Everyone Has Bad Days in College... Seriously.

About a week ago, I got together with a good group of friends from high school after a long period of being apart. While most of us were returning home from our first semester of school, some of the girls were seniors and thus in the midst of all of the college craziness that ensues once December rolls around. One of my lovely younger friends (who was just accepted into her dream school!) asked us a very mature and insightful question:

What was your low-point of the semester? 

I was incredibly surprised to hear this question because most college girls to-be are most curious to know what the best parts of being out of high school are. And I don't blame them. 

From when you start getting the glossy college pamphlets in the mail, to receiving your first acceptance letter, to packing your bags for a one-way road trip (or in my case, plane ride), college seems like a time full of excitement, 'round the clock fun, and complete independence. I mean, the movies, your older friend's Instagram pictures, and even Buzzfeed say so! 

Me at the beginning of the semester before I had to worry about anything.

While for the most part, college is super fun and way better than high school, you're bound to have new struggles as you start this next period of your life. People just don't seem to talk about the not-so-great times. 

I mean, when was the last time you saw someone post a snapchat story of their laptop captioned "Eating Cheetos and binge-watching Parks and Rec. #Homesick." Nobody wants to be a Debbie-downer or, worse yet, appear as if they're not having loads of fun. 

You'll definitely have moments like this- especially when it comes to choosing your major. 

But you will, inevitably, have low points in college. So much is different, so much is new, so much is scary. Not everything will be as perfect as it's made out to be. But verbalizing our worries and bad moments is probably one of the best things we can do for ourselves when we're feeling down. That's why I'm so glad my friend brought it up that night. 

My low point during first semester? 

After a night out with friends I came back to my room and attempted to fall asleep as normal, until all of these worrying thoughts popped into my head. What if I fail my exam on Thursday? Should I be studying more? What if I run out of money before the semester ends? What if I feel lonely when my friends leave four days before I do? 

I essentially had a panic attack at two in the morning, and texted my mom a novel about all of my concerns before eventually falling crying myself to sleep. 

Me at the end of this semester.

I actually didn't end up sharing my low point that night, but now I kind of wish I did. Oh, and some of my friends anecdotes? (without naming names of course) 

Some talked about failing the first exam of the semester, another friend recalled an overwhelming experience when she locked her keys and her phone in her room on the day of a test. And many of us agreed collectively that we had moments when we doubted our new friendships and just wanted to go back to the way things were in high school with our old friends.

While the good times in college greatly outweigh the bad, that doesn't mean we should ignore the bad times completely and pretend they don't exist. Even on this blog, I feel that I sometimes write too much about the amazing parts of my college experience, and tend to avoid sharing my struggles with my readers. So starting today, with this post, I'll follow my own advice and not only write more about the trials and tribulations of college (and especially studying so far away from home), but also talk about any troubles I have to my friends and family. Because even though college is "the best four years of your life," we're all granted a few days out of those four years that might just be our worst.  



Christmas Traditions

My family takes Christmas very seriously. The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, the Christmas card is carefully picked out, and even though my brothers and I are all technically adults, we still wake up at 6:30 AM on Christmas morning to peek in our stockings.

And because my family is so into Christmas, we have many traditions that help us to make the most of our favorite season. Here are a few of my favorites:

The best tree in the neighborhood, in my opinion.

Putting Up the Tree // We always, always, always get a real tree. It's kind of a point of pride in our family. It may make a mess and take some extra care, but there's nothing like the smell of pine as you walk down the stairs in the morning. Our tree is always chock-full of unique ornaments. There's hardly any room for the number we've obtained over the years. That's because every year my mom works really hard to buy us individual ornaments that reflect something about our lives that past year. For example, this year I got an official University of Edinburgh ornament (for obvious reasons). Some of my other favorite ornaments include my ballet slippers from when I did ballet at age four, my Samantha Parkington figure from when I was really into American Girl Dolls, and my "Leda and the Swan" swan ornament.

Somehow, I didn't see this one coming.

My parents bought this thistle ornament when they dropped me off. Note how it's the same flower as in my blog-header.  

Christmas Cookie Decorating // This used to be a time when my brothers and I would fight over who got what cookie cutter, or who got to use the blue frosting first. But now, we decorate our homemade Christmas-themed cookies in a fairly civilized manner- aside from our competitiveness when it comes to who made the prettiest or most creative cookie. Oh, and it's always a tradition for my Grampy to make the reindeer cookie. It's his true calling.

No doubt I made the prettiest cookies this year.

