Update #4

It has been way too long since I updated this, but it has been a long few weeks of paper writing and finals.  This will probably be one of my last entries from the UK, but I am debating whether or not to continue these, even if it isn’t on this particular site.  I am surprised how much I have enjoyed writing these.  So, now for updates.

Since I last wrote, I took a day trip to the Highlands with Rachel and Frida.  It was awesome!  It was through a tour company called “Hairy Coo Tours” that gives you a full day trip and, at the end, you pay what you think it is worth.  We went to so many beautiful places including Loch Katrine and the small town of Callander.  My day started at 5 am when I woke up to catch the 6 am bus (where I met a still drunk Scotsman who was talking to me and I didn’t understand him because of his accent and slurring of speech, so I just nodded and laughed) and then a train that would get me to Edinburgh by 8 am where the tour started.  From Edinburgh, the tour first stopped at the Firth of Forth to see the bridges, one of which is still functioning after over 100 years.  After that we went to Stirling where we saw the Wallace Memorial, but it was too foggy to see Stirling Castle, so we saved that for the trip back to Edinburgh at the end.  Wallace Memorial was cool, although we didn’t pay the fee to really explore the inside, but it was cool to look at through the fog.  The walk up was tough though because it was up a steep hill and it had snowed, so our feet were frozen by the time we reached the top.  It was worth it though.  From Stirling we went to Doune Castle, the site where “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” was filmed.  Again, we didn’t really get to explore the inside, but it was cool to see and take a picture with the coconuts provided by the tour company.  I also got gifts for my dad there, although I won’t list them here in case he is reading this.  From there we went to Callander for lunch.  It was a cute little town and Frida, Rachel, and I got soup and half a sandwich each, just what the doctor ordered on such a cold day.  Callander is the home to award winning bathrooms, or loos, and they have the certificates to show it.  After that, we were ready to see the Hairy Coos, or Cows, that the tour company is named after and the bus (a vintage named Irene) is designed to look like.  They were really cute and I got lots of pictures as others fed them Tesco Value bread.  From the Highland Cows, we went to Loch Katrine, one of the prettiest stops on our trip.  Honestly, it was gorgeous.  On the way back we made a quick stop at the Lake of Menteith to break up the long drive back.  From there, we made a quick stop to take a picture of Stirling Castle before we ended the trip in Edinburgh.  The whole trip was awesome and came with a running history lesson about Scottish Independence and the errors of Braveheart, as well as information about famous Scots.  After the tour, Rachel, Frida, and I walked around the German Christmas market and fair in Edinburgh.  After that it was time to go back to St Andrews.  It wasn’t as simple as it should have been since Rachel and Frida had to rush off to catch their bus before I realized that buses to St Andrews weren’t coming to the bus station, so I had to ask where the new stop was.  I was given questionable directions by one of the station workers, found a bus that I thought would take me, but was told I had to catch a different one, and had to wait another hour before catching the second-to-last bus of the night.  Still, even though I got back around 10:30 pm, it was totally worth it.

Since then, I have been pretty preoccupied with finals.  I had one this past Tuesday (12/11) for my Nationalism and Unionism in Modern Scotland class.  I was really nervous for this one because I did not feel as comfortable with the material, but I think it went pretty well.  The format for exams here is that they give you 9 essay questions and you choose 3 to write in 3 hours.  Not so bad, although it is weird to be in a huge hall with several other classes taking different exams.  After the exam, most of my class and I went to the pub to celebrate, since most of them were done with exams.  It was really nice to hang out with them outside of class and get to know them better.  What I thought would only be 1 or 2 hours, ended up being 5 and a half hours.  After the pub we grabbed fish and chips for dinner and Abby, Erica, Leah, and I (all JSAs from my class) snuck into the St Andrews Castle ruins and looked at the stars and the water.  While it was probably not legal, it is definitely one of the memories I will cherish from Study Abroad and is the only real “college experience” that I feel like I have had so far here.

On Monday morning is my next and final exam for my American Metropolis class.  While I definitely feel stronger in this class, I am still nervous for the exam since, for both classes, the exams are worth 60% of my grade.  I am just a little nervous about doing well since I didn’t do as well as I wanted on my last essay.  I think it should be okay though.  My family is coming a week from yesterday (technically since it is early in the morning today) and, with their arrival, will be the end of my Semester Abroad.  I will probably write at least one more entry about a trip I hope to take reflecting on the whole experience, but, for now, I can honestly say that I am sad for it to end, but excited to get back.  Something I forgot to include before, is that, when I get back, I will be the Chair of Stimulus Children’s Theatre and I am working on both Winter TAC-e shows.  I am so excited about that.  I guess I will end it there.  Once my exam is over and I, hopefully, take my literary themed trip, I will write what may be my final entry.

