Olivia in Scotland: Celebration

November 29, 2016

Hi everyone!

Last week was a big one for me—it was my 21st birthday and Thanksgiving right in a row! I got to experience what having these celebrations in a foreign country is like, and despite all the ups and downs, I ended up having an amazing time.

On my birthday, which was Wednesday, November 23rd, I took snapchats of all my birthday-related activites (I kind of like using snapchat if you haven’t picked up on that). Here’s what my birthday was like for me in Scotland.

First, tea.


Good start to a day of celebration 🙂

I spent time with both older and newer friends on my birthday, and after class in the morning I spent time with one of my closest study abroad friends I’ve made here in Edinburgh.

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One thing you’ll find when you have your birthday in another time zone is that your celebration gets extended! My birthday started here before it did back home and ended later back home than it did here, so that means a longer amount of time for birthday wishes from family and friends. In fact, my first real birthday activities were my family and my best friend from home FaceTiming me to wish me happy birthday, despite it still being the night beforehand in their time zone. Even though I really missed the people who were far away, it was kind of nice to have an extended birthday 🙂


Next came the best part of my whole birthday this year: my best friend from UR flew in from her study abroad program in Europe to visit me!!

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It was so very nice to be with someone who knows me so well on such a big birthday. It made me feel a little bit like I really was home. I got to show her around the city on my birthday and over the next couple days, which included going on the Potter Trail together. (That’s the free walking tour of all Harry Potter-related Edinburgh locations.)

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Then Faith and I tried out a tea place in New Town called Eteaket that I had been wanting to go to for a long time. I highly recommend it! It was also a great place to catch up with an old friend.


We went to my church’s weekly connect group together where we had dinner, studied God’s Word and talked about Advent, and Faith got to meet a lot of my friends here. It was fun being around so many people I care about on this special day.

You may have noticed that I drank a whole lot of tea on my birthday. Being here in the U.K. has definitely fed the flames of my tea obsession. I’m actually not sure how many cups I had already drunk that day (at least 4 I’d say between breakfast, my rather large tea latte with Gianna, and my entire pot of tea at Eteaket), but did that stop me from having another cup at connect group? Nope.


To finish out the night, I took Faith back through the Christmas markets and we got Nutella donuts from a stand there called the Nutella House. The Edinburgh Christmas Market is incredible. There are all kinds of food and rides and gifts and Christmas music. You can hardly help but feel happy and get in the Christmas spirit when you walk through that market. It was a great way to end the night—before Faith and I stayed up talking for hours and hours, of course, because that’s what best friends do.


That’s about everything I did on my actual birthday. The next day, however, instead of having a traditional Thanksgiving, I actually had a birthday party at my flat with all of my friends here. One thing to note about turning 21 in most foreign countries is that you can already purchase alcohol there by age 18. It does take the impact out of your birthday a little bit and you might have to remind some of your friends why it’s such a big deal to you. However, I did get the experience of being carded for the first time when I bought some wine from the grocery store for my wine and cheese-themed birthday party, so I feel like I pretty much experienced that side of turning 21 about as much as I needed to.


The party was a success, full of food, laughs, Cotton Eye Joe, and also music that was actually good 😉

So, that’s how my birthday was over here in Scotland! I really enjoyed celebrating with my sweet friends here in Edinburgh. It didn’t feel quite as perfect as it might seem, perhaps; especially leading up to it, there were moments where I wanted nothing more than to be home with my family, particularly since my twin brother was celebrating his birthday as well and this was one of the first birthdays where we weren’t together. Like much of my study abroad experience, the pictures make it look more clear-cut than it actually is. You will feel lonely at times if you celebrate your birthday away from home. However, you can still do everything you can to find home where you are. That’s what I tried to do for this special day. For the most part, I think I succeeded in this, but I can’t really take any of the credit for that. God has blessed me in incredible ways here with friends who feel more like family. In all the ups and downs, these people who God intentionally placed in my life have been there for me. I’m so very thankful for that. I’m thankful for the bright spots of light that my friends were for me on these cold Edinburgh nights.