My dad made a red and green blob. 

The Boston Holiday Pops Concert // While most teenagers wouldn't go to an Orchestral concert if somebody paid them, I can assure you that this performance is pure, unadulterated fun. There are some classic holiday tunes such as "Sleigh Ride" and "White Christmas," but also some fresher takes on older pieces, like the Pop's hilarious version of "12 Days of Christmas." Every year, my family gets orchestra seats so we can enjoy some drinks while we watch the show. And for the past two years, my mom has booked our table as close to the stage as possible. I could practically touch Keith Lockhart. And it was magical.

Symphony Hall decked out for the holidays.

Keith Lockhart: Boston royalty/middle-aged heartthrob 


At Semester's End: What I've Learned

It's hard to believe that I've been at Uni for a whole semester now. The fact that I haven't gone home has, in a way, made this time fly by, since it hasn't been broken up so much.

I'm incredibly excited to return home, but I know that once I touch down in the States, I'm going to go on and on to my friends and family about how great it is here in Edinburgh.

Before all of my friends here left, we had our last hurrah as a group by going to see the Nutcracker. Going to the ballet and doing most "cultural" things is usually something that I do with my mom. But it was really nice to go see a show with my friends that wasn't a movie, but that we were all equally excited about.

Seeing the Nutcracker got us into the holiday spirit!

Now that it's quieting down here as students return home this week, I've had a lot of time to not only revise and watch Netflix, but to reflect on what I've learned from being abroad for a semester. Of course, I can't include everything that I've experienced in one blog post, but here's just a taste of what I've learned:

I could never "study abroad" for just a semester.
Or a year, for that matter. I've only been in Edinburgh for about four months now, and couldn't imagine leaving so soon (as many American students I know here are doing just now). There's simply too much to discover and experience to limit it to a single semester. Studying abroad is great, but if you ever have the chance, try doing so for more than a just a semester. You won't regret it.

Starbucks is cheaper in the US. 
As are many other American brands such as Anthropologie and J Crew. They do this really annoying thing where they keep the number value as the American price, and just stick the pound sign in front of it. So, a Starbucks holiday latte priced at £3.25 is actually over $5. And you thought the American price was ridiculous. Beware the Starbucks, friends.

Alcohol isn't for chugging. 
It's for sipping and enjoying. And maybe sometimes chugging. Being legal to drink has allowed me to enjoy alcohol more. I also know a lot more about alcohol than I used to. It's not just about vodka and gatorade. I've learned how to properly order a drink like a woman in a James Bond movie. And I've also found out what drinks I really like- not just for the drunk-factor. I love being able to buy a bottle of wine at the grocery store or enjoy a fancy cocktail with dinner.

Having an international friend group is the best. 
With just one semester down, I have friends not only in Scotland and England, but friends in Canada, the UAE, Uganda, and Germany as well. In no other place would I be able to have such a richly international experience. I've learned a lot through my friends by comparing and contrasting our schools, social lives, and daily activities. Plus, if I ever want to go to any of these places, I'd like to think that I have a free place to crash.

The UK doesn't have bad food.
Seriously. From juicy burgers, to amazing breakfasts, to addicting Indian food, the UK (and Scotland in particular) has a lot more to offer in terms of food-diversity than you might think. Oh and when I say the UK has good food, that does not by any means include my dining hall. The JMCC is bad news.

There's so much more I could say about my first semester, but these are just a few of my biggest lessons learned. If you want to find out more about my first semester in Edinburgh, then feel free to stalk me all the way back to the beginning of this blog!

The next time I'll be blogging, I'll be doing so from the comfort of my own home back in the States. Until then, I'll be drinking coffee and doing too many readings about Social Anthropology. Please send help and/or food.


A Christmas Choir

For me, singing has always been a small part of my life that has made a big difference in my happiness. I always enjoyed being "forced" to sing in chorus in elementary school, and never quit the musical in middle school even if I was cast as a background character every year. I sing while showering, while cleaning my room, and while dancing to cheesy music at the club. Even if I'm not the best singer in the whole world (I'd say I'm average at best), and even though I haven't dedicated my entire life to singing, I could never not have singing be a part of my life. 

Female Voice Choir is therefore the perfect club for me. 

FVC, for short, is a non-auditioning choir made up of all-female members (though technically open to males as well) that rehearses once per week for two hours at a time. Everyone is super enthusiastic, but not intimidating at all. And rehearsals are not stressful, but we still get through a lot of music. 

