Good Ol' Arthur

To be completely honest, I often sit down on Sunday (... or Monday) night panicked about what I'm going to write about next. It's easy when I've been to a big event or made the effort to do something special that week. But it's no secret that as an average college student, many of my weeks consist of simply studying, watching Netflix, and eating dining hall dinners. College isn't always so glamorous, after all.

But then when I'm faced with a blank page and a whole lot of worry, I try to think of the things in my life that I now consider normal, that somebody reading along from outside of the University of Edinburgh would think is interesting. 

Boom. Instant blog post (ha, not quite). 

In last week's post, I mentioned how my favorite aspect of my room was the view of Arthur's Seat. But I don't just look at that lovely extinct volcano all day like it's some sort of painting. Because hills aren't meant for looking at, they're meant for walking, running, and climbing. 

Regardless of my not-so-close relationship with nature (I like contained nature aka parks and gardens), I take full advantage of my close proximity to Arthur's seat, and have climbed to its peak twice so far, and frequently go on runs either around or partially up the feature. 

On my last run, I took my phone with me (a rare occurrence) to snap some pictures from Arthur's Seat and around Holyrood Park to share with you guys:

A view of Calton Hill.

The bigger building with the clock is the Balmoral Hotel.

Even Edinburgh Castle can be seen from Arthur's seat!

Holyrood Palace: the official residence of the British Monarchy.

The peak of the hill- as you can see, it would've been quite a long run had I gone up there.

There are a total of three lakes throughout Holyrood Park.

One of my favorite parts of climbing up Arthur's seat is the view of the ocean.


A Peek Into My Dorm Room

Whenever I went to visit colleges last year, the one thing they most often left out of the tour was the dorm rooms. It's completely ridiculous how many schools I went to didn't show us the bedrooms- I mean, it's the one space you're going to be living in for at least the next year!

I honestly think they do this because the tour guides don't want to show you precisely how cruddy the rooms are- cinderblock walls, dirty floors, and three beds squeezed in a room really meant for two. 

So, in this post I'd like to show you all what my dorm room looks like, just so you can get a feel for where I live, or so you can see what a real, live college dorm room looks like if you haven't seen one before. 

Luckily, Grant House was renovated just last year (it used to be called "Grantanamo Bay" because it was so terrible), so my living conditions are more than ideal. Plus, I'm in a single! So I feel like my room is really "mine."

Here are a few of my favorite areas in my (tiny) room: 

The Wardrobe//

Every dorm room needs photos! Instead of going for the cutesy "pictures on a clothesline" thing everyone was doing (I blame you, pinterest), I decided to go the more traditional route of just sticking 'em up there. I love how my pictures are a mix of old and new, people and places, and even a few words (à la an old J. Crew catalog cover). 

The Pinboard//

While I didn't jump on the clothesline bandwagon, I did succumb to the fairy-lights trend. They're just too pretty! And they instantly make the room feel magical. Here, I have a watercolor of Boston, to remind me of home, and one of my favorite graduation gifts ever- a Lilly Pulitzer printed "L", made by one of my friends. I also added some washi tape for kicks and giggles (and didn't use nearly as much as I planned to...). 

The Sink// 

Having a sink in my room isn't as awkward as it sounds. It makes everything easier- brushing my teeth, taking out my contacts, washing my dishes, and even doing my makeup. Also I have tap water at my disposal 24/7. 

The Bed// 

Every college student loves their bed. It's honestly where we spend most of our time. I never thought I'd go for a green comforter, but when my Nana made me this "quillow" (a quilt that folds into a pillow- seriously amazing) I had to match it. And of course having something to go with this handmade quillow was way more important than any color scheme I originally had in my head. Also, I love this pillow that my mom got me for Christmas! It's from Limited Editions in Newton Highlands- another way to bring a little bit of home into my room.    

The View//

By far, this is my favorite part of my room! I'm lucky enough to have a room in the back of the building which faces Arthur's Seat. Arthur's Seat is actually an extinct volcano that can be seen from practically any part of Edinburgh. I have a fantastic view of what I like to call "something between a hill and a mountain," or, as writer Robert Louis Stevenson more eloquently put it, "a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design." 

Dang, Rob. You've got a way with words. 


FAQ Part 2

Anyone else been bombarded with 23,897 questions from parents, relatives, and even not-so close friends when you get back from school? It’s like we’re being quizzed after exams are through and the semester’s come to an end.

It’s hard to put on a happy face and sound enthusiastic when your great aunt’s second cousin asks you about your roommate for the fifth time. But, we’re inclined to answer and go on to tell them about how much we love college anyway.

I wrote a “Frequently Asked Questions” post before I left for my first semester at the University of Edinburgh, and now, with semester two just beginning, I thought I’d compile a short list of even more questions that I’ve been asked since being at school.

Do you have an accent yet?
Yes- an American one, in fact. Three and a half months in another country doesn’t change your way of speaking all that much. But maybe four years will. I may have picked up a few words and phrases here and there (sweaters = jumpers), but overall I still talk in the same way. Plus, I like to think that my friends at school think my American accent is cute. Either that or they think it’s annoying. Still, I won’t deliberately change my accent to fit who I’m talking to.

