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.



Finding My Rhythm

I am a creature of habit. I need structure, scheduling, and lists to be able to get through my day. My first week at University was therefore the hardest for me because I didn't have a schedule to guide me. Now that I've been here for over a month, I feel like I'm finally settling into a rhythm- and what a lovely rhythm it is!

It took me quite a while to get used to the academics here at Uni. The other day, I counted how many hours I'm in the classroom and was shocked to find out that it added up to only nine hours per week! That's not much longer than a full day in high school, which was eight hours per day. Not only are there fewer hours, but there are fewer assignments. I have multiple readings every week, but no homework assignments otherwise. At first, I found it difficult to motivate myself to do the assigned readings because I wasn't being quizzed on them. Throughout high school, most everyone had the mindset that if something wasn't going to be checked by a teacher, we wouldn't do it. Now, my motivation for doing the readings lies completely on the fact that I want to do them and that I'll do poorly on my essay and exam at the end of the semester if I don't do them.

Try to spot the academic books!

Running, in particular, has helped me to have something to do at least three days a week. Being on the Hares and Hounds has filled the void that Newton South Cross Country once took up (still miss it, though!). I'm out at the Meadows on Mondays and Tuesdays for training, and then at the gym for circuits on Wednesdays. And while races are more sporadic than they were in high school, having that goal to look forward to is a great way to motivate myself to keep going to practice. The best part, though? The socials. Nothing really beats a Harie social- drinking, eating, and having a bit of banter is the perfect way to round out a week of tough runs.

One of my favorite parts of my weekly routine? Going out to lunch on Wednesdays with my friends. Our dining hall doesn't serve us lunch, and my friends and I all have fairly light schedules on Wednesdays (no classes for me!), so meeting up for lunch out once a week seemed like the perfect little getaway from lectures and tutorials. We've attempted to rotate who gets to pick the spot every week, but sometimes it just ends up being a general consensus. So far we've been to the tiniest cafe, a Lebanese restaurant, and a comfy bar-restaurant for burgers. I don't want to give away too much though, because I plan on compiling a list of my favorite places to eat in Edinburgh soon!

Best burger I've had since coming here- at The Holyrood 9A

That's all for now!


4 Things I Miss, and 4 Things I Don't Miss.

Now that I've officially been living in Edinburgh for a month (!), people often ask me what I like better: the US or Scotland. Quite frankly, I find that question to be rather ridiculous. The US is my home, and Scotland is this new exciting place that I've decided to study in for four years of my life (and maybe more...). But really, isn't it a wonderful thing to be able to love two different places so much in so many different ways?

So, while I won't pick a side when it comes to which country I like more, there are some things that I miss about the States, and some things that I'm quite happy to have left behind in my American pre-University life.

Things I Miss

Chipotle (and good Tex-Mex in general)

"What's a Chipotle?" my Scottish friends ask me. "Only the best thing in the world," I respond, salivating at the thought of a freshly made burrito bowl. Now, I'm not going to go into the whole Chipotle vs. Anna's vs. Tango Mango debate that all my friends at home know all too well, but the point is, I miss Tex-Mex. The one time they had "Mexican Night" in the dining hall, they served us guacamole from a bottle. I nearly walked out right then and there. Not to mention, Mexican restaurants here are few and far between, and the closest I'll get to any true Tex-Mex is the nachos at Teviot. Now I truly appreciate America's affinity for good Mexican food North of the border. 

That time when my burrito from Chipotle was the size of a newborn.

My Hair Salon 

If you know me at all, you'll know that I'm very picky when it comes to my hair. I always go to the same salon back home and see the same stylist (she's the best!). I really enjoy my monthly bang trims, and how my stylist will go the extra mile for me just because my mom and I are loyal patrons. Last week, my bangs (or "fringe") were so long that if they moved even the slightest bit out of place, I couldn't see. So I finally had to face reality and pop by a hair salon near my halls. They did a decent job, but nothing beats my regular place. 


Seriously, when will Europe get the memo that lukewarm drinks simply aren't satisfying? I understand that people don't want their drink to be watery when the ice melts, but ice should at least be an option. Two minuscule cubes of ice in my vodka cranberry just doesn't cut it. 

Whole Foods 

The Whole Foods at Four Corners is my Cheers- "where everybody knows my name." Well, at least one cashier knows my name for sure, the rest just know my face because I was in there at least three times a week over the summer. While I've become fluent in the grocery stores around the 'burgh (Sainsbury's, Tesco, and Lidl), and which ones have the cheapest wine, freshest fruit, and best pre-made sandwiches, there's really nothing like Whole Foods.      

My reusable bag showing some serious Massachusetts love. 

Things I Don't Miss 

Waking Up Early 

This is a huge one for me, seeing as I'm not exactly an early riser. When I told my friends about how in high school I had to be in class at 7:40 every day, they told me that was "inhumane." Pretty much all Universities start later than high school, but, at the University of Edinburgh, there is no such thing as an 8AM class. So if you're a student here, you never have to show up to class before 9. And me? I cruise into lectures no earlier than 10AM. It's a sweet, sweet life, my friends. 

Sharing A Sink

Before coming here, I never would have thought this would have been such a big deal. Having a sink in my room sounds kind of strange, but it's actually quite helpful. If I'm up late studying (or just out late...) I don't have to go across the hall to brush my teeth or take out my contacts. And most importantly, I don't have to worry about seeing anyone on my way there while looking like a mess in the morning. 

Can you tell that I cleaned up this area of my room just for this picture? 

Being Stressed Out 

I really hope other college students can vouch for me when I say that the academics are way less stressful than in high school. It's not that there isn't work- you're just more personally responsible for the work that you're assigned. For me, at least, my work is mainly comprised of readings, essays halfway through the semester, and exams at the end of the semester. There's no busy work or pop quizzes. And there isn't as much of a competitive spirit either. We're all here already, so we have nothing to compete for. I definitely feel like University is more about learning than about "achieving" in the traditional sense. 

Nobody Appreciating the Humanities

This may just be my personal beef with where I went to high school, but it always seemed like everyone was always gunning to be a doctor or a scientist. And while there's nothing wrong with that, I often felt like I wasn't taken seriously because I enjoyed English and aspired to be a teacher or a journalist. When I tell people here that I'm studying Sociology I don't get strange looks or stifled laughs. People at University seem to be studying everything: from Art History, to English Literature, to Neuroscience. I love the feeling that all fields are accepted and appreciated equally. 

College kids: Anything you're missing right about now? Anything you're happy to be living without? Let me know in the comments!  


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