Not to mention, our choir-director is the bomb. I've never met anyone more gut-wrenchingly funny than Vaughn. It's a combination of dry humor and spot-on delivery that has me nearly in tears at every rehearsal. Plus, he's Australian, so his accent is funny to begin with! 

Since I enjoyed being in FVC so much from the start, I decided to run for Freshers Rep at the beginning of the semester. While it was kind of a last minute decision, I was really glad that I ran for it- and ended up being voted in! My job isn't so specific- I'm basically an additional voice on committee that represents the first years. However, simply sitting in on committee meetings has taught me a lot about the makings of organizing social events, running bake sales, and putting on concerts.       

The poster used to advertise for our concert. 

This Sunday we had our first concert of the year where we sang a good mix of Christmas carols, classic tunes, and more modern pieces. I loved getting into the Christmas spirit early on since we started rehearsing far before it was socially acceptable to listen to Christmas tunes.  

Now, while I certainly do love a good Christmas carol, my favorite song that we performed, by far, was "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkle. 

I had heard of the song before, yet had never properly listened to it or sung it. But it quickly became one of my most-searched songs on YouTube once we started practicing it. The version we sang was incredibly powerful, and I think the audience was quite impressed. According to my friends, some people sitting behind them were even moved to tears when we sang it.  

We really struggled to fit into three rows- an accomplishment to say the least!

Speaking of friends, I'm glad so many of them came to support me at the concert! Since I don't have any family here, it means the world to me that I had people that care about me sitting in the audience on Sunday. 

Until next semester, choir rehearsals are over. But I can't wait to start up again after New Years and see what more we can do with our lovely female voices! 


Celebrating Thanksgiving Away From Home

Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. Sure, I love spending time with my family and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but it pales in comparison to Christmas, and maybe even Easter. And I'm not exactly a fan of the food either. Of course, there's lots of it, but it never seems fresh and tasty to me- no matter who cooks it. Let me have my girl Zooey Deschanel elaborate a bit:

I know what you're thinking: "Enough with the Thanksgiving hating already! How un-American of you." But let me tell you- being away from home for Thanksgiving for the first time makes one especially patriotic and, I'll admit, extremely homesick. 

Getting out of bed on Thanksgiving morning just felt like another day to me. I didn't awaken to the smell of buttermilk pancakes and the sound of sizzling bacon. I didn't run downstairs eager to watch the start of the parade. I didn't eat an entire turkey-shaped chocolate at nine in the morning.

All it was was the last Thursday of the month. 

Not many people wished me a "Happy Thanksgiving!" In fact, most people were completely unaware of it- I blame myself for forgetting that the world doesn't actually revolve around the US. And I felt the constant need to remind practically everyone I saw that it was, indeed, a holiday.  

As the day went on, I felt more and more defeated. The snapchat stories from my home-friends came pouring in. My brothers sent me photos and videos of them having dinner at my grandparents house. 

The FOMO was real. And boy, did it come on strong.

Not only was I not at home for Thanksgiving, but I was in a place that hardly even acknowledged the biggest non-religious holiday that my home-country celebrates. 

People here in the UK, however, are fascinated by Thanksgiving whenever I mention it. They would ask if it's a bigger holiday than Christmas, to which I replied "No, not in my family. But to Jewish people, yes." They would ask what Thanksgiving celebrated, to which I gave a garbled response of "Native Americans... Pilgrims... America?... Football...Food. Definitely food."

But being away from home has made me realize that Thanksgiving celebrates a lot more than America's contested history and our deep passion for eating. Thanksgiving is simply about celebrating the time you get to spend with those you care about, even if those you care about most aren't with you at the time. I know that sounds ridiculously cheesy, but once I came to terms with the fact that Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without my family, I found other ways to celebrate being around good people. 

On Wednesday, my running club (the Haries) had a Christmas meal (funnily enough, at an "American" restaurant) to celebrate the end of the semester. On Thursday, I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of the only family I know in Edinburgh. And on Friday, I attended the Edinburgh University North American Society's Charity Thanksgiving Ball with my friend from high school, a friend of hers, and a friend from halls. 

I cannot even express how incredibly thankful I am for the fact that although I was approximately 3,075 miles away from my family, I was still able to celebrate a truly American holiday surrounded by many of my friends (American or not). And while I may continue to think that turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes aren't exactly the most exciting and delicious foods, this year, I've realized that Thanksgiving means a lot more to me than I had originally thought. 

P.S. Here are some photos from the ball for you all to enjoy! 

