I’ve Done Things and Not Blogged

Okay, wow, it’s been forever. Before I get started, I’m going to reflect for a bit. I think there’s a direct correlation between my being bored and/or depressed with how much I journal and how many blog posts I write. While Brazil was in many ways a great year for me, in many ways it was also not a great year, and that is reflected in the frequency of my posting, because journaling and blogging was a way to relieve my boredom. As such, I am honestly not hugely bothered by the lack of blogging I have done since arriving in Scotland. But then I started getting bothered about the lack of personal documentation I’ve been doing, which then bothered me about the lack of blogging I’ve been doing, so here I am again. 

Friday, April 5 was the last day of term, which is incredible. After term ends, there is two weeks of spring break, one week, of revision, and then exams. My only exam is on May 10. Everything else I’ve had to do for classes has already been completed, so in reality, I don’t have anything to do until May 10 in terms of academics, except for studying for that one exam. I’m enjoying the free time and also freaking out because I have so much free time. So that means it’s time for more exploring!

I did, however, manage to do a ton of exploring even while classes were in session. One of my goals before arriving in Scotland was to find something to do every weekend, and I’m very proud of myself for delivering on that promise.

So let’s back up a bit! (not necessarily in order but whatever)

Stockport

February 9, 2019

I was able to see the lovely Chiara! One of the reasons I wanted to come to Europe (geographically, at least) was because so many of my friends from Brazil were European exchange students. I wanted to be able to see them again and do some traveling myself over the summer, but Chiara, who is from Germany, was in the country herself visiting family friends, so I took a train to Manchester and then to Stockport to see her and spend the night!

While I didn’t really see any of Manchester, and just a little of Stockport, seeing Chiara more than made up for that. 

However, the journey to Stockport was more than memorable. Already a lot of people were going Manchester, and then my train there was canceled. So I was with a lot of unhappy people at the train station, all trying to figure out how to get to Manchester at 7:00 in the morning. Eventually, I was told to take one train to Carlisle, and transfer there to Manchester. So I got on the train, and everything was fine and dandy, until an announcement came over the loudspeaker saying that the train from Carlisle to Manchester had also been canceled, so we should stay on until the next city and transfer there, so that’s what I did. Unfortunately, the next train would be in a few hours, so I got a cup of coffee and chilled with my book in the train station.

A few hours later, I joined the crowd of people all hoping to get on the same train. When the train pulled up, it already looked incredibly full. But I was determined to get on, so I squeezed onto the train along with the other determined people. It was so crowded that I could have lifted up my feet and stayed exactly in the same place.  Luckily, Manchester was only about a half hour ride from the station, but this was still a half hour of claustrophobia. I’m just happy I made it, even if it was a few hours later than planned. 

From Manchester, I took another train, this time only about a five minute ride, to Stockport, a post-industrial town south east of Manchester. And at the train station was Chiara!

After a few minutes of awkwardness, and trying to figure out what to talk about after not having seen each other for three years, we picked up as if we had never stopped. It was great to see her again, and I can’t wait to see her again this summer. 

Moreover, our hosts, Alan and Anna, couldn’t have been better hosts. I was treated to amazing food and got to see a little bit of Stockport, which was nice. Over all, a fantabulous trip. 

A Week Off

February 18-22

Right around Week 5 or 6 or classes, we had a week off. Officially, the week is called Creative Learning Week, and I didn’t find out about it until basically the week before, so everyone had already made plans by the time I realized I had an entire week with nothing to do. 

My week was amazing even though I stayed in Edinburgh. I spent one day in my pajamas watching James Bond movies all day. I spent another day wandering around. I downloaded a podcast about the Royal Mile and took a podcast-guided tour and went to two different museums along the Mile, topping the day off with a whisky tasting. I spent a day in New Town and went to the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, both of which were amazing. My personal highlight was the portrait gallery with photographs of different famous Scots. David Tennant had a prime location close to the Queen, which I thought was funny. I also spent a day wandering around The Meadows, where I discovered that the crocuses had come up, so I took a ton of pictures. All in all, a great week!

Stirling 

March 23, 2019

I asked two friends from class, also both American exchange students, if they wanted to take a day trip to Stirling with me. So we took a train and had a great time! Here’s the adventure in pictures, and I’m not much of a photographer other than of the smartphone variety. 

The Hairy Coo Bus Tour

March 10, 2019

Wet. That’s all I have to say. It rained the entire day. We went to Doune Castle and five minutes later I slipped (twice) and was covered in mud for the rest of the day. The sights were beautiful but mostly I remember being cold and wet and covered in mud.

