I am so glad that I studied abroad in Edinburgh and had opportunities to travel around Europe this semester. My new friendships and new experiences, my numerous memories and numerous photos, and these detailed blog posts about my adventures reveal my incredible and unforgettable semester.
My last few hours in Edinburgh were full of packing up EVERYTHING in my dorm room into my two large suitcases. While I took down my Georgetown Hoyas banner, removed pictures from my walls, and emptied my closet, I thought about all the amazing things I had done and awesome trips I had taken during my semester in Europe. I snapped this picture of my bare room inside my flat in Kincaid’s Court after I had packed up everything.
After saying goodbye to my flatmates, I threw my chock-full suitcases into a cab and headed to the Edinburgh airport.
My suitcases weighed in as “extra heavy”, but after checking my bags, I headed to the gate for my British Airways connection flight to London Heathrow. In London, I was able to meet my flatmate Ingvild in the British Airways terminal and say one last goodbye to her. She was heading home to Oslo, Norway for Christmas break, and I was heading back to America to return home in New Jersey and return to Georgetown in January. I’m glad Ingvild and I lived in the same flat, and I’m looking forward to staying in touch with her from across the Atlantic! Before we headed to our separate gates, we took one last picture in front of the beautifully lit Swarovski Christmas tree.
After I had finished my final ‘essays’ (the UK term) and completed my final exams during my last week in Scotland, I decided to make the most of my last few days and see what I could see! Because I had not gone to St. Andrews yet and because I had wanted to visit this famous town on the east coast of Scotland, I booked a train ticket and headed on a day trip to St. Andrews. Before going to St. Andrews, I knew that St. Andrews is the home to numerous golf courses, nice beaches, and the oldest university in Scotland, and I was excited to walk around this historical Scottish town. Unfortunately, it rained all day when I went to St. Andrews, but at that point in the semester I was used to the rainy UK weather, and I was prepared for my day of touring with my black Hunter boot, black rain jacket, and colorful umbrella!
Upon arriving in St. Andrews, I headed to the Tourist Center, received a map of the town, and began exploring. First. I went to the West Port, or So’gait port, on South Street, which is one of the few surviving town ‘Ports’ in Scotland. To clarify, ‘Port’ is the Lowland Scottish word for town gate. To further clarify, check out the picture of me in front of the West Port.
Following the map from the Tourist Center, I walked along South Street. This street is full of cheese shops, pastry shops, and clothing shops. I stopped in a designer boutique shop called shmooz, and bought a white silky blouse (which I wore on Christmas!). Also during my walk on South Street, I stopped in front of the remains of Blackfriars Chapel, which was built in the 16th century and was operated by Dominican friars.
Ironically, as the rain began to pour down, I headed to the beach. I walked toward the East Sands, and I even walked on the beach and put my hand in the St. Andrew’s Bay, which is the closest part of the North Sea to the coast. I continued my walk of St. Andrews and saw St. Andrews Castle, the remains of St. Andrews Cathedral, and the renowned University of St. Andrews. The ‘burgh’ of St. Andrews is famous for this prestigious university that dates back to 1410! I learned that 1/3 of the population of the town (16,680) are students at the university.
I hope the next time I visit St. Andrews I can enjoy beautiful summer weather on the sandy beaches, walk around the famous golf courses, and learn more history of this Scottish burgh. That said, I’m glad I took the day trip to St. Andrews because I had wanted to visit this town in Fife and I enjoyed touring St. Andrews.
Back in Edinburgh, I began to get organized and pack up all my belongings to move back to the United States. I certainly did not spend two straight days packing though…I went out to one last dinner with my Norwegian roommate Ingvild, I browsed Edinburgh’s Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens, and I did some Christmas shopping in New Town!!
One night, Ingvild and I enjoyed delicious sushi at a restaurant called Tangs on Candlemaker Row, near George IV Bridge and Chambers Street. During the next day, I walked through the Christmas Market and looked out numerous booths of unique handmade goods and tasty homemade treats. I’m glad I had those last couple days in Edinburgh because I got to enjoy the city with no stress of school (and minimal stress of packing); I grew reminiscent of the fabulous times I had during the semester and sad that my life living abroad in Edinburgh was ending. I tried to fill those days with seeing more of the city, enjoying walking around the city, and doing a few more things in Edinburgh that I had wanted to do all semester.
