Season's Greetings & Goodbyes

Maggie Hoffman University of Edinburgh, Scotland


December 13, 2016

The City of Edinburgh is buzzing with holiday cheer. Every street is adorned with twinkling lights and the smell of mulled wine fills the air. Given the limited daylight in December (the sun sets by 4:00 PM each day), I look forward to each evening when the city is electrified. It is impossible to escape the infectious Christmas zeal.

“Five gol-den rings,” the singers bellow as I stroll passed a choir in Grassmarket Square. I stop and listen a while longer, remembering the last time I heard this song. About one year ago, family and friends had gathered around my Aunt’s piano to sing the quintessential Christmas song: “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” My Dad—with his deep and booming voice—always made claims to the verse about five golden rings. It was a crowd favorite. My mind drifted to happy memories, and I felt one of the few waves of homesickness since I arrived in Edinburgh.

To everything there is a season, and the onset of the holiday season in Edinburgh serves as a daily reminder that my time here is coming to a close. I wanted this post to be a sort of farewell to Edinburgh, a love letter if you will. Conversations with my Edinburgh friends have reinforced how much I have learned and how much I have done in the last four months. I am incredibly grateful for my semester abroad!

Things I’ll Miss:

  1. British hospitality: despite the British stereotype of a “stiff upper lip,” I have found Edinburgh to be incredibly welcoming and hospitable. Arrows on the road remind forgetful tourists (like me) that traffic moves on the left, and public signs often include the word “please.” Homeless people always wish passersby a good day, even when their jars remain empty. Edinburgh’s friendliness rivals that of the Midwest.
  2. Afternoon tea: tea is not simply a remedy for the common cold or an a la carte option after a decadent meal. It is an event, and the United Kingdom does it well. From finger sandwiches to scones, clotted cream and sweets, the decadent tea towers are sure to please even the pickiest of guests.
  3. Weekend itineraries: this semester I traveled to 11 cities in 15 weeks. I’ll miss the spontaneity of weekend adventures with friends; these escapades became the highlight of my semester.
  4. Leisurely lifestyles: As I hustled my way through the unhurried crowds along Princes Street and North Bridge, I often had to force myself to slow down. I had mastered the speed-walk during my summer in Chicago, but on the streets of Edinburgh I seemed brash and flustered. I regarded the ability to stroll as a pleasant luxury, but in Europe it is simply a reflection of their casual and lax lifestyle.

It is difficult to articulate how grateful I am to have lived in Europe for nearly four months. It was a semester filled with wanderlust and “once in a lifetime” moments. My heart is full. Still, the Christmas lights and the choir voices remind me: it is time to go home.

A note: I would like to thank the incredible Arcadia staff at the University of Edinburgh for helping with my personal crises (schedule changes, hefty parcel charges, and recruitment logistics) this semester. I would also like to thank Arcadia’s marketing team for trusting me to honestly and eloquently capture life abroad! And to my loyal followers (hi Mom), I hope you enjoyed reading about my European adventures.

Thanks for following along!


Scotland Semester Travel