Classes

When I signed up for classes months before arriving here, I was told to pick eight or so courses and I would then be assigned a sixty credit schedule (twenty credits per class).  I picked all of the creative writing classes offered, all of the Scottish history classes, and all of the Scottish literature classes. I figured that whoever was going to make my schedule would get the idea. I was placed into two Scottish literature courses and one Scottish history course, so I decided that once I got here I would try to change out of one of the history courses and into a literature course. 

My first full day of being in Scotland, when I went wandering around campus, I eventually found the visiting students office, where I asked a lot of questions such as registering for the local health system. But one thing that I also did was ask to switch out of one of the history classes, and I was switched into Scottish Literature. Now I had a great schedule! It looked like this:

The History of Edinburgh, Scottish Literature 2, and Creative Writing 2: Prose.

My first day of school was January 14, which feels like approximately forever ago. That Monday, my first class was Scottish Literature. It took place in a huge lecture hall with at least 300 students. I felt very overwhelmed by the entire thing, as the largest class I’ve ever had at Wooster was with maybe fifty students for an intro geology course. Furthermore, the lecturer had neither a Scottish nor an English accent, and I later discovered she was Russian. I don’t know why I was so put out by that. This culminated in a lecture on a critic and writer who I had never heard of, with barely an introduction to the course. I couldn’t tell if my liberal arts education with small classes and professors who know exactly who you are was coming to haunt me or if I genuinely had no idea what was going on, but the only thing I knew for certain was when she said something important I could hear the clacking of keyboards so I made sure to write it down. 

I spent the last fifteen minutes of the lecture in a highly anxious state because I had a ten minute walk to my next class, which was set to start ten minutes after the first lecture had concluded. I had practiced the walk before but I could not focus my mind on a random critic I had never heard of when confronted with the sprint from one unknown building to the next. The lecture ended (late of course) and I did a very fast walk/run, making it just in time to the History of Edinburgh. 

I felt so much more comfortable there as the lecturer first introduced herself, then the class, and then welcomed all of the visiting international students who were there just for the semester. I am very excited about this class because it is exactly what the title implies, and what better place am I to be taking this class? Also, I love the setup. We hear from a single lecturer at most three times. The Medievalist historian comes in during the medieval times, and the the archeologist for the prehistory, etc. 

After the end of the lecture, I had a meeting with my personal tutor, who is like our advisor and assigned for the duration of the semester. Her name is Dr. Gunderloch from the Celtic Studies Department. I told her that I wanted to switch out of Scottish Literature, and she advised me to go to the visiting students office in order to make the change. She also advised that I take Celtic Literature. So I went from that meeting straight to the visiting students office and signed up for an appointment for the next day.

I honestly can’t remember anything else from that day because so much had happened in one day alone. And yet I feel very content as a fully functioning independent adult human in a different country figuring things out for myself. I’m in a new environment and I am thriving. 

I woke up the day to an email from somebody in Scottish literature saying she had enjoyed the first tutorial and reminding us the all tutorials were mandatory. My stomach dropped. 

Tutorials are new to me because every class at Wooster is like a tutorial — a small session where everyone is expected to have read the material and participate in discussion. However, everyone at the visiting student office and at the orientation meeting told us that tutorials started week two, so I had ignored all mentions of a tutorial on my time table. That is why I was very confused and upset about the email as I had managed to miss a class that I knew nothing about. That just about sealed the deal for me, so I skipped my second Scottish Literature lecture in favor of dropping the class. I made an entire list of classes that looked interesting and less overwhelming because I was worried about availability, but that turned out not to be a problem, so I was able to join a class called “Songs, Swords, Rebels and Revivals: Modern Celtic Literature in Translation.” 

It turns out that not only had my personal tutor recommended that I take that class, she is also one of two professors teaching it. Furthermore, it is much more manageable in my eyes as there are about twenty five students total in the class. Maybe I’m backwards for coming to a giant university and finding small classes that are out of the norm here, but I feel like I have things more under control now. Also, Celtic Lit is so far fascinating. It is divided into two lectures and two tutorials a week, with the first lecture and tutorial focusing on the Irish see of Celtic Lit and the second on the Scottish side. I am feeling very Scotland focused and quite happy with that decision. 

My last class is Creative Writing. This class only meets once a week for the two hours and there are only ten students (again a great comfort to me with my Wooster experience). I love it so far as it matches my other experiences with creative writing classes. We read stories every week and dissect them as well as write exercises in class. Our first assignment was to acquire a notebook to carry around to write random bits of inspiration. My favorite thing I have written down so far is “questionable hauntings.” 

And I will stop there. I have other things to talk about so stay tuned for news about Harry Potter, ballet, and other adventures.