Two of these things included eating a Fried Mars bar (a tradition supposedly created by Edinburgh ‘Chippys’, or shops that sell fish & chips) and viewing the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, in the National Museum of Scotland.
I know that I have gotten behind in my blog posting–as I am writing this from back in the United States–but I want to continue to document my semester abroad and reflect on my experiences.
My last day of classes at the University of Edinburgh was on Thursday November 29th, and I had a little more than a week off until the exam period began. During the end of November, I had celebrated Thanksgiving with friends, written three 3,000-word essays, and attended my last lectures. While some of my closest friends from Georgetown headed off to visit Italy during our ‘reading’ week at the beginning of December, I was in Edinburgh, and it was during that time that I decided to plan one more trip! I had wanted to go to Dublin because I’ve never been to Ireland before and I have relatives who live in Dublin, but I had not made the wish happen until the beginning of December. With the help of my brother who studied at Trinity College in Dublin and my dad and my uncle John who had the contact information for my cousins in Dublin, I arranged my three day trip to Dublin! I got in contact with my distant cousin Conor who lives in Lucan, outside of Dublin, and planned my trip for December 12-15.
I was so excited that I had planned this trip, during which I was going to meet several distant cousins, tour Dublin, and learn more about my Irish roots. I arrived in Dublin in the evening of December 12, and I met my cousin Conor when he picked me up from the airport. Conor and I headed back to his home in Lucan (where I was staying on my first night in Ireland), and when we arrived at his house, we enjoyed delicious lamb stew that his wife Tracey had made. Tracey and Conor are in their forties, and they live in a development of comfortable homes in Lucan, which is about 30 minutes away from the city center of Dublin City.
The next morning Tracey made a full Irish breakfast–black pudding, rashers (Irish bacon), sausage, and a fried egg. I had never tried black pudding before (and I was a little nervous to!), but I liked it and enjoyed my Irish breakfast. Conor and I went to Newgrange, in County Meath to the north of Dublin. Newgrange is a prehistoric monument and tomb that is about 5,000 years old; its even older than both the ancient pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge in England! Newgrange is a large circular mound that has a passageway and central chamber inside and that is covered with grassy and earth. There is much mystery that surrounds the creation and purpose of Newgrange, but many historians have presented that it was used as a burial tomb and that it was used as a place for religious meaning. One of the most fascinating aspects of Newgrange is that it is perfectly aligned with rising sun on the winter solistice, when the light floods into the central chamber and illuminates the chamber. In the picture of Conor and me in front of the Newgrange monument, you can see the small opening which is called the roof box, through which the sunlight enters the monument on the shortest days of the year–the days around December 21st, or the days of the winter solistice. I had not known about Newgrange before my visit to Ireland, but I enjoyed learning about this ancient monument (and the mysteries associated with its creation and purpose) during my day trip with Conor. Conor and I entered the central chamber with a tour group, and we were able to see the ancient artwork of geometric shapes (and 17th- and 18th-century graffiti, before the monument became a national site).
After we toured Newgrange, we enjoyed a cup of Irish tea and drove further north; Conor took me into British Northern
Ireland to the city of Newry. We walked around the shopping malls and central streets of Newry, and Conor told me more
about the history of violent and bitter aggression between the people of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland. Thankfully, the relationship between these peoples today is much, much improved, but up until the 1990s, the resistance between these Irish peoples was strong and bitter.
That evening, Conor, Tracey, Conor’s mother Alma (who was first-cousins with my dad’s mother), and I went to Handel’s Messiah at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. I had listened to some pieces of Handel’s Messiah before but had never been to see and hear an orchestra perform it before. That was such a treat! The music was absolutely beautiful, and the singers were very talented. I thought it was wonderful that I could enjoy this special oratorio during the Christmas season.
