Bits & Bobs

Two weeks into classes and I'm already feeling exhausted. I'm not quite sure if it's the weekdays or the super busy weekends that are getting to me the most... But it's definitely the good kind of tired!

Anyway, after a rather serious post last week, I decided to do a little round up of a few things that have been on my mind and in my life lately:


I always like to look at what everyone is wearing to class. And especially since I'm in a completely new place, I've been comparing fashion here with fashion in the States. One thing I noticed is that everyone here wears loafers! Both girls and guys can often be spotted sporting these practical shoes to class. I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason why I see so many loafers is because British students mainly go to high schools that have uniforms, and the shoes go perfectly with a pleated skirt and button down shirt. So, once University came around, people continued to wear their loafers. Lucky for me, I got a pair last December. If you don't have loafers already, I would seriously consider buying them.

Eastland makes the best loafers in the world.

Budweiser Commercial 

I don't want to give away too much about this adorable commercial, but let's just say it will definitely tug at your heartstrings.

Working in Cafes 

The thing about University is, you really find out what "type" of a worker you are. Finding out how you work best within the first few weeks is certainly important, so you should try out different locations and working-styles early on. For me, I've realized that I work best in cafes. I try to avoid Starbucks as much as possible (but I do sneak in there every once in a while) and usually go for local cafes. Buying a hot coffee, nursing it for as long as possible, and whipping out my laptop is my idea of a productive afternoon. The library is too serious for me, and my room is too quiet (plus my bed is about five feet away from my desk...), but cafes always have the perfect noise-level. And it's great for people-watching, too! 

Just a little snap from when I was doing Art History readings at Elephants & Bagels... they have the cutest drawings of elephants all over the cafe! 

Lean In 

I guess I'll admit it... I haven't finished this book yet. That being said, I don't think this is a book that you have to commit yourself to reading a chapter of every night. Whenever I'm feeling a bit unmotivated, I'll pick up Lean In to essentially hear the voice of reason aka Sheryl Sandberg tell me how I deserve more in my life and how to get it. Instant inspiration. Sandberg's witty prose is absolutely captivating. Who wouldn't want a successful, yet humble, woman telling them to "lean in" to their work and personal lives?


As a runner, I have always found walking dreadful. Why walk somewhere when you can run? But living in halls about 25 minutes from campus in a city that has almost no form of public transportation has forced me to embrace walking. I refuse to pay to go on a bus because, well, I like food more than I like getting places quickly. But walking to and from campus every day has made me realize how wonderful walking is. It allows you to explore an unfamiliar city, pop by restaurants you might want to go to later, and smile at dogs and babies in the park. If I didn't walk everywhere, I'm sure I wouldn't know Edinburgh as well as I currently do. So skip the bus, and use your feet every once in a while!  

That's all for now!   


An American's Experience During the Scottish Referendum

If you had told me a few years ago that when I went off to University I would be caught amidst a fight for independence, I would've thought you were crazy. Being an American, "Independence" seems like a thing of the past- something that's written in history books, is talked about on the Freedom Trail, and is celebrated once a year with fireworks and barbecues.

But here I was, not even two weeks into settling into University life, and the country I was living in was fighting (and fighting hard, I might add) to gain it's own independence. You should probably know by now that the referendum resulted in a "no" vote, but being in Scotland during this tumultuous time was certainly an experience, independence or not. 

Now, I'm not going to bore you with a list of facts about what would have happened had the yes vote won, because you can easily Google that and, to be quite honest, I don't know all of the details. But I will give you my firsthand account of what it was like being in Edinburgh during the referendum vote. 

First off, I felt like a bit of an outsider during the days leading up to and during the vote. I was kind of plopped in the middle of it all, knowing some basic knowledge on the topic. That being said, I was dying to know what everyone thought. However, I did so mindfully, as people's opinions were, of course, split. 

Two of my close friends here, both from Glasgow, were decidedly no-voters, which I thought was strange at first. I mean, if you were from Scotland, wouldn't you want to be autonomous and free from the shackles of the English rule? Or, perhaps, that's just my knee-jerk American reaction- because, you know, Americans are all about freedom (#murica).

What I realized, though, is that my Scottish friends who didn't want independence were hesitant to voice their opinions out of fear of being judged as unpatriotic. Yes, they love Scotland, but no, they do not want independence. 

The Scottish flag hanging outside of a window in my dorm building.

English students here, too, were fearful of speaking out as they didn't feel it was their "place" to say anything. After all, the Scottish were trying to get away from the English (oddly enough, it seems like there are more English students here than Scottish students). 

The "Yes" side was incredibly vocal. 

This shot was taken just outside of a polling station.

On the day of the vote, tensions were definitely high. People wore their "Yes" or "No" badges with pride. And while they ultimately didn't win, the "Yes" side was far more vocal than the "No" side. The signs hanging from the windows of people's flats were prominent. The town was draped in blue and white. There were kilts, of course, and lots of bagpipe music. I'm sure the guy piping on Princes Street that afternoon made a lot of money. 

The "No" voters having their say. 

