Sometimes we’re not ready for everything. When I arrived in Edinburgh, I came in with an open mind ready to be filled with new experiences. Yet I quickly learned that being mentally and physically prepared are two different things.
Here is what I wasn’t ready for:
The first night of orientation was a welcome dinner that promised good haggis. Haggis is one of Scotland’s traditional dishes and made from sheep heart, liver, and lung. Yum? The meal didn’t sound or look very appealing. However, I decided to just dive into the cultural experience on day one. I was ready. I slowly took a bite and thought, Hm, this isn’t too bad.
It wasn’t until the other exchange students finished their cup that I realized I had only eaten a quarter of mine. The tatties, or mashed potatoes, were gone, but the haggis remained. In the end I couldn’t fully push the image of eating sheep organs out of my head. One of the exchange students chuckled and said, “Are you done already?” He was going back for seconds. I told him I hadn’t warmed up to haggis quite yet.
Here is what I was ready for:
Ceilidh was my favorite event during orientation. I highly recommend it to anyone whether you like to dance or not. I promise this is a great dance to learn for people who especially don’t like to groove. You just need to be able to do three moves: forming circles, skipping, and cheering. It’s very simple!
The best part was messing up the rhythms because you saw how eager everyone was to make the formation work. I also saw the rush of proud satisfaction from our group once we finally got the dance right. I love that dancing is a way to communicate without words. I didn’t talk much that night, but I got a good sense of who everyone was even without the usual introductions. I slept for 13 hours that night and woke up feeling sore. This was enough to convince me that my body needed time to catch up with my eagerness to try everything.
What I was definitely ready for:
City life in Edinburgh is too cool. At first, I would walk down a street thinking everything looked the same as the States. Then further on ahead, I would suddenly come across these dark historical churches, cobblestone streets, or Arthur’s Seat peaking behind the skyline. I am constantly in awe of how the city changes before my eyes.
The spirit of the city is also very visible here. Just the other day, I explored Princes Street. I felt like I was walking in NYC as I passed this long row of commercial stores. Cars were honking as people J-walked, double decker buses sped by, and lights lit the way ahead. I almost forgot I was abroad. But then I looked towards my right and saw the Edinburgh Castle standing high above. To me, the castle was like an authoritative figure, reminding everyone below never to forget the history that had shaped the country. I love that I can see the cross between history and modernization, Scottish culture and diversity of other cultures present everywhere.
What I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for:
I now understand the true meaning of being cold. Yes, it’s definitely cold when temperatures are freezing and the chilly air seeps into your bones. But now also imagine the rain pouring on you, constantly dampening the little warmth you’re trying to kindle. Then gusts of wind fan the cold flame already spreading throughout your body. My usual attire is four layers, a down jacket, thick socks, rain-poof boots, scarf, and gloves. Even then I’m never warm enough.
Mainly, I keep reminding myself that I need to rest. Even though I want to tackle everything – exploring the city, trying new foods, going to all the social events – I’m often more tired than I realize. It’s more than the jet lag. The cold, the constant walking, and living adjustment adds onto the tiredness I get after meeting so many new people in one day. However, I’m enjoying soaking in the city day by day. The cold is certainly uninviting, but it doesn’t stop me or anyone else living here from parading the streets every day.