Coming to an End

It is so strange to think that there is less than a month left of this crazy Study Abroad experience.  This week is the last week of classes at St. Andrews and, honestly, I can’t believe that it is almost over.  I should probably be working on my essay now, but I have been thinking a lot about this, and, as far as procrastination, this is one of the more productive things I could be doing.

Last weekend my friend and college roommate, Rachel, came to visit for Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately I had a paper due the day after she left, so there was a lot of work that I had to do while she was here, but we made sure to do something every day.  She got here on Wednesday night (Nov. 21) and stayed until Sunday morning (Nov. 25).  On Thursday night, to celebrate Thanksgiving, Rachel, our friend Stacy, and I made our own Thanksgiving feast.  We planned recipes ahead of time (while watching the live stream of the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, of course) only to get to the store and find that there were ingredients missing.  Still, we were able to improvise and had a 3 course meal.  The first course included fig and fennel bread that Rachel had brought from Glasgow, tomato, mozzerella, and bazil on bread with balsamic dressing, raspberries and blueberries, and a salad made with dried cranberries (part of the care package that my mom sent me with lots of Trader Joes goodies for my birthday) and pine nuts.  The next course was the main meal.  We had mushrooms with brie in them, roasted eggplant, and turkey breast baked with potatoes.  For dessert we had a pumpkin pie (which some people in hall made for everyone) and baked apples.  Needless to say, it was delicious and very filling.  On Friday we walked around town and saw the castle and cathedral ruins as well as both the West and East Sands beaches.  On our way back to hall, we stopped in the St. Andrews Aquarium, which was awesome.  We saw a derpy Mississippi Map Turtle, saw seals being fed (one of which was also derpy), saw meerkats being fed, and saw a bunch of other awesome (and some, scary) creatures.  On Saturday we got a late lunch at Northpoint Cafe (where Kate and Wills met, for coffee) and went to the Vintage Fair that was taking place in Younger Hall, a beautiful building on campus.  I got a present for my mom there, but I don’t want to post it in case she sees this.  Needless to say, I think she will like it.

That concludes the update portion of this post.  While Rachel was here, we talked a lot about Study Abroad and our expectations and what our overall experience has been like.  While it is not done yet, I feel like my feelings are mixed.  I really love the beautiful town of St Andrews and being so close to the water if I want to take a walk or just listen to the sea break against the cliffs (my “calm spot” is right by the castle ruins where I can hear the water and see it crashing against the rocks while looking at the beautiful historic ruins).  I know that there will be times that I will miss it here.  I have, overall enjoyed my classes, including the teachers, classes, and subject matter, but they have not been perfect.  Grading has been tough as they expect a different style, so I did not get what I consider to be good grades on the first papers.  I am hoping to fix this in my next essay, but it does feel like being a Freshman all over again, but if it counted for more.  That has probably been the most frustrating part of the whole experience, partially because my grades are extremely important to me.  What Study Abroad has been best for is learning about myself.  Before coming, I felt like I had done that in my first years of college, but this experience has forced me to be introspective in a new way.  It has only enhanced my love for Penn and the friends I have there and has helped me see what my life might be like in a smaller college town.  While I don’t think I will miss Study Abroad every day, there will definitely be days that I will wish I could be back in St. Andrews.  I feel fortunate to have been able to have this experience and I know that, in less than a month’s time, when I am leaving, I will be both happy and sad to see it go.  I hope I will be able to come back and visit some time, but even if I can’t, I will have my memories, some good and some bad, but all a part of who I am and who I have become.