To close, I actually did get to have a real Thanksgiving dinner here with my church! They held an outreach event on Sunday night where we a dinner of American-esque Thanksgiving cuisine followed by a ceilidh, or Scottish dance. I loved the multiculturalism of having an American activity followed by a Scottish activity—like being home, but with a twist! It was such a fun night. It reminded me of a few things that I’m thankful for: my family and friends back home, my church family here, everyone who came to the ceilidh, good food, good tea, ceilidh dancing (because it’s super fun), and the love of Christ. He is the source of all good things and I am so thankful to Him.


Some of my friends from the ceilidh! I danced a little too hard, because my legs hurt a lot now, but it was still totally worth it. I had a wonderful time.

Happy belated Thanksgiving! Till next time!

Olivia in Scotland: A Day in the Life

November 18, 2016

Hello everyone!

This week I decided to take one pretty ordinary day and chronicle everything I did so you could see a little bit more what my life here is like—all with the help of my good friend, Snapchat. So, here was my Wednesday!

I got up at 8:15 so that I could eat my breakfast and drink my cup of tea before heading to my 9:00 class. On Wednesday mornings, that’s my Scotland and Orality lecture.


I’ve been under the weather for about a week and a half now, but on Wednesday I finally felt well enough to get to class!

The way my class schedule is here, I’ve got a class every day of the week, but it’s usually just a 9:00 class and then I’m free for the rest of the day. After my 50-minute lecture, I headed back to my flat and took some pictures and videos along the way of things that I normally see.


I went back to my flat to work on an English essay for a few hours and also to make sure I was there to sign for a package from my parents that was supposed to arrive that morning. My birthday isn’t until next week, but my mom ended up telling me I could open it early!


It was fancy birthday tea and choocate from London!

Then at 1:00 I headed back out to meet a fellow study abroad friend, Meghan, who I know from back home and was visiting for a few days. We got soup from a place called Union of Genius (which I would definitely recommend for good cheap eats in Edinburgh). It’s so nice to see friends from home when you’re far away!


After lunch I headed back to my flat, but since it was a sunny moment and I was on the lookout for things to show you all, I took a detour through George Square gardens.

Two other things I saw on the way back to my flat:


The church at Buccleuch Place looked really pretty as the sun started to go down.


The sun goes down reeeeally early here tis time of year!

After doing some more schoolwork (I work at home a lot here because the library is very crowded), I got on a bus to head to my church’s connect group. We meet every Wednesday evening at the pastor’s house for dinner and a bible discussion. This week we were talking about how we live out the true meaning of Christmas in a commercialized world (it’s already the Christmas season here because there’s no Thanksgiving!). It’s one of my favorite times of the whole week and I get to be with some of my favorite people here. Unfortunately, I was having so much fun eating food and hanging out with people that I forgot to take a picture of it! But I did have a good time there before hopping on a bus back to my flat and ending the night by Facetiming with a friend from home.

There you have it! I learned something from this blogging experience: documenting my day makes me look out a little more for the beauty in the everyday things around me that I might not notice otherwise. I really enjoyed doing that, and I hope to take that mindset with me on the days when I’m not blogging about everything. 🙂

Now, to make up for not taking pictures of my Wednesday night, I’ll tell you a little bit about my Thursday night. I went out to the midnight premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! (That’s the new movie from the Harry Potter universe for those of you who don’t know.) I was so excited to see this movie, especially since I didn’t get to see any of the Harry Potter movies in theaters and ESPECIALLY since I’m currently living in the city where most of that series was written! A couple of my friends and I took a bus to the theater to go see the movie in IMAX 3D. We discovered that, while there were definitely some Potterheads there decked out in their wizarding wear, midnight premieres in the U.K. are much quieter affairs overall than they are in the U.S. People aren’t very rowdy and they don’t get to the theater hours beforehand like they do back home. Even so, we were so excited, the movie was amazing, and we had a blast!


We’re dorky but we’re fabulous. I’m so thankful for friends like these to have fun with!

Here’s my snapstory from last night. Enjoy! Till next time!