I'm so fancy. 

Wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a few crafts.

A solid Thanksgiving dinner. 

This kettlecorn may have been the highlight of the night.

Drawing our own hand-turkeys. We didn't win...

The table setting was just too pretty (and totally matched my purse). 



Dating My Mom

My mom always says "You'll never find a better date than me." And no offense to those (very few) of you who have ever taken me on a date, but she's totally right.

This weekend, my mom visited me here in Edinburgh, and so we were able to go on countless "Mom and Leda dates," as we like to call them. There was lots of food, walking, and even some relaxation over the three days that she spent with me.

The best part about going out with my mom? The fact that she's a travel writer. She mostly writes books about Massachusetts and New England, but also writes articles about the many different places we've visited over the years. This means that she often gets perks when she goes abroad- complimentary hotel rooms, free dinners, and loads of unique experiences. I am so incredibly grateful for all that her job has been able to give my family in terms of travel opportunities.

While the perks are nice- and I mean really nice- it's easy to forget that the life of a travel writer isn't all that glamorous. When my mom is trying to make a deadline, she spends night after night working- writing and rewriting, editing, and spellchecking- until everything is absolutely perfect. Oh, and she walks 7 miles a day, cooks the best meals around, and raises four kids while she's at it. In the end, I think she really does deserve all of the free wine and cheese she could ever want.

Now, onto our fabulous weekend. It was a bit weird for me to stay in a hotel in the city that I've been living in for the past three months. But Visit Scotland booked us in one of the swankiest spots in the city- the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa. Call me crazy, but I think it was at least a smidge better than good ol' Pollock Halls.

When my mom arrived, the first thing we did was take advantage of the spa at the hotel. The "Escape at One" experience was definitely something different for the two of us. Usually when we go to spas (which isn't that often), we'll just get our nails done or have a facial. But this was an 11 step process that included multiple saunas, showers, and pools. While it was certainly calming, this kind of spa day wasn't exactly my cup of tea. I kept laughing at how awkwardly quiet it was and making sarcastic comments while other people attempted to enjoy the peace and quiet. The whole process was supposed to take up to three hours, but we rushed it and spent only an hour there- we clearly had lunch on the brain.

The hotel also provided us with a lovely lunch at their restaurant, One Square. I had a flavorful crab cake to start, a tender steak for my main, and a warm brownie for dessert. To say I took advantage of the fact that I wasn't eating in the dining hall is an extreme understatement. Let's be real, though. I don't eat like this every day.

This dish contained avocados so I just had to order it. 

Not the dining hall for sure. 

Another highlight of the trip? Our visit to the Edinburgh Christmas Fair on Saturday *cue "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"*. I am a huge Christmas lover. While I grew up in a very Jewish town and did appreciate Hanukkah, no holiday (not even my birthday) will ever beat the joy that Christmas brings me. And to now live in a city that takes Christmas as seriously as I do? Now that's a dream come true.

The St. Andrew's Square Monument transformed into a bar and ice-rink. 

First, my mom and I made our way to the ice skating rink. It was quite the disaster for me as I have the coordination of a toddler, but enjoyable nonetheless. After a few loops around the rink we warmed up with a hot apple toddy, which is basically a fancy (and alcoholic) version of hot apple cider.

Note how close I am to the railing in this picture. 

Once we managed to take off our ice skates (yes, mom did need my assistance with hers), we met up with the head of press for the entire Christmas Fair production named Fraser. Fraser showed us around the market portion of the fair, and we got to try out some tasty treats from the different vendors. This included organic mutton soup from Whitmuir Farms , some divine Scottish cheddar cheese, and the meaty delicacies from Macsween Haggis. Oh, the haggis. Now I've had this lovely stuff before, but never in the form of haggis spring rolls or haggis pakora. While I love haggis on its own, I think these fried finger foods were just heavenly (they even sell haggis nachos!). It was fair-food on a totally different level. I promise that anyone who tries haggis from Macsween will immediately be converted.

I've never seen so many different flavors of fudge in my life. 

Gin and beer wrapped up all pretty for Christmas. 

Any flavor of cheddar you could possibly want. 

How adorable are these handmade chocolates?

Our day ended on the best note possible as we watched the incredible acrobatics of the Scotch & Soda Show. While I generally don't enjoy circuses, this one was far different from anything I've ever seen before. Not only do the performers play live music, but they do high-flying tricks all in a unique fashion. It was edgy, intimate, and one-of a kind.