Remembrance and Realization

Several things have happened since I last posted on this site.  To start off, today is Remembrance Day in the UK (Veteran’s Day in the US).  Please, no matter what day you are reading this, take a moment to think about those who have fought, will fight, and are fighting for your country, whatever that might be.  Soldiers deserve our respect for risking their lives to defend others and their rights, and they should never feel unsupported for their work.  Another holiday that passed in the UK was Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night.  As far as I know, not much happened, but I did see a small fireworks display outside the house that my window faces and I heard that there were some beach bonfires.  The other major world thing that happened since I last wrote was the US election.  I, along with my friends Stacy and Panarat, stayed up past 6am watching election coverage and we were thrilled to see that Barack Obama was reelected.  On a less global level, I am writing this after Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast.  While it went right over Philadelphia, they seem to not have been hit that hard.  Meanwhile, my family in Stamford lost power for over a week and missed about a week and a half of school.  It is crazy that, even though they were on the fringe of the storm, they got hit so hard.

Election night was important for me, not only because of the election itself, but because it was also my birthday.  This wasn’t just any birthday, but my 20th birthday.  It is only hitting me now that I am no longer a teenager, and I am in my 20s.  I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to watch Disney and other movies from my childhood.  I know that getting older is not a choice, but growing up is and, as far as I am concerned, I will always retain at least a bit of my inner child.  To celebrate my birthday we (Stacy, Panarat, and I) went to a nice, but relatively inexpensive restaurant called The Glass House in St. Andrews.  It was really nice and the food was delicious.  We were going to see Perks of Being a Wallflower at the movies after, but by the time we were finishing dessert and looked at the clock, it was the time the movie was supposed to start.  Instead, we headed back to Stacy’s dorm and played games and watched Al Jazeera’s election coverage on Youtube.  The internet is really amazing.

I got to see a movie a couple of days later, so it was fine.  My academic family had a trip to the cinema to see Skyfall, the new James Bond movie.  It was cool for a number of reasons.  First, we saw it the night before it was set to come out in the US, so we saw the movie before people in the US did.  Granted, it had been out for a couple of weeks here, but it is still cool to think that I saw it before my friends in the US.  The other cool part, and part of the reason I really wanted to see it while I was here, was that part of the movie takes place in Scotland.  One of the characters has the line “Welcome to Scotland” as he shoots one of the bad guys, so it was pretty awesome to be in Scotland to see it.  The only bad part is, as I told my friends after the film, it made me want to stop working and explore this beautiful country in the time I have left.  It is hard to believe that I have less than 2 months left here.  That is another thing that only hit me recently.  It is very sad for me because I don’t know when, if ever, I will make it back to St. Andrews or the UK in general, but after living here for a few months, I have really grown to love it.

That inspired me to go for a walk today.  I should have been working this weekend so my work is done before Rachel’s visit at the end of the month, but I have not been very productive.  I have found that walking around makes me at least a little more inspired to work or at least helps me feel lucky to be here when I am missing home and Penn, which I have been recently.  Anyway, I originally planned to walk down South Street, one of the main roads, to East Sands, the beach on the other side of town.  All my pictures are from West Sands beach, so I figured I should get some from the other side.  That will have to wait though.  I ended up walking down to South Street along City Road and decided to explore some areas outside of the main town area.  I walked around and took pictures and just enjoyed the crisp weather and the beautiful architecture and scenery.  I didn’t last as long as I wanted because the wind made it feel much colder out and my legs got cold, but I think I got some good shots which I will post later tonight.  Thanks for reading!

Update #3

It has been a busy couple of weeks, dealing with accommodation and writing two essays, but I thought it was about time for an update.  Nothing much exciting has happened.  I submitted my application for the History Honors program, I wrote two essays for class, and I now have a single room for the rest of the semester after a long struggle with accommodation.  However, the past two days have made up Raisin Weekend here at St. Andrews, which is probably the most exciting thing that has happened recently.