Olivia in Scotland: Not Throwing Away My Shot

November 4, 2016

Hello! Are you ready for a long post?

As you may remember, I spent a lot of the beginning of my time in the U.K. traveling back and forth between London and Edinburgh. Well, since then, I’ve stayed entirely in Scotland and explored more of this country. Let me tell you, it’s amazing. I did try to slow down a bit these past few weeks, but when I look back at all I did, I see that I’ve really still been going pretty nonstop. I guess that’s the nature of study abroad; I don’t want to throw away my shot to see as many of the sights of Scotland as I possibly can. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to in Scotland in October!

October 8th-9th: I traveled through the Highlands with a bunch of international students to the Isle of Skye! This was the most scenically stunning trip I have ever been on by far. I mean, just look at this:


From the Old Man of Storr which we hiked up on Saturday. The view was absolutely incredible. 

On the way to Skye, we made a lot of stops to see the sights of the Highlands. One of these was Loch Lomond—yes, the one from the song you might have heard before (the “you take the high road and I’ll take the low road” one). From there, we rode through the Highlands (on the same road that James Bond drives on in the movie Skyfall) to Glencoe. This was the site of Scotland’s famous Glencoe Massacre, and for me, the misty mountains there still carry an air of mystery with a touch of the ominous. With its three mountains called the Three Sisters, it is a starkly beautiful place.

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You couldn’t see the tops of the mountains because of the mist and it was eerily cool. Also #spiderpride in Glencoe 

One cool thing I did happened when we stopped for lunch at Fort William. I actually ran around looking for graveyards. That probably sounds pretty weird, but my parents told me that I had ancestors who lived there way back when, so I decided to see if I could find any of them! I didn’t have much luck, but I did see some names on their World War I memorial who could be relatives of ours. That was still a pretty cool feeling.

I’ll mention one other stop we made on the way to Skye: Eilean Donan Castle. It’s located at a point where three lochs converge. We didn’t go inside the castle, but this is definitely among the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

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You might recognize this castle if you’ve seen the movie Made of Honor. It looks like something out of a fairy tale. 

Once we got to Skye, I had one of my favorite moments of the whole tour. We stayed in a hostel called Saucy Mary’s that had a bar in the bottom floor. In the bar that night, a band called Iron Midden played (yes, that was their real name). They were a traditional Scottish folk band and they were absolutely incredible. Here’s a sample of one of their songs.

The next day, we rode up to the North of the island, hiked the Old Man of Storr, ate fish and chips in Portree, and made a lot of other stops throughout the island before heading back to Edinburgh. Everywhere we went on this trip was just do beautiful. If you have the opportunity to do a tour like this, GO!


“What are men to rocks and mountains?” -Jane Austen 

October 14th-15th: Because I was showing a friend around the city, I finally did some of the more touristy Edinburgh things that I hadn’t done yet! We went to Edinburgh Castle where we saw the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny which was once the throne of the rulers of Scotland. We also walked along Princes Street where we saw the Scott Monument and walked up Calton Hill where we got a lovely view of the city, and the next morning we went up a bit of Arthur’s Seat for the sunrise.


Arthur’s Seat(ish) at sunrise! (I say “ish” because we didn’t go up very high; that hill is steeeeep.)

In the middle of this, we also took a day trip north to the town of Cupar where we went to Cairnie Fruit Farm. It was fun being in a part of Scotland I had never seen before; there were lots of gentler hills rolling away for miles around. The fruit farm itself had trampolines, pedal-operated go-karts, a corn maze, and a yummy café, so my friends and I had a lovely time.


Pumpkins + friends = a good day!

October 19th: I started making use of my Historic Scotland Membership by visiting nearby Craigmillar Castle with my friend Rachel. This trip illustrated one of my favorite things about Edinburgh—it’s a great city, but you don’t have to go very far until you reach nature again. Craigmillar Castle is only about a 20-minute bus ride away, yet it’s in the middle of open fields and has lots of trees around it. This castle is interesting because, although it’s a ruin and doesn’t look very big, there are a lot of twists and turns and it’s easy to get a little lost. Also, my friend Rachel and I found a room with amazing acoustics, so we had to try singing there.


