The Everyday Joy of Being a SUISS Student


June 15, 2016
written by shannon dolley, scottish universities international summer school (Suiss)

“When I was in Scotland . . . ”

These days, as I approach the one year anniversary of my adventure with SUISS, I find myself beginning many sentences with these words. While I love to share photos of my weekend trips to majestic Glencoe and the misty walls of Stirling Castle, the heart of my SUISS experience was in the city of Edinburgh and the daily moments of SUISS—a conversation with a new friend from across the globe, a brilliant discovery while strolling in the age-old city, or an intriguing idea presented by world-class literature scholars and tutors. Here, as I recount a typical SUISS day, I hope to offer at least a glimpse into the everyday joy of being a SUISS student.

Most academic work at SUISS takes place in the morning, so days began early with breakfast and a quick walk from Pollock Halls to the lecture hall at the University of Edinburgh. The lectures heard there were phenomenal and felt very exclusive, with SUISS bringing top scholars from across Scotland to speak about our course texts. Particularly special, though, was the time set aside post-lecture for coffee with the lecturers and other students—just one example of the many ways SUISS fostered openness and academic curiosity. Following coffee, we met again for a seminar with other SUISS students and guided by SUISS tutors. While initially intimidated as an undergraduate student among graduate students and English teachers, I quickly loved seminar, relishing the chance to learn from students of all ages and from all walks of life. 

In the early afternoon following seminar and lunch, the location of the academic buildings made a great point of departure for exploring the city on foot. After a few days orienting myself in the city, it was an easy walk to the Royal Mile and Princes Street. I often spent time shopping or relaxing with friends around the Grassmarket, and on a particularly nice day my friend and I took a “mini-trip” to see Edinburgh Castle after class. We also enjoyed visiting the National Museum of Scotland, hiking in Holyrood Park, and visiting Blackwells Bookshop. Although SUISS sometimes has afternoon events planned, free afternoons were opportunities to walk the city, bond with other students, and get to know the quirky, lovable, majestic character of Edinburgh.

If I wasn’t exhausted by dinnertime, SUISS often offered evening events including readings by visiting authors, outings in the city, and (my personal favorite) ceilidhs or dances with traditional music. For these, you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes! Of course, along with these scheduled events there was the unplanned—heading to local pubs, going to local author readings, or watching Firefly in the dorm with friends.

My time at SUISS—the friendships formed, the knowledge gained, and the sense of belonging found in Edinburgh—still ripples through me. These days, I find everyday joy in seeing updates from my SUISS friends, and even though SUISS was “my place” for only four weeks last summer, I find myself returning to it in my thoughts, realizing how much the experience affected me. Whether you’re about to depart for SUISS this summer or are only beginning to consider the program, I’m more than a bit jealous. Here’s hoping you find and form your own memories and strong friendships that leave you consistently leading with “When I was in Scotland with SUISS . . .”