Raisin Weekend is a tradition related to the Academic Family tradition at St. Andrews in which 3rd and 4th years “adopt” Freshers and Exchange students.  Thus, you have an academic family with academic parents and siblings.  Raisin Weekend used to involve giving your parents gifts of raisins, but now it is pretty alcohol-centric.  I didn’t have an academic father so I escaped being woken up early to drink, and, instead, went to my academic mom, Claire’s, tea party.  This didn’t involved tea, but it did involve alcohol and fun games including a scavenger hunt, pass the parcel, and the game where doughnuts are tied to a string and you have to eat them without using your hands.  It was a Doctor Who themed party, and we had to choose a name from a bag that our academic siblings were supposed to use to address us.  I chose Rose (as in Rose Tyler) and there were other names such as Angel Bob and Davros.  Other Doctor Who themed things included a quiz we were given that included Doctor Who trivia and St. Andrews trivia.  I ended up leaving after the scavenger hunt because I had an essay due at noon the next day.  Traditionally, that night you go to your dad’s party, but I ended up staying in and working on my essay because I didn’t have a dad (although I was invited to go to Claire’s boyfriend, Ian’s, party).  The next day was the famous foam fight.  In the morning your academic mom gets you dressed up in a costume (we were Daleks and Cybermen) and your father gives you a Raisin reciept (an object to carry to the Quad).  When you get to the Quad for the foam fight, there are people lining the streets to watch.  You file into the Quad, dropping your receipts off with University staff, and then enter the Quad where people are spraying shaving foam at each other.  It is quite fun, except when you get foam in your eye, ear, mouth, or nose, but even that isn’t so bad.  When I got back to hall I was lucky to avoid getting a bucket of water dumped on me and, because I am not a boy, I didn’t have to strip down to my underwear and run around hall.  I got back early enough to have a shower, and then handed in my paper and did readings for class before taking a nap.  Overall, it was a pretty fun weekend, and it is great to have two papers out of the way.

At the moment, I am in the process of registering for courses at Penn for next semester.  It is hard t believe that this experience is over halfway done.  I know I will be sad to leave the beautiful town of St. Andrews, but I can’t wait to get back home and to Penn.  At the moment, Stamford and Philly are both under threat of Hurricane Sandy and Penn has cancelled classes for today and tomorrow while Stamford canceled school through Wednesday.  Hopefully everyone will be alright, but I can’t say that I am unhappy to be across the ocean.  If anyone in the line of Sandy is reading this, stay safe!  That is about it for now.  Hopefully, with those essays out of the way, I will have more time to update the blog.

Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Shakespeare, and Youtube: A Perfect Weekend in London

Since the last time I wrote, I have had one of the most incredible weekends of my life.  It was one of those things that makes you realize the beauty of travel and made me feel lucky to have access to amazing opportunities.

The most important factor in any travel experience is company.  I was lucky enough to be able to explore London with one of my best friends, Alexis Ebers.  She is in London studying theatre at BADA (the British American Drama Academy) and she let me stay in her flat.  She is one of the kindest and most talented people I know and it was so nice to be able to theatre geek out with her.  She and her roommates were so welcoming and accommodating and, without her, the experience would not have been half as fun.

I arrived on Friday around 4:30pm having traveled for 7 and a half hours from St. Andrews to Leuchars, Leuchars to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to London Kings Cross, and Kings Cross to Paddington Station.  Needless to say, it had already been a long day.  However, I was excited to be in London.  Our first mission, after we dropped off my stuff at the flat, was to rush over to the Globe Theatre to try to get tickets to see Richard III with Mark Rylance and Roger Lloyd Pack who played Barty Crouch in the Harry Potter movies.  While Alexis had tried to get £5 tickets in the groundling area (the people who stand in front of the stage for the performance), they were sold out.  Our only choice was to wait in the returns line and hope that people would return their tickets so we could buy them.  When we got there, we were about 12th in line, close enough to the front that we could get tickets, but far enough back that we might not.  We stood in line as people sold their more expensive tickets, but we were waiting for the cheap ones.  As we got closer and closer to the front of the line, time ticked on and the show drew closer.  When we were 2nd and 3rd in line with only about 20 minutes until show time, something miraculous happened; a man came out with three extra tickets.  We were prepared to pay £5 for them, but he handed them to us saying that he didn’t need the money.  We insisted, but he refused, so we thanked him profusely and went to get food.  Then, we looked down at our tickets.  They were tickets for seats on the lower level which cost £39.  We couldn’t believe our luck!  However, it got even better when we found our seats.  Some of the seats have obstructed views because of the support beams, but ours were completely unobstructed.  In fact, we were in the center of the row in the seats directly opposite the stage.  It was an amazing view.  When the man who had given us the tickets sat next to us, we thanked him again, and every time there was a chance.  It may have been a little overboard, but we were in awe of his generosity.