The unmistakably cool musicians of Scotch & Soda. 

There are certainly more Christmas Fair adventures to be had. But since this was the first weekend it was open for this year, my mom and I only got a taste of it.

While I was sad to see my mom go on Sunday morning, I look forward to seeing her and the rest of my family in December. I know that being away from each other is going to be hard on the both of us this week come Thanksgiving, but I am ever so thankful that she was able to spend a few days with me here in Edinburgh and take me on so many wonderful dates.         



Ceilidh Culture

One of the best parts about living in another country is being able to experience a different culture. Many people (myself included) assume that Scottish culture is pretty similar to American culture- we do speak the same language, after all. And while that is partially true, there are certain aspects of life here that are traditionally Scottish- and some that I had never even heard of before coming to Edinburgh.

And what's my favorite Scottish tradition? Ceilidh dancing!

A ceilidh, pronounced "KAY-lee," (just to save you the effort of Googling how to say it) is a Gaelic social gathering that entails folk music and lots of dancing. It also may or may not involve kilts (aka man-skirts).

Let me be honest, here: I am not exactly what many would call a "good" dancer. In fact, I think my dancing skills are pretty downright embarrassing. But, if I'm being told what the steps are (and they're simple enough), then I'm totally game. Throwback to the Sophomore Square-Off in high school- that was my prime.

Like American square dancing, ceilidhs involve partner dancing with a series of steps and patterns. Sometimes, you may even be dancing in groups or switching off partners. Unlike square dancing, however, the general notion among both teenagers and University students is that this form of traditional dancing is not lame in the slightest. When we were "forced" to square dance in high school, there were always groans and moans coming from the boys in particular. Let me tell you- that's not the case with ceilidhs!

With all of the high energy twirling and whirling, there's no way you can't have fun at a ceilidh. And not to say that it's the only contributing factor, but a little bit of alcohol in your system can loosen you up as you make your way to the dance floor.

Attending a ceilidh is also a great way to make new friends or bond with existing friends. This weekend, I went to a ceilidh hosted by my running club after our big race here in Edinburgh. It was an incredible way to bring together all the different running teams from across the entire UK- from Manchester to St. Andrews and all the way to Swansea (in Wales!). Obviously, not everyone was Scottish or had been to a ceilidh before, so the callers were quite helpful in directing us. Oh, and props to my Welsh dance partner who put up with my immense lack of knowledge!

Not the most appetizing-looking food, but I promise you it tasted glorious.

To make this weekend's happenings that much more Scottish, I'm happy to announce that I did, indeed, try haggis for the first time. Honestly, it seems that most people are freaked out by the idea of it rather than the taste. Yes, it is a mix of sheep heart, liver, and lungs combined with oats, but it tastes very pleasant- like spicy ground beef, I'd say. And the addition of neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) makes it all the more amazing.

I think it's safe to say that after this weekend's ceilidh and haggis-eating, I am officially initiated into the wonderful world of the Scottish people.


A Busy Week

This past week has been full of all sorts of excitement. From celebrating a holiday I had never even heard of before to hosting one of my dearest friends in the city, it's been pretty hectic (but in the best way possible!).

On Wednesday, I was a bit surprised to find out that it was actually a holiday. There were still classes (though I typically don't have any on Wednesdays), but everyone seemed to be buzzing with excitement about what was to come that night. 

Guy Fawkes Night, also called "Bonfire Night," is an annual commemorative holiday observed throughout Great Britain. It celebrates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot that aimed to blow up the House of Lords on the 5th of November, 1605 during the opening of English Parliament in order to Assassinate King James I of England (aka King James VI of Scotland). Guy Fawkes was among 8 members who were hanged and quartered. 

But you probably know this Guy (punny, right?) from a scene from the film V for Vendetta (which I actually have not seen) in which the main character recites this British folk poem: 

Remember, remember,

    The fifth of November, 
    The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
    I know of no reason 
    Why the Gunpowder treason 

    Should ever be forgot!  

Oh and he's wearing the mask that resembles the face of Guy Fawkes. It freaks me out, to say the least. Here's the famous scene: 

I liked that Guy Fawkes Night was a low-key holiday. My friends and I decided at the last minute to go up Calton Hill to watch the fireworks. The thing about the fireworks, though, is that it's not just one big display- there are fireworks going off all around the city at all times. There was never a moment when the sky wasn't lit up. Not only were there fireworks, but we also lit sparklers and watched other people set paper lanterns off into the sky. It was truly beautiful. I apologize for the lack of pictures, however, since my phone died the minute we got up the hill. 

