A Graceful Introduction to Scotland

Gaelen McCartney Glasgow School of Art, Scotland


September 13, 2015

So one thing I didn’t tell you in my last post, is that when I made it through the airport in Edinburgh and onto the airport bus, I saw a student sitting in the back with an Arcadia Study Abroad folder. So being who I am, I sat right next to him and started asking him questions, and it turned out that he was also a senior at Temple University. It definitely allowed the beginning of my stay in Scotland to feel a little at home.

Orientation in Edinburgh was enjoyable because I was able to meet so many other students from around the states. On the full day in Edinburgh, a few friends and I got Indian food for lunch, and oh my was it so good. According to the staff at the Arcadia Edinburgh Center, Indian food is the second national food for Scotland and the UK. I love myself some good Indian food, and this was really good. After lunch, I headed up to the Edinburgh Castle and it was beyond beautiful. The way that it is just perched up on the hilltop overlooking the whole city and the surrounding area was magnificent. The little nooks and crannies inside the castle ground offered peacefulness to the amount of history that is instilled within the ground there.

We had a pub quiz that night with Arcadia and I don’t want to brag, but my team won. Granted I’m not sure how much I contributed to the Scotland knowledge, but it was still lots of fun! After dinner we walked around, and ended up going to Calton Hill and watched the sun set over Edinburgh. It was an absolutely beautiful night! Afterwards, we went down to the Grassmarket area to get to know each other more and it was a lot of fun. The bar we went to had a live musician, which just made the whole environment more warm and cozy. We all had a great time.

Surprisingly enough, the next day was our last day in Edinburgh, so I wanted to go out with a bang. During our little break for lunch, a few others and I decided to climb part of Arthur’s Seat for lunch. We stopped at Tesco to grab a lunch combo and started our climb. We hiked the part that was below the large rock formation that is visible. Sitting on top and eating our lunch overlooking Edinburgh was just breathtaking. It almost seemed soul-searching, and I absolutely loved that. After lunch we had a tour of the National Museum of Scotland and then boarded the bus to Stirling to begin our homestay!

Pelumni (one of the other students at the Glasgow School of Art) and I both stayed in the same house during the homestay period. We stayed with Pat and Maureen, and they were awesome! On our first night, we had fresh fish and chips with peas. And it was so good. Now, before I continue with food for the rest of the week, for dinner we always had soup, a main course, and a dessert, and they always gave it to us almost all at once. For the rest of the week, we had roast beef, mashed potatoes and lentils; chicken kiev, mashed potatoes, cucumber and tomatoes; and on our last night, haggis, neeps (turnips), and tatties (potatoes). And to all of you out there, that are a little disgusted by the fact that I ate sheep stomach and intestines, you can go take a lap, because it isn’t that bad. It tasted a little orangey-tangy, but other than that, it was really good. I am very excited to eat it again.

Throughout our time in Stirling, we went to the William Wallace Monument, Stirling University, Smith Institute Art Gallery (which had the world’s oldest football; and when I say football, I mean American Soccer ball), Stirling Castle, bowling, and walking all through town. I think my favorites were the William Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle. The monument had an absolutely beautiful view of the Scottish countryside, something that I was very much looking forward to viewing. I think I stood at the top of the monument (in the very cold fast winds) for about thirty minutes just admiring the beauty of the land. Stirling Castle was a beautiful castle that overlooked the city and had incredible architecture. One of their permanent exhibits, is a re-creation of the French Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries. It was known that James V of Scotland had unicorn tapestries although there are no drawings or remembrance of them at all. So Historic Scotland commissioned the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries to be re-created to hang in the castle to represent some array of what tapestries the king may have had. The little exhibit they had on the weaving of the tapestries was really cool, and made me much more excited to get back to working on the loom.

Sorry for so much food, and I almost forgot to write about this, but it is very important. While walking around the city of Stirling, we happed upon a small café; Suzies Café. And she has the best scones I have ever had. The first one I had was a peppermint aero (a peppermint chocolate candy) and then I had a fruit one the second time we went. These scones were not only huge, but just tasted so good. Okay, that’s all. My love for small pastries and cafes throughout Europe continues to grow.

On Saturday we traveled to Glasgow, and the four of us (Pelumi, Bridget, and Elly, all studying Painting & Printmaking) could not be more excited to finally be in our city. Thea, one of the Arcadia coordinators met us at the train station and brought us to the Margaret MacDonald House where we will be staying for the semester. It turned out that the four of us were sharing a suite along with two other students, Kira and Dylan who are both studying Environmental Sculpture. We are all from America, which is nice because we can very easily relate to each other, but doesn’t add to the cultural experience of studying abroad. This just challenges me more to reach out of my comfort zone to get to know other students especially those from the UK and elsewhere. Thea then took us around Glasgow and to our school. In short, Glasgow is a fast-paced city that reminded more of Philadelphia (with the added experience of very old buildings and neighborhoods and hills) than I thought. Even with the limited amount of exploring that I have done so far, I am very excited to begin living and breathing this city.

With that, I am off to enjoy freshers week. I mean... I guess there’s no other way to start senior year than just as you would as a freshman. Cheers for now!