That night I stayed with my grandmother’s first cousin, Alma, in Lucan. In the morning, I took the Luas (the above-ground train system) into the city center of Dublin, which was a quick and easy 15-minute ride. I decided to do the hop on/hop off
bus tour of Dublin that day because I wanted to become familiar with the city and see many of the tourist attractions in the day and a half I had left in Dublin.
One of the stops I hopped off at was Kilmainham Gaol, or the former prison that is in the western part of the city. The prison was first built in 1796, and it possessed the newer model of prison cells intended for single occupancy. This prison housed many, many Irish poor during the famines in the 19th century, and this prison was the site of numerous hangings and executions of leaders of Irish rebellion movements. Alma told me that a few of my ancestors had been in the Kilmainham prison.
Later that afternoon, I stopped for a cappuccino and a mixed berry scone at Bewley’s Coffee on Grafton Street, which is one of the main streets for shopping in Dublin City. The Irish company was established in 1840 and exports coffee today to many countries around the world. I enjoyed my cappuccino in the cafe area of the store, and I purchased some coffee beans to give to my mom back to the States. After my stop in Bewley’s, I walked around on Grafton Street, wandering into different stores. Two of the Irish department stores that I browsed in were Dunnes and Brown and Thomas; Brown and Thomas is a beautiful store with extravagant products and high-end clothing, and I enjoyed admiring the merchandise and the magnificent Christmas decorations in the store.
After, I hopped back on the bus tour and went to the Guinness Storehouse.
During the tour, I learned about the history of Guinness and about the brewing process. I learned about the precise procedure to create the product, which includes four ingredients–water, barley, hops, and yeast. I also learned the official way to pour a pint of Guinness–a six step procedure that bartenders around the world supposedly learn. The Guinness family and producers certainly care about their Irish product! After pouring the pint of Guinness, I got to enjoy the pint that I had successfully poured, and now I’m certified to pour Guinness. (I have a certificate to prove it!)
That night I met more of my Irish relatives, because three of Alma’s five children came over for dinner at Alma’s house. I was happy to spend time with Conor and Tracey, Alma’s daughter Levon, and Alma’s son Ronan (and his family). All of Alma’s children live in the Dublin City area, and I’m glad I was able to meet three of them during my three-day visit to Ireland! Ronan has four cute children (three daughters named Nieve, Alva, and Maeve, and one son named Dermid), and Ronan’s daughters told me a lot about their hobby of competitive Irish dancing.
On my last day in Ireland, I took the Luas from Alma’s house in Lucan into the city center to continue my touring. First, I headed to Trinity College, which was the first university of Dublin and was founded in 1592. Trinity was modeled after Oxford and Cambridge in England, and it is Ireland’s oldest university.
Today, Trinity College is surrounded by Dublin City, of which it is situated near the exact middle. My older brother Sean studied abroad at Trinity two years ago, and I was excited to see the beautiful academic buildings that he had told me about. Today, Trinity College houses the Book of Kells, which is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin that was created by Celtic monks around the year 800. The exhibition was located in one of the Trinity College’s libraries, and the exhibited displayed two of the Gospel books during the day of my visit. I was amazed at the detail and colors of the artwork and the beautiful handwriting of the Gospels.
After walking around Trinity College, I continued to tour Dublin. There was so much I wanted to see and do, and I wanted to use every last minute of my trip to see Ireland! From Trinity College, I headed to the River Liffey, which divides the city of Dublin.
One of the things I did while walking along the River Liffey was cross the Ha’penny Bridge, which is officially the Liffy Bridge. Before this bridge was built in 1816, ferries were the main source of transportation across the river, but this bridge allowed pedestrians to cross the river at the cost of a ha’penny toll. Turnstiles on either side of the bridge allowed the collection of the toll to be enforced, and the toll even rose to “penny ha’penny” before the toll was abandoned in 1919. Therefore, I walked free and easy over the bridge and back, at no charge.
In the early afternoon, Conor and Tracey met me for lunch in Temple Bar, an area at the south bank of the River Liffey which is known as a central spot for nightlife. We went to Gallagher’s Boxty for lunch; my brother Sean had advised that I find Gallagher’s Boxty but I hadn’t seen it yet during my trip. I was so glad Conor and Tracey showed me where it was (for the photo opt) and that they took me to lunch there. I enjoyed a lamb boxty and a glass of Murphy’s. During that one meal, I had food from Gallagher’s and drink from Murphy’s–which are both family names of mine; my dad’s mother was a Murphy, and obviously my dad’s dad was a Gallagher.