October 21st-22nd: I went to a light show at the Royal Botanical Gardens on Friday night with some friends from my church. This was really unique and fun! It was actually more of a light-and-water show as they did things like this that combined the two with music:

Then on Saturday I visited the Scottish National Gallery of Art and went on the Potter Trail! Although it’s not as large as other national galleries, I really enjoyed the one here and its wide range of art. It was especially cool to see a few paintings of Edinburgh throughout the ages. Now, what is the Potter Trail, you might ask? Well, it’s a free walking tour that takes you to every location in the city that has something to do with Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling wrote much of the series here and got her inspiration from some of the things around her so there’s plenty to see. The highlight? The grave of a “Thomas Riddell,” the name inspiration for Tom Riddle, a.k.a. Lord Voldemort.


I was pretty excited to be standing at Voldemort’s grave. #potterhead 

October 28th-30th: I traveled up to St Andrews to visit my friend Susy from Richmond. It’s only about an hour’s train ride away from Edinburgh. The small town atmosphere was a nice change from the city. We went to the East Sands Pier, saw the castle with its impressive siege mine and countermine (which we went down into, although it’s not for the claustrophobic), and went to the ruined cathedral and climbed its tower where you can look out over the town.  For such a placid, peaceful place, it actually has quite a bloody history.


Bloody history or no, the view from the pier is beautiful!

We also went golfing at St Andrew’s world-famous Old Course! Well, not quite at the old course, more like right next to it. They have a putting green called the Himalayas where people who have no idea how to golf can go play mini golf for just a couple pounds, so it was perfect for us. Other than spending time with my sweet friend, my two favorite things about the trip were 1.) the Malteser hot chocolate that I bought at North Point, which is the café where Prince William and Kate used to meet for coffee when they attended the university, and 2.) this beautiful recreation of a movie scene that we caught on camera. We went to West Sands, the beach where the first scene from Chariots of Fire was filmed, and, well, you see what happened.

October 31st: A few friends and I took a road trip to Linlithgow to visit Linlithgow Palace and Blackness Castle. My favorite of these two was Linlithgow Palace. There’s a beautiful loch right next to it with all these little boats on it, and there was some beautiful fall foliage on the trees around it. I loved how the palace had lots of very large windows; the architects seemed to realize that they should just let the natural beauty of Linlithgow speak for itself.


The view from one of the big windows! If you look closely, you can see some white stuff on the water- those are swans.

Lastly, we stopped by Blackness Castle. This one isn’t very large, but its location on the North Sea definitely made it a worthwhile stop for me.

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Blackness Castle with friends! It’s a beautiful spot.

So, that’s all the places I traveled to in the month of October! I’m in love with Scotland. I love the landscapes and the people and the history. I hope I get to explore it more and get to know Edinburgh better in the time I have left here.

Till next time! Slainte mhath! (That’s “cheers” in Gaelic.)

Olivia in Scotland: Here, There and Everywhere

October 12, 2016

You know that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you’ve find out you’ve forgotten something important or mixed up some crucial time or date?

I had thought that my third blog post would be up long before now and that it would probably be about how my classes were starting out; however, over the past couple of weeks, I managed to make mistakes that gave me this very feeling not once, but twice.

On the Friday the 24th, I got a text from the leader of a retreat for study abroad students for which I had signed up back in August. It was organized by InterVarsity (IV), one of the Christian campus ministries I’m involved with when I’m back in the states, and the retreat brings college students to London to see the sights and talk about living our faith in cross-cultural environments. I was really excited to travel to London on the weekend of September 30th to experience this event, and I had even booked tickets to see a musical in the West End while I was there.

The leader asked me in the text if I was having trouble getting to London. Cue: perplexity followed by that sinking feeling in my stomach. Sure enough, when I went on the webpage and checked the date of the retreat again, I saw “September 23rd-25th” written clearly for all to see. Long story short, I made a rather big mistake and mixed up the date. I decided to go to the retreat even though I would miss Friday night and Saturday morning since I had already paid for it and really wanted to go. I frantically switched my train tickets, snatched a few hours of sleep, and made it to the 6:15 train out of Edinburgh Waverley.

