Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A First for Everything...

Coming to Europe has been characterized by many firsts….the first time being abroad, the first time flying, the first time being truly and completely independent. While at times it has been challenging and filled with unsuspecting obstacles, it has also held the most amazing experiences imaginable! One such experience was my first trip to Scotland…

This past weekend, two friends and I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands independently. For me, this trip would be my first time traveling independently, and would include an endless list of first experiences! Though exceptionally nervous, I was excited to discover this new country and culture and looking back now, can’t help but reminisce on how truly wonderful the experience was.
For the first time, I would ride a train, visit Scotland, live in a hostel, call a taxi, go to a pub, and see a hairy coo (Scottish cow). For the first time, I would explore a city rich with both a beautiful yet dark history in the depths of night, stand on top of a volcano (dormant of course) watching the sun set and the stars appear, look out over the glowing lights of an ancient city while at the foot of a towering castle, walk amidst the tomb stones that inspired great literary works including A Christmas Carol and the infamous Harry Potter, and see tributes to people and creatures, including dogs, who have forever changed the past of this beautiful nation. For the first time I would live with people from around the world, talk with people from countries on nearly every continent, and learn the stories of these strangers who now I am forever connected with in the time we shared together. For the first time, I would begin to understand the vastness of the world and witness its immeasurable and unimaginable beauty. 
In the hopes that this might help others who someday travel to Scotland for their first time, I have added a list of a few of my favorite things, but encourage you as well to be open to discovering new opportunities as you explore the city and area.
-Take a Sandeman Tour (Free walking tour around the city covering history)
-If time permits, take a Hairy Coo Tour (Free tour to Scottish Highlands)
-Try Haggis and Irn-Bru (World’s End Pub is reasonably priced, delicious, and historic for Haggis while grocery stores all carry Irn-Bru for the cheapest price you can find)
-Climb Arthur’s Seat at sunrise or sunset
-Visit Calton Hill (Wonderful place to see the stars)
-Explore the city at night as it is a place with a unique culture and atmosphere different from the day
-Go to a pub to watch the sports games and talk with locals
-Wander down the small roads and staircases as Edinburgh is a city full of hidden pockets which are less touristy and contain the true history and culture
-If you are looking for a hostel, consider Royal Mile Backpackers (It is a very friendly hostel with a great atmosphere while being centrally located in the heart of the city)
-MOST IMPORTANTLY: Embrace and try every opportunity you can…studying abroad is all about new experiences, embracing new opportunities, and seeing the world in a new way…be open to it as it will take you places you never imagined! :)

-Mandy Feagans

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