One Week In...

Sarah Mason University of Edinburgh, Scotland


January 11, 2016

I can’t believe it’s already been a week since my journey has begun!

Exactly a week ago, I was sitting on a plane, leaving the US for the first time and en route to Europe. After a week of unpredictable sleep schedules and numerous orientation talks, I finally feel somewhat settled into this beautiful city.

My flights over were quite an adventure in themselves. After arriving at the Cleveland airport bright and early for my 12:00 flight, I found out that my flight to New York was actually delayed...and delayed, and delayed and delayed. I ended up arriving in the JFK airport around 6:00, barely giving me enough time to navigate the terminals and get through security (again). Thankfully, I caught my flight from JFK to Heathrow, and even managed to get a few hours of shut-eye during the flight. After arriving in Heathrow, it was only a hop, skip and a jump over to Edinburgh, and I found myself in my new home around 1:00 on Monday afternoon.

My first impressions of Edinburgh were that it looked exactly as I had imagined. The green, grassy fields, the striking architecture, the majestic castle overlooking the city - Edinburgh is about as quintessentially Scottish as it gets. I was overcome with a sense of relief at finally making it to Edinburgh, as well as sheer excitement about the days and weeks to come.

From the airport, I took a cab to the hotel where my Arcadia orientation was held, called the Jury’s Inn. Over the next two days, Arcadia introduced the students in the program to the city, expectations at the university, and even a traditional Scottish breakfast! Orientation also served as a time to meet the other 40 students in the program, which made it feel a lot like the first few days of freshman year back home.

When Arcadia’s orientation ended on Wednesday, it was time for everyone to head to their separate accommodations. The Arcadia students are scattered across the city in various dorms or apartments, all leased through the University. My flat here is actually significantly larger than my dorm back home, and is conveniently close to campus and nearby restaurants, bars, and shops.

The past few days have been a blur of meeting new people, exploring the city, and attending various orientation events. At a University of Edinburgh orientation event on Thursday evening, I got to try haggis, neeps and tatties for the first time. For those who don’t know, haggis is a traditional Scottish dish made of sheep’s liver, intestine and hearts. Neeps and tatties are the customary side dish, which consists of potatoes and turnips. While I was very leery of trying this famous Scottish dish, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Haggis tastes very similar to seasoned ground beef, with a slightly richer flavor. While I probably won’t be eating it too often, I was happy to finally have the chance to try Scotland’s national food!

Another highlight of the past few days was hiking Arthur’s Seat with two of my friends from the program. Arthur’s Seat is the main peak of a group of hills in Holyrood Park, located only about 10 minutes from my flat. Arthur’s Seat is actually a dormant volcano, with its highest point at 251 meters above sea level. Climbing to the top of it was a fairly moderate hike. The path my friends and I took was full of wet, slippery rocks, and was pretty steep at points. Towards the top of the peak, there’s a bit of snow and ice as well. However, the payoff of the hike was incredibly worth the climb. Arthur’s Seat offers a beautiful view of the entire city, and was hands-down one of the best hikes I’ve ever gone on. For anyone who enjoys the outdoors, this is a must-do in Edinburgh.

While my first week has been exhausting, I’ve truly loved Edinburgh so far and am looking forward to enjoying more of the city’s many offerings in the weeks to come. Tomorrow is my first day of classes at the University of Edinburgh, which I’m also very excited for. Here’s to hoping that I make it to class without looking like a total freshman! Cheers!