When I first arrived in Edinburgh, I was jetlagged and disoriented. I was more than ready to get to Heriot Watt University, find my flat and settle in to my new home for the month. My taxi ride to the university was really enjoyable as my driver was lively and talkative, a quality I would later learn is common among Scottish people. When I finally arrived at the university, I discovered that the flats were still being cleaned and I would have to wait. At first, I was a bit frustrated as I was looking forward to unpacking, but this gave me time to mingle with the other Alabama students. Some people looked familiar since I had seen many of their faces in class and around campus which immediately made me feel more comfortable in this foreign place.
Once the flats were ready the twenty-four of us made the trek to the dorm. After finally unpacking I fell asleep which was not a good idea because I was giving in to jetlag, but the temptation was too great. This first day was the only day when there were no activities planned so it was the perfect opportunity to recoup and prepare for the next full day. From that day on it was an absolute whirlwind of excursions, working in the lab, writing lab reports and exploring the city. The first and longest, three-day, excursion taken was to the Highlands, which is an area known for its natural beauty in northern Scotland. To say it was beautiful is an understatement! We took several hikes to see amazing views I will never forget. We saw Fairy Pools, explored the Isle of Skye and even took a dip in Loch Ness. Not only were the sights breathtaking but it was also a great weekend to get to know everyone as we were all in a cabin together for three days.
The typical week in Scotland was lab two days per week, an excursion on Wednesday and an activity in the city on Thursday or Friday. The rest of the time was free for report writing and exploring. While the labs were time consuming, they were a huge learning experience. The experiments we performed truly helped us fully grasp the sometimes difficult concepts. The reports were also helpful, and I learned how to write as an engineer would out in the research field. Not only can I now write an experimental report but I can also better understand a report.
The best part about living in Edinburgh was the ability to hop on a bus and go anywhere within the city. Edinburgh is a relatively small city which made it easy to navigate, especially for someone like me who is not the best at directions. This also made it feel homey in a way as well. The design of the city, with its low old buildings, as opposed to large skyscrapers, made it feel open and not closed in. The locals were friendly to us as Edinburgh is a tourist destination especially during the summer months. Their accent was fairly easy to understand, and I only had trouble with Scottish vocabulary and slang that I didn’t know. Something small that really made me love Scotland more was the fact that there were many gluten free options indicated on the restaurant menus. Having Celiac disease means that I’m strictly on a gluten free diet, so I appreciated so many Scottish establishments helping make it easy and safe to find foods I could eat.
The week of my flight back home, I started to make sure I had all the souvenirs I had wanted to get family and friends. I needed to make sure all my clothes were washed before I could start packing them. A traditional Scottish dish meal kit, shortbread, and Scottish whisky were the main things I wanted to bring back home for my family to try. Even though it was only a month program, I had adapted quickly to the routine and way of life there so it didn’t feel real that it would be ending. I absolutely loved my time in Scotland and I began to take advantage of the little things I had become accustomed to the last week there. My day to day life in Scotland would definitely be missed. The lab writing sessions with friends, going into the city, going out with the friends I had made and exploring around Scotland. Trying different foods and drinks and getting to immerse myself in Scottish culture for a bit was so enriching and amazing.