The show itself was really cool.  It was an all-male cast so there were men playing women, just like in Shakespeare’s time and the costumes were from that period as well.  There were also two adorable little boys playing the princes.  At the end of the show, before bows, the whole cast did a dance.  It was truly an amazing and entertaining performance from beginning to end.  It was so interesting to see the men playing women and, after a while, I didn’t even really think about it.  They were just the characters.  Mark Rylance played Richard in an atypical way.  He added a humor that made it hard to see him as the villain.  Whether or not one agrees with this interpretation, it was highly entertaining and his understanding of the text was clear.  Personally, I always find it interesting when there is a villain who isn’t entirely good or bad.  And, of course, the fact that we were watching it in the Globe Theatre (although not the original because the original burned down) only added to the experience.  After writing my paper for writing seminar on Shakespeare deification, I thought I was above putting such value on a place or object.  However, as we walked around the theatre, I couldn’t help put touch the stage and the walls and observe the beauty of the theatre.  Even though it was a reconstruction, it was incredible to be there.  The place has taken on a new life and new “holiness” based on the actors who have performed there and the amazing theatre that continues to be performed there.  Even walking into the theatre, we looked down and saw the names of people in the stones who had donated to the building of the new Globe which included Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, and the Middletons (i.e. Kate Middleton’s family).  After the show we walked around a little bit including a walk along the Millennium Bridge, also known as the bridge that the Death Eaters blow up in Harry Potter, and then headed back to Alexis’s flat for the night.

The next day started at 7am when we woke up to student rush tickets to see Our Boys with Matt Lewis (the guy who plays Neville in the Harry Potter films) and Arthur Darvill (the guy who plays Rory Williams on Doctor Who).  We rushed over to the Duchess Theatre on the West End arriving at about 8am and taking our place as 3rd in line.  This line was for £10 seats in the front row.  Behind us was another group of students studying abroad from the US.  In talking with them, we found out that one of them named Jess was dating Matt Lang of Starkid fame.  It was so cool to talk to her about the Starkids and how they are in real life.  When the box office opened at 10am we put our names down for tickets so that we could pick them up before the show, and then headed out to spend a day walking around London.  Because I am going back in December with my family, I wanted to save most of the touristy things (and, frankly, the expensive things) to do with them.  Alexis and I decided that we were going to do a Harry Potter tour, visiting places around London featured in the Harry Potter books and/or movies.  This included a bunch of places including Piccadilly Circus (where the Golden Trio apparate when trying to escape the Death Eaters in the movie), Trafalgar Square (where we also looked around the National Gallery for a but), Australia House (which was closed, but we peaked inside.  It is where they filmed the inside of Gringotts Bank.  Along the way we walked along Fleet Street, of Sweeney Todd fame), and my personal favorite, Leadenhall Market (where they filmed Diagon Alley).  Although the market was closed, it was amazing to just walk around.  It truly felt like we were on Diagon Alley.  We also went to Camden (where Alexis’s school is) which reminded me a lot of South Street in Philadelphia.  After that we grabbed some food and went to the show.

Our tickets were right next to center in the front row and we could see everything.  The show was amazing!  It was one of the best productions I have ever seen.  It had a cast of 6 men who were all amazing actors and who worked perfectly together as an ensemble.  Our Boys is the story of a group of soldiers recovering and being treated in a military hospital.  They all have different things wrong with them which sometimes adds to the humor of the story and sometimes adds to the sadness of it.  Even as I am writing this a few days after seeing it, I am in awe.  It was so well done and it was entertaining and moving; basically, it was everything that theatre should be.  It also didn’t hurt that all the actors were extremely attractive.  I knew that Arthur Darvill and Matt Lewis would be good (although I didn’t know how good), but Cian Barry who played Keith and Lewis Reeves who played Ian completely blew me away.  Really, everyone did and I was totally drawn into the story by all 6 of them.  I thought that I would be looking at Arthur and Matt the whole time, but I really didn’t, and Arthur and Matt were Parry and Mick in my head, not Rory and Neville (although I got sprayed by Arthur Darvill’s beer during the show, which was pretty cool for me).  After the show, they all came out and signed autographs and took pictures with everyone who wanted one (Arthur even hugged people who asked).  It was incredibly kind of them because, in London, actors don’t always do that and, as one of the last ones there, I can honestly say that they stayed the whole time.  I can’t think of much else to say as I am still in awe of the whole experience, but this was probably the highlight of my weekend.

