Olivia in Scotland: The Deep Breath

Hello, everyone! My name is Olivia. I’m a junior, I’m an English major with a minor in Film Studies, and I am about to leave to study abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland for the fall semester!

A little bit about me and things that drew me to Edinburgh: Like pretty much all English majors, I love reading great books. My reading is part of what led me to apply to study at UoE (University of Edinburgh). Three of my favorite authors studied there: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the Sherlock Holmes novels), J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan), and J.K. Rowling (the Harry Potter series!). Imagine getting to write in a coffeeshop where the author of Harry Potter often wrote. In preparation for my journey, I watched all eight of the Harry Potter movies again, this time paying special attention to the scenery. Most of the film locations are in Scotland so I am really hoping to go to some of these places!


While there’s no castle up on the hill, the Black Lake in Harry Potter isa real place in scotland called Loch Shiel. 

Two of the other biggest things about me that will likely influence this blog are my identities as a musician and a Christian. Beyond analyzing literature and film, these two things are my life, and they greatly determine what I am drawn towards in my travels. I am very interested in the music and dance of Scotland and I plan to attend a ceilidh, or Scottish folk dance, during UoE’s Welcome Week. I have no idea how to do those kind of dances yet, but we’ll see if I can learn it! Scotland was also historically a stronghold of Presbyterianism; it was a place where Christianity informed the lives of every person and sometimes inspired uprisings, particularly towards the English when they tried to alter the way the Scottish Kirk, or Church of Scotland, operated. While much less of the Scottish population attends church today, this colorful religious background may still impact their culture today. I am excited to see how the churches in Scotland differ from my experience in American churches and to see how my own faith develops during my Scottish sojourn.

If you’re a student considering studying abroad at University of Edinburgh or many other UK institutions, be forewarned: the semesters start a few weeks later than the semesters at University of Richmond do. That might sound like an ideal situation to you; you get a longer summer that way, right? That’s certainly true, but I can now personally attest to the fact that a summer that is three weeks longer than everyone else’s can feel pretty strange. I’ve mostly been at home with very little to do for the past few weeks. Like many students in today’s world, I thrive on being busy and making sure that I’m not missing out on anything, so it has been a weird feeling. I have seen all of my friends, UR and otherwise, posting pictures and talking about their new semesters, whether they’re going abroad like me or just being back at their colleges with their friends. While I have treasured the extra time I was able to spend with my loved ones at home, I have also really wanted to be out there doing something with everybody else. I actually went back and visited UR for a day last week to help out with the activities fair; again, it was wonderful seeing my friends, but I definitely felt out of place.

Now, I’m going to very briefly quote from Lord of the Rings, but don’t let me lose you if you’re not a Tolkien fan!—In The Return of the King during the silent period before the big battle starts, Gandalf says to Pippin, “It’s the deep breath before the plunge.” That’s what the past few weeks have felt like to me. I’ve taken in a lot of information about Scotland, I’ve gotten plenty of lazy days, I’ve said goodbye to so many people multiple times, I’ve packed my suitcase so many different ways.

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Yes, I said “suitcase,” singular. Because I’m bringing my ukelele with me, I have to bring my backpack as my carry-on and fit everything else in my larger checked bag #thestruggle #musicianlife

The good thing about the extra time for a deep breath is, I think I’m ready to breathe out now. I’m still really scared about navigating a new place where I don’t really know anyone and I’m sad that my loved ones won’t be with me, but I’m excited, and I’ve done about as much as I can do to prepare. The next time I post, I will finally be in the city of Edinburgh and experiencing their orientation week. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. —now it’s time to dive into my Scottish adventure!

Wish me luck or keep me in your prayers!

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