Sparklers were a must on Guy Fawkes Night.

But this weeks activities didn't end there! On Friday, one of my closest childhood friends (we've known each other since we were only two and a half!) visited me in Edinburgh. I was thrilled to be able to show her around the city and play tourist for a bit. 

While Friday was spent mostly eating and settling in, Saturday was our big day out. 

The day started off late- we slept in until noon because my friend had just returned from three weeks in South Africa. She was on three different time zones so I didn't blame her for the sleepiness! To perk ourselves up a bit, we grabbed a quick coffee and set off for Calton Hill. 

When I had been up the hill on Wednesday night, it was my first time and I was just dying to see the views of the city during the day. So I used my friend as an excuse to make another trip. What I love about Calton Hill is that it's not much of a climb (just up a few sets of stairs) but you still get to see stunning views of the city. Seeing Edinburgh from way up there made me really appreciate the fact that I live in such a beautiful and unique place. 

Our next stop was the National Galleries. But on our way there, we got a bit distracted by the poppy display outside the Scott Monument on Princes Street. The "Field of Remembrance," as it was called, was made up of about 11,000 symbols of remembrance (featuring, of course, poppies) in order to honor both past and present members of the Armed Forces. This setup was for British Remembrance Day, which is much like Veterans Day in the States. We spent a few minutes admiring the field, and then made a donation and received poppy pins to put on our jackets. 

Family members were able to write personal messages on the symbols.

A wider view of the field of 11,000 poppies. 

After our little diversion, we continued to the National Galleries for some good ol' fashioned culture. Since I take History of Art now, I was obviously an expert in all of the pieces at the gallery. Not. But at least I got to pretend like I knew a little something when I saw a work by Giorgio Vasari and told my friend how he was basically the first person to document art history. That is my #FunFact for the day. 

Now that we had checked climbing and culture of the list, we settled down for lunch at one of my favorite girly spots, Eteaket

So. Much. Tea! 

The design of the restaurant is too cute- I mean, wall-to-wall turquoise, pink, and white... what more could you ask for? But the food is even better. This place specializes in a more casual, no-fuss version of high-tea. While I think fancy-schmancy tea parties have their place, sometimes you want the experience of high-tea without the price and the frills. A pot of tea, half sandwich, and ginormous scone? I'll take it. 

I love how they use mismatched tea cups! 

The perfect little meal. 

A girls' day out isn't complete without a little shopping, of course! The two of us headed up and down George Street, ducking in and out of various stores to keep warm and keep out of the rain. It was a great excuse to explore some new stores while also popping into some old favorites. 

Anthropologie always seems to have the best displays. 

Barbour jackets are a British staple. 

While it started to get dark around 4 o'clock here, it made for a nice setting to see the city light up with all of the Christmas decorations. Yes, I said it- Christmas. Since there's no Thanksgiving to be had in the UK, we go straight from Halloween to Christmas- and fast! 

The Dome on George Street all decked out for Christmas. 

The day ended after our shopping trip, and then our night out began! (but that's another story). 

I love to show friends around Edinburgh because not only does it make me seem like the expert that I'm not, but it helps me to appreciate the city that I live in. So, if you're thinking about doing study abroad or have a few thousand dollars to spare, this is your invitation to come visit me! 

*wink wink, nudge nudge* 


Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out my survey! I really appreciate all of the feedback and sweet comments you guys left me.  


Healthy Distractions

The past week and a half has been a blur of PDFs, Google Docs, and footnotes. It's essay writing time for many of us here at the University of Edinburgh, and I'm sure many of you are even thinking about exams already. One of the hardest parts for me when I'm trying to write or study, is staring at my laptop screen for too long, or being far too distracted the entire time I'm trying to be productive.

Sometimes, you just need a little bit of a diversion to get yourself back on track when you're spending hours upon hours on schoolwork. Here are four of my most tried-and-true methods for healthy distraction: 

Making tea - or coffee, or hot chocolate- is the perfect way to get yourself out of your chair when you have writer's block. For me, it forces me to leave my room and go across the hall to the pantry. There's nothing like the feeling of a warm drink in your hand to make you feel like you can conquer the world (or at least that essay). When you return, you can sip your drink while you write. 

Tea-time essentials.