In case you have never heard of a boxty before (as I certainly had not), a boxty is an Irish potato pancake that surrounds meat, veggies and other ingredients. The ingredients in the lamb boxty that I had at Gallagher’s Boxty in Temple Bar were Irish Lamb, cooked with cumin and carrots and topped with tzatziki, and the boxty was very tasty!
After lunch, Conor and Tracey took me to The Brazen Head, which dates back to 1198 and is the oldest pub in Ireland. Many famous Irish writers including James Joyce dined there, and also many Irish revolutionaries including Robert Emmet (who was held at Kilmainham for his involvement in the Irish nationalist movement in the late eighteenth century). I was happy to see another famous site in Dublin, and I tried a Bailey’s coffee at The Brazen Head at the suggestion from Conor and Tracey. In my three day visit to Ireland, I had tried several Irish beers (like Guinness and Murphy’s) and whiskeys (like Jameson and Baileys) but I liked the Bailey’s coffee least of all my samplings. I was glad to spend my last afternoon in Dublin with Conor and Tracey who was excellent tour guides, extremely hospitable hosts, and very friendly Irish! While we enjoyed one drink at The Brazen Head, Conor and Tracey told me that they sometimes go out to The Brazen Head on weekend nights to enjoy the live Irish folk music that is performed there.
I had a wonderful three-day trip to Dublin! I enjoyed meeting my Irish relatives, touring the capital city of Ireland, seeing some of the Irish countryside, learning about my Irish ancestors, and dining on Irish traditional foods. I’m very glad I planned this last trip. I definitely look forward to visiting Ireland again in the future. There is so much in Ireland I want to see, and I would love to visit with my relatives in Dublin again.
The month of December has been filled with Christmas spirit! Wandering the annual Christmas market along Princes Street and in Princes Street Gardens, having an ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ party with my Georgetown friends, and celebrating Christmas with my basketball team are some of things I have done that are making my last month in Scotland a festive and fun one!
The annual Christmas market in Edinburgh, which opened on November 29th, is an energetic market with winter-themed carnival rides and an ice rink, and many vendors selling trinkets, Christmas crafts, German sausages, chocolates, and other treats. The Christmas market is in New Town along Princes Street and on the connecting bridge between New Town and Old Town. The market is open seven days a week, but on weekends, the market is absolutely packed; when I have walked through the market on weekend days, it is overflowing with people shopping, browsing, snacking, and getting into the Christmas spirit! I’m definitely going to go back to this Christmas market to look for some souvenirs and Christmas treats to bring back to the U.S.
Two weeks ago, I celebrated the Christmas season with many of my Georgetown friends studying here in Edinburgh. The majority of us were adorned with ‘ugly Christmas sweaters’ as we gathered together to have some holiday fun. My Georgetown girlfriends and I bought bright Christmas sweaters, or ‘jumpers’ as Brits call them, at Primark, which is a fabulously cheap store that is similar to Forever 21 in America. I was happy to have the occasion of our Christmas Georgetown get-together to buy an ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ because I’ve wanted one and I’ve wanted to go to a festive ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ party!!
Many of my fellow Hoyas in Edinburgh wore Christmas sweaters, but a few got even more festive…dressing in a Santa costume and dressing in authentic German lederhosen purchased at Oktoberfest, to name a couple. I had not hung out with such a large group of the Georgetown students in Edinburgh since Halloween, and it was very fun to see everyone and to hear about everyone’s recent European travels.
Although I did not know it before we all got together that night, the Georgetown’s men soccer team was playing Maryland that night in the NCAA semifinal game–a huge achievement and exciting event for all Hoyas! Decked in our Christmas attire, we huddled around a laptop computer to watch the live-streamed game, the segment of overtime, and final shootout. We exploded with cheers when Georgetown became victorious with the 4-3 score on penalty kicks! The soccer game made our Georgetown Christmas party even more fun because as we watched in suspense and chanted “Hoya Saxa”, we were showing our Hoya pride across the Atlantic in Edinburgh.
