It’s been an insane first week in this beautiful country. Not necessarily because my schedule’s filled to the brim, but more so because I didn’t realize how restless I was for adventure. I had no idea what to expect but for the first time in 20 years, I feel okay with the unexpected. I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert with spontaneity now but I’m beginning to think that maybe one doesn’t have to plan out every minute of their life to feel fulfilled – a quality over quantity sort of epiphany.
First and Foremost – Food.
Eating out almost each meal this past week has taken a toll on my wallet but it gives me pride to say that almost every single meal in this town has been absolutely phenomenal. I would have never expected that I would find proper asian food in Glasgow but everything about the Pad Thai at Thai Siam reminds me of Thai Pepper. That was the closest that I’ve felt to missing home as of late. I’m not much of a ramen fan but the veggie ramen paired with an ice cold Sapporo at Mikaku was the perfect remedy to a long day. Surprisingly, T4, a popular boba chain even in America, is everywhere in the UK! I can positively say that the boba is even comparable in quality to Southern California boba. While out and about today, I discovered a Vietnamese restaurant about a 20 minute walk from home. Here’s to hoping that my positive asian food experiences continue!
In Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-bur-uh according to locals), I had the best salad I’ve ever had in my entire life. That’s a big deal in my eyes!! We were given a sampler of the five salads that one could order as an entree and wow the Cumin and Chili Roasted Carrot and Lentil was mind-blowing. Ransacked Black Oven is a must-eat in Edinburgh. No question about it!
The most important discovery in the past week that I’ve had in Scotland is that there is an adorable vegetarian restaurant that serves a meat-free Haggis option with perfectly caramelized onions on top. Best part? It’s just around the corner from my present humble abode. Safe to say that Scotland has officially stolen every bit of my heart, especially in the culinary sense.
Unfortunately, there was one disappointment. Nando’s. Considering that it is THE chain in the UK, I expected something more than dry chicken and sad portions. Maybe it’s because I’m spoiled with amazing chains in California that serve chicken like Raising Canes and Chick-Fil-A. Nando’s just didn’t hit the spot for me.
My wanderlust intensified as soon as I got into the taxi to go the hotel. We passed seas of umbrellas, double decker buses and cathedrals filtering light through stained glass windows. It’s absolutely beautiful to pass through a city with so much vitality and history. Our schedule has been pretty relaxed with only a few mandatory orientation meetings in the mornings. Most of afternoons were spent wandering down alleys and strolling along charity shop lined streets.
On a whim, my friends and I decided to visit Edinburgh Castle one afternoon. At the end of the Royal Mile, the fortress looms over the city. According to my memory and a quick browse of history websites, it was built in the 12th century and has been everything from royal residence to military barracks. We took our time wandering the grounds, passing by lines of polished cannons, the glimmering royal scepter and crown, and exhibits detailing Scotland’s tumultuous history of battles and sieges. There were so many moments where I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude about the opportunities that were presented to me just in the past year. I knew when I completed the study abroad application a year ago that I would be going to Scotland but I never anticipated to be so enthralled with the culture and the people.
It’s incredibly bizarre for me to not have a minute by minute schedule of my days. At first, it bothered me that we were simply left to our own devices as soon the short daily orientation meetings were over. I wanted structure. My life already felt like it was in shambles when I packed everything into a suitcase and left the mess at home. Unbeknownst to me, lack of structure is what I need. It’s been incredibly liberating to wake up without knowing what the day will bring. Who knew that I would be downing Pints of Fun (It’s a UofG thing) on a Sunday night? Who knew that I would find a beautiful scarf on an impromptu trip to Buchanan Street? Who knew that I would be booking a trip to Amsterdam (LEAVING IN THREE DAYS!!!) with people I met less than a week ago? I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that the past week would lay itself out like this. But it did, and I’m not mad about it at all.
After settling into my dorm at UofG, I started to feel the same restlessness that I now associate with the itch to explore. Tying up my trusty running shoes, I made my way to Kelvingrove Park. The running part was absolutely miserable, but the fresh air and dog watching opportunities made the experience worthwhile. Several trees scattered around the park had leaves that were starting to turn the various colors of fall. Seeing those small signs that I will be living in a city with seasons made the butterflies in my stomach flutter once again. I’m going to be seeing the leaves change from evergreen green to ruby red to mandarin orange to mustard yellow and then eventually, the trees will be leafless and pale white snow will be blanketing the city. My excitement will kill me if the cold doesn’t first.
Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned
Remember to bring a reusuable/canvas tote everywhere you go! Even when you don’t think you’ll use it! Just bring it! It took a few trips to and from Buchanan street for me to become permanently attached to my reusable bag. Without a car, it’s somewhat of a hassle to purchase anything at all because then you have to lug it onto the subway and on the 10 minute walk home, but it is so much easier when you have a single bag that can hold everything! Thus, the introduction of a collapsible bag that you can place into your small crossbody bag just in case you need to pop it out.
I should have known this since I now live in Scotland where it rains 70% of the time, but an umbrella is mandatory. Even when it’s sunny outside. Even when the forecast says there is 0.0000% of rain. Even if Glaswegians say it’s going to be sunny enough to go to the park for a football game. You need an umbrella. Or you’re going to be stuck walking through the rain with poofy hair, runny makeup and wet feet. But like the title of this section – lesson learned! See below for the cute outfit I was wearing before the heavens opened up and torrential rain escaped from the clouds and descended to the earth.
On the other hand, it’s only been a week but I’ve learned to savor as much time in the sun as possible. Since fall and winter are fast approaching, I took the opportunity today to wear a dress – something I don’t expect to be doing in two weeks time. Were my knees buckling from the wind chill for the first hour? Yes. Did I have to shave my legs before I scare half of Glasgow away? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. See below for pictures of the absolute blast of a day that I had while wearing a dress in 50 degree weather.
The Blessing of Company
Aside from a few trips out of town here and there, I’ve slept in the same bed since I was 2. I’m now 20! That’s 18 years of having my own space with uninterrupted “me” time most nights. In the past week, I’ve had to learn how to cohabitate, share kitchen supplies with four other people, and shorten my shower time significantly because there’s 12 people using 4 bathrooms. I expected a much harder transition into living with someone else but it’s been amazing so far. The kitchen is always filled with people, so it’s less lonely when I’m preparing my meals for the week. Catalina, my roommate, is one of the sweetest people I know. One of the first nights she was here, she and a few other Chilean students at UofG cooked a traditional Chilean dish of Sopapillas and a salsa type mix. Sharing it with everyone else, she created this sense of community that I really missed, having worked two jobs for the past eight months. I missed being able to choose to socialize instead of having to smile constantly during rush events or having to turn on my customer service voice during work.
Going into this study abroad trip, one of my primary worries was that my introvert tendencies would hinder my ability to make connections with others. Oddly enough, it’s quite the opposite. Through the Arcadia program, I’ve met quite a fair share of extroverts that balance out my quietness. Also, living in a fresher’s dorm environment with people constantly around encourages socialization in many aspects but I find that I can still find that balance between having time for myself in my room and being out and about with others. With a stroke of luck, my best friend, Becs, is my next door neighbor! We made the decision to not live together in an effort to push past our comfort zone, but it is incredibly comforting to have her so close just in case I need a reminder that home is not too far away.
One week down in Scotland, many more weeks to go! Stay tuned for more blabber about the foods I try and the places I see.