Tidying up a bit or even doing laundry can easily get you out of your rut. It's productive, but also a way of procrastinating just a bit. While deep cleaning your entire room might be a bit much, taking the time to put away the clothes strewn all over the ground may be the productive ten minutes you need to get back into the swing of things. Laundry is a perfect little distraction for me since it takes about 40 minutes to wash, and 50 minutes to dry. That way, I can work for a chunk of time, go downstairs and move my clothes to the dryer, and then work for another chunk of time before bringing it back to my room. 

Painting my nails leads to instant relaxation. If you know me at all, you're probably aware that I used to be a serial nail-biter- "used to" being the operative phrase of course. I like pretty nail polish colors too much to bite my nails anymore. Sometimes, I'll take a break to do my nails because it's the best way to prevent any type of working or browsing of the internet. This way, I can just have a think about whatever my next task is (Pro-tip: go out and buy essie top coat right now. It will save you time and it practically guarantees a perfect manicure every time). 

Skyping a friend or family member that I haven't talked to in a while not only takes my mind off of working, but it almost always boosts my mood. Sometimes, I'll even use the opportunity to ask for advice on my essay (actually, this only applies to when I talk to my mom). Plus, we all know it's super important to keep in touch with friends from home while away at college. Just make sure it's not a marathon of Skype sessions or an hour long conversation.

The most important thing to remember when taking a study break is to set limits. Otherwise, you're not taking a study break- you're full-on procrastinating. Oh, and just be sure to avoid Netflix like the plague.        

Alrighty, this post is over but I do ask for one thing from you, my dear readers. I am looking for feedback about my blog so if you like mostly-multiple-choice questions and voicing your opinion then step right up. Please- for me?

You can find this lovely survey here


Running After High School

During my senior year of high school, I told myself that I wouldn't run at University. I didn't want what defined me for the past four years to continue to define me for the next stage of my life. Not to mention, I was injured, tired, and in full-on slump mode. Enter the Hare and Hounds.

I never would have thought that I could even begin to match the experience that I had running in high school for Newton South Cross Country. But this past weekend that I spent with the University of Edinburgh Hare and Hounds running club (aka the Haries) in Manchester (England!) for a race convinced me that being part of a running community is always a good decision.

Before I get to telling you about any Manchester antics, however, let me tell you a little story about a scared high school freshman named Leda.

Back in 2010, I joined my high school's cross country team, because, well, my brothers ran in high school and I ran in middle school. I trained for about three weeks when my coach told me I seemed ready enough to go on an overnight with the team (mostly older girls, and just one other freshman). To say I was terrified is an immense understatement. I cried to my mom, to my dad, and to my brothers over the phone. When the weekend came, though, I boarded onto my coach's blue minivan and headed to Hartford, Connecticut.

I think we were showing off our painted nails in this picture.

And whaddya know? It was the best weekend of my freshman year, by far. I bonded with the team, and from then on, I really felt like a part of NSXC.

Even though I felt incredibly nervous prior to going to Manchester this weekend, I kept reminding myself of that experience. And, just as I thought, Manchester (or Madchester as it is fondly nicknamed), was the absolute best experience of University I've had thus far.

The weekend started by waking up at an ungodly hour on Saturday morning. It was pitch black and freezing but of course the day to come was incentive enough for such torture. Five hours on a bus and we had successfully made it to Manchester.

We arrived at the course about two hours before the race. #Throwback to running for South when we were always the first ones there and the last ones to leave. The course was only 3K, so it wasn't much of a struggle for anyone on the team. And to be honest, we were all too excited about the post-race rewards to even be nervous about racing.

I accidentally took this picture from the wrong side... but you get the idea!

What were those rewards you ask? Two words: Cake & beer. There is nothing better than sweets after running. And while the thought of a beer after crossing the finish line initially made me sick, I made the smart (and unconscious) decision of picking up a can of hard cider instead of Tennents.

So many baked goods in one place. 

Never thought I'd see something like this at a cross country meet. 

Once all food and drink had been consumed, we changed into army gear for the upcoming social. And, I must say, we all looked fabulous. Facepaint was a must, of course.

The lovely Manchester team got us all settled into our respective host-houses and the craziness ensued. There were card games, party poppers, green (Haries!) and orange (Manchester!) balloons, and sparklers.

Sparklers provided by our hosts added much spirit to the night.

After we had exhausted all of our party accessories, we headed over to a curry house for what else but... curry! Oh, and lots of chanting. You see, the competition between teams doesn't stop at racing. It continues at the parties in which we must demonstrate our social prowess through both shouting and drinking.