An un-biased approach. 

Stickers were littered all over the city... even on walk signals! 

As night fell, I expected campus and the city itself to be bubbling over with excitement. But mostly, it was just nervous energy. People got drunk, but in the pubs and not on the streets. High Street was ominously quiet, aside from a sidewalk performer singing a solemn rendition of "Hallelujah." When I was out with a couple of friends, we happened upon a beautiful display of lights that came together to form the Scottish flag. People took pictures, but nobody spoke. At that point, the polls were closed and everyone was just waiting. 

We couldn't help but stop and stare at the gorgeous display of lights. 

Down at Parliament it was a drastically different dynamic. All of the rambunctious ones had supposedly decided to head down to the Parliament building to protest. There was chanting, cursing, and flag waving. And the press from across the globe took up spots along the side to set up their cameras. 

A large crowd gathered outside of Parliament. 

While I headed in at around midnight that Thursday night, others stayed out into the wee (ha) hours of the morning awaiting the result. I wouldn't be able to tell you what it was like at 2 AM in Edinburgh, but I'm kind of glad I didn't stay out that late since I had class the next morning. 

Even though I'm not Scottish, nor am I English, the independence referendum night and the days leading up to it are definitely going to be lasting memories for me of living in Edinburgh. Seeing the action and excitement surrounding the vote was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. 

And the best part? I got to take it all in without having to pick a side :)            


Lessons Learned from Freshers Week

Freshers week has come and gone and, thankfully, I survived. Prior to the commencement of freshers week, I was both excited and incredibly nervous. I knew that it was essentially going to be a week of partying, drinking, and meeting new people. And while I consider myself to be outgoing, the prospect of doing all of this in a brand new city daunted me (to say the absolute least).

While I assume most of you reading this go to school in the states, I should let you know that freshers week is much like orientation week at any US school. Except, it is generally a bit longer and all of the drinking is school sponsored (Exhibit A: our RAs and Warden supplied us with a keg for our first common room party.) Still, this time of transition is difficult for everyone. So here are a few of the lessons I've learned this past week or so being a fresher.  

Don't try to be someone you're not- If you aren't the party-girl type, then don't try to be. Just because other people are partaking in heavy drinking doesn't mean you have to, too. While it's important to keep your mind open, I think it goes without saying that you should never do anything that makes you feel unsafe. So don't worry if it seems like everyone else is partying til dawn- there are plenty of people out there who would rather be watching Netflix, too.

Explore your city- The first week can often seem like a week of parties and meetings, but there are also lots of opportunities to go on a tour or even just take a walk about town. The scheduled tours of the cities sponsored by your school are often great ways to meet people, especially at the start of the week. On my first day, I climbed up Arthur's Seat and also went on a coffee crawl. Since nobody knew anyone else yet, everyone was super friendly. Plus, I got to explore a few great coffee spots (which I've been going to since then.)

An absolutely breathtaking view of Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat. 

Don't worry about trying to find your lifetime friends- Everyone's new, and nobody wants to be alone. Chances are, if you simply introduce yourself to someone, you'll soon be making plans for dinner at the dining hall or going out for a club night. Perhaps you'll maintain this friendship for a few days, the whole week, or even beyond. Either way, it shouldn't matter. You'll have plenty of time to make friends once you start classes and join sports and societies. And since you'll be seeing those people on a more regular basis, they're even more likely to become your best friends!

Get stuck in- The first time I heard this phrase (at my School of Social & Political Science welcome talk) I did a double take. "Wait, stuck where?" I'm not sure if it's an exclusively British term, but I certainly like it. Anyway, getting "stuck in" means getting involved in every way possible. It's easy to not dedicate your time to anything other than school and going out, but signing up for sports and societies is a lot more fulfilling. Even if you have just a mild interest, sign up! However, don't just sign up for the mailing lists- make sure to actually go to the events. Also, attending dorm/house activities is an easy way to meet the people you live with. Here's another tip: sign up for the society that goes along with your course. For example, since I'm studying sociology I made sure to sign up for Sociology Society (aka SocSoc). It may sound lame, but it will definitely help with your studies and allow you to meet people studying your course who you don't get to meet in those crazy-big classes.

Take care of yourself and others- If you've been going out every night, make sure to take a night or some time during the day to be with just yourself. Actually set up your dorm room (I forgot about that one...), watch a movie, read a book. In order to alleviate a bit of homesickness, I've been trying to call at least one friend from home a night (and also my mom). They're most likely missing you too, so don't hesitate to give them a call. And if you have a friend from high school at University with you (I do!), make a coffee date with that person to catch up. It's always nice to see a familiar face in a new city. And the most important tip of all? Take care of your health. God knows I didn't. #FreshersFlu hit me like a truck around midweek. If you need to stay in and rest, then do so. Make sure to eat healthily, stock up on tissues beforehand, and drink lots of tea. You can thank me later.   

Exactly what I needed after a long night out bar-hopping with running club.

In the end, Freshers Week is all about fun. So enjoy yourself while you have the chance. Classes will be starting before you know it.


