means, going on it was one of the best decisions I've made since being here. Having been in a city for two weeks, I forgot what fresh air felt like, and the wonders it does for your psyche. Plus, the mountains were beautiful and my eyes were happy.

So that's week 2 in a "nutshell" even though I feel like I've rambled on for ages. I know I said this in my last post, but I really will start posting more often now! I think I'm finally settled, as hard as that is to believe since it feels like I've been here for months. I have so much planned for October and cannot wait for it all to begin. I will write SOON. Have a lovely weekend!


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