A third Christmas event that I have had so far in December was my basketball team’s Christmas dinner and night out. My team, the second women’s team at the University of Edinburgh, and the first women’s team went out to dinner at Nando’s for our Christmas dinner. My friend Avery and I had fun dressing up in “lbd’s” (little black dresses, for all you fashionistas out there), and some of my teammates even dressed up in Christmas costumes, or ‘fancy dress’ as Brits say. At our dinner, my team’s social secretary, Kate, presented frames with our team picture inside to me and to my friend Christine (who has also been studying abroad this semester). The two of us are the two Americans on the team who were studying in Edinburgh for the fall semester. The gift was a great surprise for me, and the frame is an awesome memento of my experience on the basketball team this semester! I asked my teammates to sign the mat of the frame, and I’m looking forward to having the frame in my room back in the States. After the Christmas dinner, my team, the women’s first team, and the two men’s basketball teams went out to Rush bar and to Potterow, which is the student union of the University of Edinburgh that hosts the clubnight called “The Big Cheese” every Saturday night. Together the four EUBC teams took the dancefloor, sang to cheesy club music, and belted out some Christmas tunes!
Last week, I planned two visits with my British-American cousins Jack and Lulu. Jack currently lives in London, and Lulu attends NewCastle University in Newcastle upon Thyne in Northern England, so I squeezed in visits with both of them as the countdown of my semester abroad continues ticking.
My first visit was with Jack, who took the train up from London to spend a weekend in Edinburgh with me. I had fun hanging out with him for the weekend, and I enjoyed visiting some Edinburgh historic sites and tourist attractions that I had not yet been to during this semester. I also really enjoyed learning about different British traditions; for example, Jack encouraged me to try more British foods in my last three weeks in Edinburgh, and he told me about traditional foods like Yorkshire pudding, desserts like Banoffee pie, and British chains like Pizza Express. When Jack arrived (after a prolonged train journey of seven hours from London), we went to dinner at Pizza Express. I have past two Pizza Express restaurants in Edinburgh several times, and I had been wanting to go, so this was a great first meal of the weekend.
For dessert at Pizza Express, I tried my first Banoffee pie. I really liked Banoffee pie, and I want to try to make it over Christmas break for my family back in New Jersey! That night, Jack and I went out with some of my friends in the Edinburgh University Basketball Club, and we both danced and had a great time with my friends!
On Saturday, Jack and I went to The Scotch Whisky Experience, which includes a barrel ride through a replicated distillery, a video about the traditions and flavors of whisky from different areas of Scotland, and a taste of whisky! This museum also exhibits the world’s largest collection of Scottish whiskies–a collection that the Brazilian connoisseur Claive Vidiz built over 35 years. This collection of more than 3384 Scottish whiskies holds the Guinness World Record and has been on display at The Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh since the spring of 2009. During our tour, Jack and I both tried a Single Malt Scotch Whisky made in the Lowlands, and I enjoyed the supposedly ‘grassy’ taste that characterizes Lowland whisky!
Jack and I walked all around Edinburgh; we went to the weekly Edinburgh Farmer’s Market, to the Christmas Markets on Princes Street, to the numerous stores on Princes Street and George Street, and along the Royal Mile. We also learned about the history of Scottish currency and the Bank of Scotland at the Museum on the Mound, which used to be the National Bank of Scotland and has a remarkable location on the edge of Old Town that provides beautiful views across the bridge to New Town. On Saturday, I tried more traditional British foods as I enjoyed a steak and ale pie for dinner and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. On Sunday, I continued my weekend sampling of British foods with more suggestions by Jack. For lunch, we shared haggis, neeps and tatties and fish and chips, and I tried a shandy. [A shandy in the UK is beer mixed with carbonated lemonade. I thought it was very good!]
On Monday morning, Jack and I toured Edinburgh Castle. I had not been all the way up to the castle yet this semester, so I was excited to tour the castle and to see all of Edinburgh east of the castle! I loved the views of Old Town, New Town, and Arthur’s Seat from the Castle.