The next day was another early one, although not as early as the day before.  We got up at 8am to grab breakfast with my friend from High School, Minou Clark, who is also studying theatre in London.  It was so great seeing her again as it had been about a year since we had last spoken.  After that, Alexis and I went to a Youtube gathering which was part of a tour by Contiki that brought Youtubers around Europe to do challenges and see fans.  I was really excited because I have not been able to go to a gathering in the US and this one had some of my favorite youtubers.  Overall, the experience was a little disappointing, but not as the fault of anyone.  We ended up waiting in line for 4 hours because there were so many people.  There were times that we did not move more than a few inches for 45 minutes.  However, some of them came out to quickly say hi to the people in line, which was nice, but we were concerned that they would close before we got to go in.  It was only supposed to be 2 hours long (from 12pm-2pm), but they extended it to 4pm and, I think, longer so that everyone who came could go in.  We finally got in a little before 4pm where we had to wait in another line.  When we got to the room they were in we were told we could go in one of two lines.  This was the most disappointing thing for me.  There were 5 people on my list of people to see: Charlie McDonnell, Michael Aranda, Bryarly Bishop, and Charles and Alli Trippy.  Charles and Allie were in one line and the other three were in the other.  I ended up choosing the second line and got a stalker picture of Charles and Alli, but I was bummed that I had waited so long and got so close to them, but couldn’t say hi.  Even when we got to talk to them, we were rushed because there were so many people.  This was something that I completely understood because there were so many people and they youtubers had been so busy, but it was a little bit unsatisfying.  Still, looking back at the pictures, it is pretty cool that we got to see them in person and get autographs and pictures.  It is really interesting to see these people you know from Youtube in person and I was really interested to see people’s real heights.  Charlie was sitting down, so I couldn’t tell, but Michael Aranda was taller than I thought and Charles and Alli were shorter than I thought.  Still, I don’t regret going and I hope to meet them again at another gathering that isn’t so structured.

Because that ran so late, I ended up staying in London an extra night.  I met more of Alexis’s friends and we did homework, a nice relaxing Sunday night after such a busy weekend.  In the morning I got up and caught the 10am train back to Leuchars where I am writing this.  Overall, it was an incredible weekend and one that I hope never to forget.

Update #2

I am sitting in my room at 1:10 am waiting to skype with Stim Board (it may not happen) and I thought, “why not write a blog post?”  As I suspected, it has been a while, which means time for another update post.  Since my last post, a few major things have happened.

First is my trip to Glasgow.  Before I went I didn’t know what to expect.  People here in St. Andrews didn’t seem, generally, to be a fan of the city.  But I think that many of them had never been there.  They had just heard the statistics and heard bad stories and applied it to the whole city.  However, it was beautiful.  The thing that people said about it being the Philly of Scotland rang pretty true after visiting.  There is the reputation thing, but they are both industrial cities, which led to many instances when I would look over and think “that could be Philly”.  Most of the city was built in the 1800s, which is different than many other European cities, although the history is not lacking.  We visited many places including the Glasgow Cathedral (where we got a private tour from a retired teacher named Malcolm) and the Necropolis (an awesome, giant graveyard), which pleased my inner historian.  We also went apple and pear picking in people’s yards (with their permission, of course), which was really fun and cool.  In the US, people would just ignore you or call the cops, and, although we were probably ignored a few times, we got several bags full of fruit.

The second major update is that I am currently roommateless.  This is a mixed blessing.  My roommate and I get along, so it wasn’t anything like that, but due to a series of things one of my roommate’s friends was left roommateless, and she really needed one for health reasons.  My roommate asked me if I would be okay if she left, I said yes, and that is pretty much the full story.  Not as exciting as Glasgow, but a major part of my journey here nonetheless.  It has been fine so far.  A little weird at first, but it is fine now.  The weirdest part is that, technically, someone could move in at any time.  I guess I will just have to see what happens.

That is it for now.  I think that I am going to post this to facebook soon, so, if you see this from there, hi new viewer!  I also have a youtube channel with the same name as this blog which I have not been dedicating a lot of time to but will hopefully update more now that I have a new camera (oh yeah, my camera broke so I got a new one in Glasgow.  The price still hurts, but it is nice to be able to keep documenting).  Finally, if you are reading this and we aren’t facebook friends (something highly unlikely), comment and I will upload pictures.  I have already put pictures up on facebook, but if there is demand here I will do that too.  Until next time!