In the end, it was all worth it. Even though I was only in the city for slightly over a day, I saw a few really amazing sights, made new friends, and had thoughtful conversations about cross-cultural experience and what living out my faith looks like while I’m studying here.


After having a Bible study outside on the lawn, we attended an Evensong service inside the stunning St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was overwhelmingly beautiful.


With new friends walking across the Millennium Bridge against the backdrop of the Shard and the Thames River!

I wish I could say that that was the last major travel mistake I made, but unfortunately it wasn’t. I decided to return to London alone the following weekend—the tickets I had bought to see the musical were nonrefundable, and it was my shot at seeing one of my favorite actors of all time, Michael Crawford, in person. (You may not recognize that name, but he was the original Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera and a big part of what inspired me to start researching that story and begin the journey that I’m still on today of making a documentary about its different adaptations; see here if you’re curious about that.) I managed to get to London safely and have a fun first couple of days seeing the sights, like these:


I managed to get a last minute ticket to see Macbeth at the Globa Theatre! It was incredible just to be inside the building, and the innovative yet deceptively simple effects that they used in the production were amazing.


I got to ride the London Eye as the sun was going down and then see the skyline by night.


I walked across the iconic Tower Bridge and then toured the Tower of London!

However, come Saturday night, I was horrified to discover that I had actually missed the show.  I was sure that it was an evening performance, but it turned out that it was a matinee. Well, after I recovered from the shock of this, I decided that I was not going to leave London until I saw the show. I bought a ticket for the next performance (which was Monday night), switched my return ticket, and purchased another night in a London hostel.

As embarrassing and awful as making such a mistake a second time was, I think it was actually a blessing in disguise. I got an extra day and a half in the city and was able to see a lot more things, such as:



Buckingham Palace with the royal corgi stuffed animal I bought while in London (mostly so I could take this picture)


St. James’s Park, one of the lovliest places I’ve ever been.


Platform 9 3/4, an important stop for any Potterhead.



I did the thing. I walked across Abbey Road like the Beatles.


I went to the actual 221B Baker Street and went inside the Sherlock Holmes Museum!

And, in the end, I saw the show, met Michael Crawford briefly, and got him to sign my program.


This is the face of a very exhausted but very happy person.

What did I learn from these experiences, you might ask? Well, I learned:

1.) double check all of your dates and times.

2.) triple check all of your dates times.

3.) Even though I had never done anything like this by myself before, switching tickets and things really isn’t all that hard. It takes effort, but once I got through panic mode, it was a pretty smooth process.

4.) The Brits are really great with helpful signage, so it’s not too hard to navigate London by yourself. Also, their train system is super efficient.

5.) In travel, even when things get crazy, they tend to work out in the end. For me, I don’t take any credit for this (since I’m clearly pretty inept at traveling alone); I feel that God was with me to keep me safe in my crazy travels and make things work out for the best, even if that was different from my original plan.

6.) did I mention that you should always check your dates and times?

Hopefully most of my big traveling mistakes are behind me now! Keep your fingers crossed. My next post should be up sooner and I’ll probably get to talk more about life as a student in Edinburgh. Till next time!

Olivia in Scotland: Strangers Like Me

September 22, 2016

Greetings from Edinburgh!

After a week and two days, it’s still difficult to believe that I’m actually here. Even from what I’ve seen so far, this city and this country are as lovely or lovelier than I heard them described. Where else can you get views like this?


From my day trip to the Borders area where we stopped by the beautiful village of Peebles!


Hiking up Arthur’s Seat, the big hill in the middle of Edinburgh.


This is a little of what it looks like from the top of Arthur’s Seat!


I took this from inside The Elephant House, which is, for the Harry Potter fans, the coffeeshop where J.K. Rowling wrote a lot of the first book!


