“THE MOST DANGEROUS RISK OF ALL – THE RISK OF SPENDING YOUR LIFE NOT DOING WHAT YOU WANT ON THE BET YOU CAN BUY YOURSELF THE FREEDOM TO DO IT LATER.”
Fresh of the plane from Toronto, I was greeted by a kilted man who called me ‘lass’ and asked for my University paperwork. They stamped my passport with my six month student visa and out I went into the realm of bagpipes, lochs, and miles upon miles of greenery. Our university interns picked us up at the Glasgow airport and drove us to the campus. The University of Stirling is fairly remote, in the lowlands of Scotland, but is considered ‘the doorway’ to the rest of Scotland. It sits next to the city of Stirling, where Mary Queen of Scots’ castle is located, as well as the William Wallace monument. I live in my own room with a full sized bed, desk, dresser, and my own bathroom. The Scots don’t use air conditioning because it’s usually pretty cold and rainy here. But when the sun is finally out, it forces you to hang outside so that you won’t suffocate in the classrooms. My friends and I looooveeee to take hikes up into the mountains right next to campus. Just yesterday I found an abandoned castle on my walk!! I feel like I am living in a fairytale movie. The sky is always full of clouds, the lakes are incredibly clear, and the scenery is to die for. Our orientation was in the Airthrey Castle, which overlooks the campus and was built in the late 1700’s. We were serenaded by bagpipes while we ate tea cakes. Best start of the summer EVER.
The city of Stirling is full of little pubs and coffee shops. During the first week, we ate at 2nd Baker Street pub, where everyone was watching the EuroCup. I got a soccer ball cheeseburger, and it was SO good!! It’s thrilling to be in the UK during such a monumental soccer tournament.
I am taking the Scottish War of Independence and Scottish contemporary literature classes, which meet Monday through Wednesday for four weeks. On Thursdays, we take trips with the program to various cities in Scotland.
We went to Edinburgh on the first Thursday of the trip. We were dropped off at Waterloo place and told to run free. I was a little worried that my friends and I wouldn’t be able to find any of the places that we wanted to go, but we were pointed in the direction of the Royal Mile by our intern and went straight to the Scottish shops. I ended up getting a tartan blanket, because i was getting really cold in my room at night. It is the comfiest thing in the WORLD. After that we took the Harry Potter walking tour through the city. We got to go into the Elephant House coffee shop, where JK Rowling wrote some of the HP books. The bathroom walls are covered with quotes and thank you notes to JK – it was unbelievable to think of how many lives were saved from those books. As usual, books seem to be the basis of my travel inspiration! From there, we went to Victoria Street, which was the supposed inspiration for Diagon Alley. We also saw the Greyfriars kirkyard, where the names on the graves (I.E. McGonnagall and Thomas Riddle) are said to have provided JK with inspiration for some of my favorite characters. It was the most interesting and worthwhile tour I’ve ever taken – my childhood dreams of visiting the places where JK wrote finally came true.
After the tour, we headed up to the Edinburgh castle. Mary Queen of Scots had also lived there, so we toured her quarters, saw the crown jewels of Scotland, and then had tea with cake inside the castle. I felt like a regular Queen, just sipping her tea and looking out over her vast lands. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe I had finally made it to the country I had been dreaming of seeing for so long.
That’s it for this week. More to come soon!