Update #1

I feel like there will be more times that I don’t post for a while and need to update, thus the #1.  Today marks the last day of the first week of classes, and I am really happy.  My first class, Nationalism and Unionism in Modern Scotland, was on Tuesday and is taught by Professor Colin Kidd who is crazy in the best possible way.  He is so funny and interesting and had fun little anecdotes throughout the class, thus spending pretty much the entire 2 hour class on attendance and going through the course handbook (syllabus).  My second class is The American Metropolis which I have on Thursdays.  The Professor, Dr. Emma Hart, is really sweet and her focus is 18th century American Urban History, so I think we will get along quite well.  In fact, she is giving a talk at Penn in January that I may go to.  I already have loads of reading and a presentation on Monday, but despite the work I think it is going to be a lot of fun.

Beyond classes, I went to Rosh Hashana services on Monday with my friend Stacy from Penn and it was really interesting.  There were a relatively small number of people with an Orthodox style service, although more relaxed.  It was unlike anything I had ever been to before, and was a cool experience.  I got to meet a bunch of people from the Jewish Society at that and the apples and honey event later that night and I am definitely going to join that group.  They were so welcoming and I have a feeling that their weekly Shabbat dinners will help me find a real community (I missed the one this week to save money, but I will hopefully go to one soon).

Also, on Wednesday Dudley (another friend from Penn) and I spent the day in Edinburgh.  Unfortunately, my camera was broken so I couldn’t take pictures, but that just gives me an excuse to go back.  It was about 2 hours away by bus and pretty much all we saw were quaint towns and farms until we got to Edinburgh.  Honestly, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen.  The history is everywhere and just walking around the University area was amazing.  I want to go back to see shows and visit museums, especially the free museum attached to Edinburgh Castle that houses exhibits about the 1st of Foot Royal Scots, the unit that we represent in F&I.  Once I have a camera again, that will be one of the first things on my list.

Next week I have class on Monday and Tuesday (Thursday class is moved to Monday for the week because Dr. Hart has a conference in the US) and Yom Kippur on Wednesday.  Thursday I am going to Glasgow to celebrate Rachel’s birthday with her for the weekend.  I am excited to spend a solid 4-5 days in a new place with such a good friend and can’t wait to try some new things and explore again with Rachel.

I think that is all for now.  If anyone is following this, thank you for sticking with me during my depression stage and I promise (well, hope) that the entries will be happier from now on.

Finally Settling In

Finally I am starting to feel at home in St. Andrews.  Some things are still weird, but today I was reminded how lucky I am to be studying here and why I wanted to come here in the first place.  I went for a walk on The Scores, the street right along the water, in search of the Museum to go on what is scheduled as a “highlight tour”.  Needless to say, I passed it without realizing it and, when I finally found it, I couldn’t tell if there were still tours available.  It didn’t matter though.  In my passing it I ended up walking through the main quad and then over to where the ruins of the Castle are.  This area looks right over the water and, I have to say, with the sun casting shadows and the blue sky with big white clouds in the background, it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  Of course, I forgot my camera in the room, like I always do, but I will try to get pictures soon and post them.  Nevertheless, seeing this made everything click for me and made me realize how, even though I miss my home, my family, and my friends, I am truly fortunate to be here, studying in a place so rich with history and beauty.

Can’t sleep…again

I don’t know if it is jet lag or just me worrying and thinking too much but, once again, I find myself unable to sleep at 6:33am.  This week has been so odd so far.  Having been through Orientation once, I am not quite so enthusiastic the second time around.  I am just ready for classes to start.  I love the town and the view, but every interaction I have seems so superficial.  At Penn I never talk to most of the people who I hung out with during NSO, and I wonder how many of the people I am meeting I am going to spend time with.  My guess is not many.  As always, I miss my family and wish that it was easier to talk to them.  I know I have only been here for a few days, but a common theme in my head has been “it is only for 4 months” which isn’t great.  I don’t really know what it is, but I just kind of feel like I don’t belong.  Maybe once academics start I will feel differently but I am not really into this going out and getting drunk every night thing and most of the time I end up in my room watching shows or browsing the internet.  I guess that I have never really been good at change and, while I think it will be sad to leave the town, I am not sure I will miss the school culture.  Then again, I have only been here for a few days and I still have 4 months.

First Day

As I lay on the bed in my dorm room at 5:14 am I am filled with questions about what this semester has in store.  Will I fit in?  How hard will the classes be?  How am I going to get by without seeing my family for  4 months?  I hope that once classes start, I will get into a routine and become more comfortable, but at the moment I am wondering if this was a mistake.