Immediately following our dinner at the curry house, we took to the streets of Manchester and headed to a club. There was dancing, cheesy music, and lots of fun club photos. The clocks went back early on Sunday morning, so we technically had an extra hour at the club. But, alas, we were all exhausted and so we made our way back to the house for some much needed sleep on the floor of a living room. Not the comfiest, but it did the trick. Plus, we had the whole bus ride back to sleep.

Aren't we just the cutest? 

By the end of the trip, I felt so much closer to my team. Nothing like a "cracking weekend" away with the Haries to help create bonds that will last a lifetime.


Things I'm Glad I Brought

This post could more accurately be titled "lifesavers," since so many of these items have saved me from inclement weather, boring lectures, and homesickness. I didn't get to pack much on account of luggage weight limits and my family's limited ability to lug around suitcases, but of the things I did bring, I'm sure glad I brought these.

Rain Gear 

If you come to Edinburgh without any rain gear, you're either crazy, optimistic, uninformed, or some combination of the three. I think it's important when coming to a rainy, windy city such as Edinburgh to have a multitude of different rain-ready items so that you can not only change it up, but be prepared for anything.

This jacket is probably my favorite thing in my closet. Ever. It's practical, classic, and essentially a knock-off of the Barbour jacket I can never afford. However, it doesn't have a hood.

That's where this guy comes in. Oh, L.L. Bean, you never fail us, do you? This hooded number is the rain jacket to end all rain jackets. I passed on the navy and opted for yellow because while I generally dislike the color, I thought it would look absolutely adorable on gloomy days when it is, as they say here, "chucking it down." Plus, it's so bright that everyone looks at me when I'm walking (or running!) down the street.

L.L. Bean really kills it with the rain gear. I can't recommend them enough, especially since their Bean Boots are #MadeInAmerica. These boots are perfect for rain, snow, hail, you name it. But I've found them most useful for hiking up Arthur's seat. Want to know a secret? I bought them in the kid's size. They run huge. I consider myself to have average-sized feet, but even I was swimming in the women's version. I was hesitant at first, since the kid's version was brown on brown and not the traditional brown on tan combination. But I must admit, I love them all the same.  

Climbed all the way up here just for this photo- just kidding, I love the outdoors!

Oh, and don't forget an umbrella!

School Supplies 

Am I the only one who gets excited from having pretty school supplies? There's just something about having color-coordinated, customized paper-goods that makes me that much more motivated at the start of the school day.

{Notebooks [similar] // Agenda // Mug [similar]}

I had been eyeing Moleskine Notebooks  since the beginning of the summer. They're high quality notebooks designed in Italy that are the epitome of professionalism. I decided that since I was going to University, I'd splurge on a two-pack from Staples. They don't fall apart or have annoying spirals- the only downside is you can't remove the pages. I'm nearly done filling in the first one, and can't wait to get started on the second!

Buying an agenda each year is always a big commitment. I mean, you're stuck with one notebook that you'll use every day for the entire school year. Usually, I'll order an agenda with a cool design from Amazon, but when I heard about May Designs, I just had to try it. Here's how it works: You choose a print from over 100 designs, monogram it (or write any text on the front), and pick your inside pages (blank, agenda, lined). And there you have it- your own, totally personalized agenda. I love how they design templates suit any style and are hand stitched down the side! My only complaint is that they're a bit flimsy for the price. They're incredibly functional, nonetheless.

While this isn't exactly a "school supplies" item, it certainly is one of my favorite things to have around. My ceramic travel coffee cup has been my best friend when it comes to long nights of readings and essays. It has seen the likes of tea, hot chocolate, and some very cheap wine. The colors always brighten me up whether I'm heading off to class or just holed up in my room. I bought mine from J. Crew a few months ago, but it seems to be sold out. A more simple option can be found here, but if you're looking for something more artistic, I'd suggest looking at Etsy.

Photos from Home 

Hate to say it, but I didn't hang my photos up on a string with clothespins. I went off to University later than my friends in the States, so I decided to do something different (I'll let you know when that project's done, but for now, they're just stuck up on my closet!) But no matter how you choose to display them, I believe that bringing pictures from home (and pictures of home) is the best way to alleviate homesickness. It can make a lifeless dorm-room look far more lived-in and homey. And the best part? When you have people over you can spend far too much time explaining each photo to them in great detail- whether they like it or not.

What are your favorite things that you brought to University or College? Let me know in the comments! 

P.S. My friend Grace who goes to UCLA just started a blog! You can follow along with all of her adventures here.

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