Jack and I spent about two hours inside the castle, and we didn’t even see everything! We saw various museum exhibits, St. Margaret’s Chapel (which was built by King David I in 1130 Ad), and the Great Hall (which was the location of chief ceremony and state assembly). After we toured the castle, Jack and I walked to Princes Street to enjoy a sausage and beer from one of the German Christmas market booths.
I had a nice weekend with Jack in Edinburgh. We had fun walking around the city, eating British foods, and touring Edinburgh sites. Before this visit, Jack had been to Edinburgh a few times for the Fringe Festival, which is a world-famous music and theatre festival that takes places each summer, but with this visit, Jack realized how nice Edinburgh is at a completely different time of year.
On the Thursday following Jack’s visit to Edinburgh, I took a train to Newcastle upon Thyne to visit Jack’s sister, my cousin Lulu. Lulu, who just started her fresher’s year at Newcastle Uni, is eight months younger than me and is thus, one of my closest girl cousins (despite the fact that the Atlantic Ocean separates us most of the time)! Lulu and I talked throughout this semester about visiting each other in our cities, but we hadn’t secured a plan until last week; I’m so glad we did because I loved visiting Lulu, hearing about her first semester at uni, and going out for a night in Newcastle with her.
On Thursday, Lulu and I walked around a Christmas market in Newcastle, and then meet some of her girlfriends to go ice skating.
The cold Newcastle weather, the Christmas market, and ice skating were perfect for a December afternoon! Lulu’s friends who came ice skating with us were super nice, and I could tell Lulu was very fun and comfortable at the uni.
After ice skating, Lulu and I went to Wagamama for dinner; Wagamama is another British chain restaurant that I had been wanting to go to, and Lulu and I had a delicious dinner there. We shared vegetable gyoza dumplings, and I had a noodle dish with chicken, prawns, and vegetables for my dinner. I enjoying chatting with Lulu about her architecture course at Newcastle and about her involvement on the rowing team at Newcastle. Both she and I started rowing in college and were excited to talk about it together!!
Later that night, Lulu and I went out to a club called Trap that was having a special dub step music night. We went with many of her friends from her dorm and from her rowing team. I had a really fun time dancing with Lulu and her friends and experiencing the Newcastle nightlife; its a great city to go out in!
On Friday morning, I said goodbye to Lulu and to Newcastle, and took a train back to Scotland! I enjoyed every minute of my visit with Lulu, and I wish we went to school closer so we could hang out more often. We have a lot in common (being tall, loving to dance, and rowing, just to name a few), and Lulu’s friends told me that the two of us look and act very similar. Hopefully Lulu will study abroad in America!
My two visits with Jack and Lulu were lots of fun, and I’m glad I got to see both of them while I was studying this semester in Edinburgh. I will be continuing to visit with family next week, when I go to Dublin! I am excited to meet my dad’s second cousins and to stay with them for three days. I’m also very excited to see Dublin for the first time!!
On Wednesday November 28th, my club basketball team played Stirling in Edinburgh, which was my last EUBC game of the semester! My teammates and I had actually played the Stirling team back in October in Stirling, and we had beat them; we were excited to take Stirling on again on our home court in the Edinburgh University Center for Sport and Exercise (the ‘Cse’). My teammates are mostly full-time students at Edinburgh, but my friend Christine and I are visiting students for the semester, and we were particularly pumped up for our last game with EUBC.
My team soared to victory over Stirling’s first team with a final score of 87-39. Not bad, eh? It has been so fun to play basketball this semester, and I’m so glad I joined because I met so many awesome girls on my team and so many fun girls and guys on the other teams in EUBC. After the game, we took a ‘classic’ team photo with our coach, Jovan, who is a graduate student at the university.
After the game, my teammates and I went out to celebrate our victory and our undefeated fall season that put us at the top of our league!
Some of the girls from the EUBC first team and some of the guys on the first and seconds teams joined us at Rush Bar. As I’ve mentioned before, I really like the girls on the team, and they are friends that I have made who I will definitely stay in touch with (thanks for Facebook!). This was a fun night to celebrate my friendships with teammates and with other players in EUBC!