I love how cozy all of the streets look here. Many houses have flowers in their window boxes or front gardens. 

I’ve only really done one major tourist attraction in the city so far (Arthur’s Seat). Thankfully, I’ve got the rest of the semester to see the sights. So much of this past week has been about gathering basic necessities, enrolling in courses, meeting new people, trying to get over my jet lag, and generally getting settled. If you’re a student thinking of going abroad, make sure to be gracious with yourself; don’t feel like you have to see every sight of your new city all at once in the very beginning while you’re still exhausted!

I think often what is most striking about a new place is not what is different from one’s home, but what is unexpectedly the same. I’ve seen a lot of similarities over the past week so I’m just going to list some off:

  • The natural scenery. When my taxi took me from the airport through the surrounding countryside to the city center, I was surprised how much the landscape reminded me of Virginia. I have lived in Virginia all my life, and the hills here actually look quite a lot like those of western Virginia, or of somewhere like Albemarle county. I thought the same thing on my day trip to the Borders area on Saturday when I hiked through the Cardrona forest in Tweed Valley Forest Park.

While it’s certainly not exactly like home, to me, it felt like I was in Virginia but with more coniferous trees. 

  • The number of Americans. There are more American visiting students in Edinburgh than students visiting from any other country! Even outside of the university students, I have met many other American adults living in the city as well. I actually feel like I’ve talked to more Americans than Scots in my time here so far. This didn’t even happen on purpose; there’s just so many of them!
  • Political talk. Scotland and the US are both in political turmoil right now what with the upcoming presidential election in America and the fierce desire of many Scots for independence from the UK. My personal tutor (the equivalent of an academic advisor here) told me that he hasn’t seen the political situation this volatile here since the 70s. Both countries seem to be at a crossroads, so you’ll hear a lot of people talking about politics. All of the Scottish people here want to know what the Americans think about America’s political situation right now, so in turn, I ask them about their perspective on their own. It’s definitely led to a few interesting conversations.
  • The music. They mostly play American music on the radio in the shops and pubs here. For me, this was most striking when I attended  Christian faith events. In the church services I went to, as well as the worship session with Christian Union (a student organization here), we sang some of the exact same worship songs I sing in my church at home. While I definitely heard some unfamiliar Christian songs as well, it did feel nice to have some that I knew well.

All that being said, there are also a lot of differences from the life I am used to. I’ve never lived in a city before, so I’m still getting used to all of the walking (thankfully, Edinburgh is a very walkable city). There are more people here from other countries and regions than I’ve encountered in one place before. Unexpectedly, I’ve learned quite a bit about cultures other than Scottish culture just in the past week. I became friends with one student from Louisiana who explained the difference between Cajun and Creole culture and told me all about the city of New Orleans. I also became friends with several people of Korean origin and have eaten Korean food more than once since arriving here! I am learning that living in a city means encountering a variety of cultures, and I am loving it.

One difference between American and British culture I have fully embraced: when British people drink tea, they usually eat biscuits (cookies) with it instead of just drinking the beverage on its own. I knew this about the culture already because I have a boyfriend back home who is half English, so when I arrived, I decided to go all out with it. Tea biscuits were one of my first purchases here, and I’ve taken to drinking no less than two cups of tea per day with them. I’ve been an avid tea lover for a long time, so I feel rather like I’m able to fully be my true tea-drinking self here!


To close this post, I’ll share a little of what the most special aspect of this trip has been to me so far. I thought that it would take me a while to make friends in Edinburgh, especially friends who would really care about me. To my surprise, I’ve made good friends incredibly quickly. This is entirely due to the Christian community here. I’ve found that having one thing in common with other people—particularly having faith in common—can bond you together with them very quickly, whatever your other differences might be. I’ve certainly talked to people who are different from me in this area as well and I value those conversations very higly, but it has been very sweet to see how faith creates a family. I can’t wait to see more of this as my trip goes on.


Part of my Edinburgh family!


Because family is also crazy and sometimes they paint your face.

Welcome week was great; now on to classes!

Olivia in Scotland: The Deep Breath

September 9, 2016

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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