Is it weird not being able to drink when you come back to the States?
Or, conversely, is it weird being able to drink in the UK? My answer is yes and no. I’ve understood for years that the rules in the US don’t allow me to drink legally. So that doesn’t feel weird to me because I’m not yet 21. Of course, when I’m at home, I feel left out when my family’s at a restaurant and they’re all drinking. I’ll look at the drinks menu and pick out what I would have if I could. Now that I’ve been able drink in the UK, I feel like 21 is way too old to be legal to drink in a restaurant or bar. But I suppose that’s just the way things are.

I love Mexican food... and Margaritas of course!

Do you like your roommate?
Yes! I love myself. Not having a roommate is actually one of my favorite things about Uni. My entire dorm building is made up of single rooms, so I don’t feel like I’m doing something out of the ordinary. I love that I have privacy when I need it, but can still go down the hall or downstairs to see my friends when I feel like being around other people. I’m a very social person, but I’ve never shared a room in my life. Even with a big family, I always had my own room. And I just love being able to have it stay that way.

Do you like the UK or the US better? Edinburgh or Boston?
I think that this is a question that I’ll never be able to answer simply with “yes” or “no.” Both places have pluses and minuses. I love the convenience of being in the US. Everything is so efficient. At the same time, though, I love the more laid-back attitude of Europeans. Also, I find Edinburgh to be very similar to Boston. Both are bookish cities with a lot of history that are home to prestigious Universities. They’re also both the perfect medium-city size.

The State House in Boston, on a frigid, yet sunny, day.

 What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make?
I think this may apply for a lot of new college students, but the biggest adjustment for me would have to be the academics. Compared to high school, Uni work is a lot more independent. You aren’t being told to read, and nobody checks up on you. I have one essay and one exam per semester. And if I don’t do the work, then I won't get high marks. The marking system in the UK is miles different than in the US. First off, my first two years are graded on a Pass-Fail basis. I get individual grades for individual assignments, but at the end of the year, what will show on my transcript is a “P” or and “F.” I actually find this quite helpful because it allows me to not focus so much on the grades, and more on the learning process. Passing is 40%, and a high mark (A range) is anywhere over 70%. But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. In fact, it may just make it a lot harder. An “A” is considered to be publishable work. And not everyone gets As- you really have to work for it. Having to adjust to this marking system was hard, but I’m glad that it’s allowed me to look at grades in a very different light.   



Downton Day: And How to Throw Your Own

Downton Day is officially my favorite unofficial holiday. Once all of the excitement dies down from Christmas and New Years and all we can think about is how much we ate and how much we don't actually want to accomplish our New Years resolutions, Downton Abbey comes in to save the day. 

If you haven't seen Downton Abbey before, then I truly and honestly can't explain it to you in a way that makes it sound as good as it really is. You just have to watch it.

Anyway, with all of the anticipation surrounding the season premier of the series each January (shout out to Britain which airs it in September), my friends and I have, for the past two years, celebrated the start of the show with a killer tea-party. Yes, I know the words "killer" and "tea-party" aren't usually used in the same sentence, or paragraph for that matter, but just trust me on this one. 

It's a really great group of girls, all who have at least some interest in the show, plus we are all running teammates from back in high school. Some of us (ie. me) are die-hard Downton fans, while others are just casual watchers. And while sometimes we have to pause to explain things to those who aren't so knowledgeable, it's always a good time watching the show together.  

Last year's group photo.

This year's group photo- and just as classy.

My party this year was a huge success (with extensive help from my mom, of course). So if you want to throw your own Downton party (it doesn't just have to be for the season premier!), here are some tips from a two-time pro: 

Plan Ahead // Take an afternoon to look through all your cookbooks, research recipes, and write a grocery list. It's difficult to have a party run smoothly if you don't take the time to think about it beforehand. If you don't, you'll be running around at the last minute realizing you forgot to buy chives and don't have enough paper napkins for everyone.

Take Inspiration from the Show // But don't replicate it exactly. Be realistic about what you can and can't make. You can find good ideas for recipes in The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook or even on Pinterest. While the Lords and Ladies of Downton did eat fancy food, don't put pressure on yourself to make a five course meal. Remember: we're not all Mrs. Pattmore. And most of us don't live in a multi-million dollar estate and have butlers waiting on us hand and foot. But if you do, please marry me.

Choose Wisely // Going off of the above tips, make sure to create a composed menu for the evening. Our menu is always based on British high-tea. We pick a two of three finger sandwiches, and a few sweets that are reliably good- like cucumber sandwiches and chocolate covered strawberries. We may also add a few new recipes in the mix. But, all in all, it's important to keep the menu as simple as possible or you'll be stressing out during a night that should be fun.

Chocolate covered strawberries are super easy- and always a crowd favorite!

Some simple tea sandwiches. 

Dress Up // This is certainly not required for every Downton Day, but I think it really sets the mood for the night. If you're eating fancy food, why not wear fancy clothes? I'm not talking ball gowns and tuxedos, but putting on a tasteful dress that Lady Mary might wear can make you feel as if you're a member of the Crawley clan.

Pop Some Bubbly // And finally, when the show's about to start, grab some champagne (or, in my case, sparkling apple cider), and sit back and enjoy all of the addictive drama that Downton Abbey has to offer.

Here are a few more photos from the night!

A last minute decision. I don't even like eating meringues but I thought they were too pretty not to use!  

Last year we made chocolate mousse and this year we went for boozey trifle. 

Certainly not Mcvities, but the next best (homemade!) thing.
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