At 6 AM we climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat, the “hill” on the outskirts of Edinburgh that looks down over my own residence hall and most of the city. Leaving at an ungodly hour for college students, we attempted to beat the sun before it rose for the day.
Unfortunately for us despite having days of unusually nice weather for Scotland, the mist reared its ugly head that morning. I thought fog like that only existed in the pages of Sleepy Hollow. It added an extra sense of excitement to our ascent. Although we could at the most see 20 feet in front and behind us we decided that once we got to the top and the sun rose that the fog would burn off. So we continued on.
The thing about Arthur’s seat however is that it appears that after reaching the top of a hill after completing a treacherous amount of stairs that the hike is complete. But that’s not the peak. In fact you have to go down to go up. When there is nothing obstructing your vision the path is evident. When you have mist that envelopes you from all sides the path seems as it will send you careening off a cliff.
At this point the climb involved equal parts awareness and bravery. I of course had to be aware where I was placing my feet and take necessary caution but at a certain point I had to have faith and trust that I was going the right way. And I obviously did not go off the cliff since I’m speaking to you all at the moment. I made it to the top with my version of rock climbing (climbing up rock stairs like a toddler on all fours). So we got to Arthur’s seat and waited for the sun to rise.
I would love to be able to tell you that the fog cleared and I was able to see for miles but that would be a lie. The clouds and mist did not disappear until after we climbed back down. I did however gain an experience I will never forget.
While this is a nice little story about my inability to partake in the great outdoors without some kind of hiccup, I told you this story because as I completed my first week in Edinburgh my feelings mirrored with this climb. Everything seemed covered in mist; I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing. Everything seemed like new territory. The city seemed like a maze. Even though I chose to study in a country that spoke the same language as me little differences seemed alien to me. A queue is a line. Thank you turns into cheers and hello turns into hi-ya. It frustrated me and made me feel as though I was wondering around in a dazed fog.
Eventually I learned that I had to apply the same principles to misty mountain climbing to navigating a whole new world across the pond. Once I became aware of cultural differences and grasped the layout of the city (kind of) it became less misty. Understanding everything around you is great but again at a certain point you just have to be brave. You cannot become Scottish in a week. Trust me. But you can be a part of the culture. Go eat foods that are unlike anything you have ever seen and go to places that aren’t in tourist guides. Sometimes you won’t like what you find and things seem misty again. But in that case you will surely have an experience you won’t soon forget. And isn’t that the point of moving across the globe for a semester?