Since classes started, I’ve been trying to acclimate to the local lifestyle. I stopped randomly taking pictures of picturesque streets, do my work at the local cafes, and even gave someone directions! But I admit: I can’t call myself a local quite yet. I’ve also gone on tours to the Parliament Building with the other interns, taken photos from every angle on Calton’s Hill, and still can’t figure out how much each coin is worth (the size is nowhere indicative of the amount! See below).
Thankfully, I’ve been able to get my dose of local culture through the University’s International Buddy Program. They invited me to my first pub quiz at a place called Frankenstein’s Pub last Thursday night. And yes, the outside was as cheesy as it sounded. When I arrived, I was greeted with a loud muhahaha!! sound effect that blast from a tall Frankenstein figure.
I am not particularly good at trivia, but I discovered a new love for pub quizzes. Everyone and by everyone, I mean the entire pub, participates. Each table forms a team, the MC asks trivia questions throughout the evening, plays music while teams answer the questions, and everyone grabs drinks in between. It was a very casual hangout and I got to meet a lot of local Edinburgh students. We didn’t talk about anything special, but simply understanding what they meant by things like “timetabling” (schedule) and “in queue” (in line) made me feel more like a local.
Of course, I still had to get my tourist fix a few days later. We finally got a sunny day and it was a perfect day to climb! My flatmate and I were too excited to be outside that we did Calton’s Hill and Arthur’s Seat on the same day. Let’s just say I didn’t wake up until 2pm the following day.
Arthur’s Seat was by far my favorite place to climb. When I first arrived at the base of the volcano, I was happy to see lots of locals on the trails. I played it casual, hoping I didn’t stand out as a tourist until…I got closer. The locals were not only running the trails, but wearing shorts and sweatshirts! Meanwhile, I arrived looking like a marshmallow. I didn’t regret it though. The sun was misleading because it was still very, very cold outside.
We asked someone coming toward us which trail was the best to take. He said that if we took the left one, we’d get to the top in thirty minutes! Woo! My flatmate and I were itching to get to the top. The way up was quite steep and we had to stop more than we anticipated. But I took these moments to turn around and see how far I’ve come. Doing a “look back” is one of my favorite things to do while climbing. I also looked up and I was excited to see how high I would be:
Once we got to the top, I was in awe. The view is absolutely breathtaking! The sun was just setting, the landscape was beautiful, and I was very ready to capture the moment. The problem was I couldn’t move. The wind kept knocking me over and it was so cold that my eyes were tearing up. I blindly snapped some pictures but my hands paid a price. You may think I’m exaggerating, but see for yourself. Here is a video when I tried to climb Arthur’s Seat on a good day versus a bad day:
Here is also a picture of my flatmate and me:
My pictures don’t fully capture what it feels like to be on top of this great inactive volcano, but I wasn’t too disappointed. I realized that part of living and becoming part of Edinburgh means soaking in the beautiful views with my own eyes rather than trying to capture it on camera.
Trying to hide my touristy moments and integrate myself as a local is certainly a challenge. But I think being able to play both identities is the best part about being an exchange student. I have had moments where I know I’m being judged and labeled as I quickly try to snap photos for friends and family back home, but I’ve also used it as an excuse to strike up a conversation with locals and other exchange students. It’s all about perspective, and I’m definitely taking advantage of playing both a tourist and local while I’m here.