4 Major Differences

I could probably write pages about the little tiny differences between living in Scotland and living in the States- every word, every phrase, every idiosyncrasy. And to be honest, I think that it's all the little differences that make this country so different from the one I've grown up in for 18 years. Sadly, I don't have time to explain it all to you. So here is the generalized list of differences between these two lovely countries, straight from an international student, who clearly is an expert after being here for five days.

Money: Okay, well the obvious differences here are that Scotland uses the pound and everything here is much much much more expensive. However, the pounds themselves are miles different from dollars. And it's something I struggle with every single day. I joke to my friends here that pounds are like "pirate money." Seriously- they feel like gold doubloons! The major difference here is that they use way more coins here than in the states. I think us Americans tend to think coins quite worthless. It makes for a seriously heavy wallet. And the worst part? I may have to buy myself a separate coin purse.

Drinking Culture: Yes, the drinking age here is 18 *cue applause and/or moans of annoyance*. But much more than that, the culture around drinking here is much different than it is at most Universities in the States. It's definitely due in part to the age being lower in the UK. Of course people here get drunk. That's never going to change. But drinking here is very public, and drinking in a bar, pub, or club, prevents you from getting wasted because getting wasted in public is a) embarrassing and, b) expensive. I'll take my vodka cranberry in a bar over Smirnoff in a house party any day.

Attitude: I think it may be a stereotype that Europeans are much friendlier/happier than Americans. I wouldn't say this is necessarily true for each individual, but what I've noticed is that people seem to have a much more pleasant attitude here. Many of my friends have also said that people here are a lot more polite than people in, say, London. It must have something to do with this being a city that's not too big and bustling. Cab drivers, store employees, and waiters have been nothing but friendly (granted, slow) since I've been here.

Words: I like to joke that the language here is "almost the same." While people here of course speak English, there are so many differences in vocabulary. Some of the most common? Saying "queues" instead of lines. It's a word that I've definitely adopted at this point, seeing as we so often have to queue-up for fresher's events. Another is when I tell people I'm from the United States, to ask me where exactly I'm from, people will ask me "Whereabouts?" Apparently, it's a way to ask for a specific location. I may now keep a running list of strange words/phrases that they use here.

Despite these differences, I'm loving it here in Edinburgh. It's not home, but it's definitely starting to feel a lot more comfortable.

Here's to a wonderful rest of fresher's week!



Life Through A Filter

I am a social media lover. I am the user- and sometimes abuser- of a slew of different platforms that let people know what I'm doing every minute of every day.

But just because I can, essentially, document my entire life on my phone or computer, does that mean I should?

I woke up the other day and checked my phone as I always do. On snapchat, I had maybe one or two snaps from a couple of close friends. But when I looked at the "snapchat story" updates, more than 15 people had added something to their story. Shiny filters, clever captions, they had it all.

I get it. Everyone is in college and it's all super exciting. Every moment seems picture-worthy, and every new friend just needs to be in a selfie with you.

If I was at school right now, I would probably be doing the same exact thing. But since I'm not, I've had this sort of "outside looking in" perspective of what kids in college (especially during Welcome Week) look like on social media. And it isn't too pretty.

Here's the thing about snapchat stories- they're semi-public. Anyone who you have added as a "contact" on snapchat can see your story, not just people who you choose. While I may only snapchat seven to ten people on a regular basis, if I add something to my story, everyone can see it. Sometimes it's a good thing- if you're not brave enough to send a picture to your crush, you can send it to your story instead, hoping that he'll eventually see it. But often, it seems to perpetuate the "look at me" attitude that us young folk are so notorious for having.

FOMO is real. I feel it, my friends feel it, and maybe you feel it too. FOMO ("fear of missing out", for those of you who are not so hip) might be the reason why we constantly feel the need to update our snapchat stories. Even if we aren't doing so much as hanging out in a room and chatting with friends, we'll take a quick panorama-type video to let people know that "Yes, I am being social right now."

Perhaps the goal isn't to make our snapchat buddies feel FOMO (who would wish such a horrendous feeling on someone else?). However, we may use snapchat and other social media platforms as a form of self-affirmation in order to mask the FOMO that we may be feeling when we see a picture of a party we weren't invited to or a concert we couldn't afford to go to. And so the vicious cycle continues.

It's natural to crave affirmation. But I think that we're looking for it in all the wrong places. Likes, favorites, retweets, and views on a picture may satisfy the need for peer-approval, but, like a 3-second snapchat, the feeling is transient.

What isn't transient, however, is the feeling you get when you live in the moment. It's that feeling you get when you're not worrying about whether or not your friends think you're out and about or just sitting in your room watching Netflix.

My friends and family will be the first to tell you- I'm not perfect at this. I'm always one to take (and post) a picture of whatever I'm doing. Sometimes, I'll even tap through my snapchat story to see if it looks like I'm having a good time.

But you know what the best times always are? The times when you're having too much fun to stop and take a picture and fiddle around with the filters. And as I go off and away to college later this week, I'm hoping to have more and more of those kinds of times.

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