Passports

Dispatches from Abroad

Monday, Sept. 20, 2010 9:21 a.m.

Meet Tess, studying in Edinburgh

by admin

Photo courtesy of Tess Malone

Tess Malone | Junior | English | Edinburgh, Scotland | University of Edinburgh

Cheers from Edinburgh! When they said it was rainy in Scotland, they weren’t kidding. As a Scot, it is your duty to have a trench coat and an optimistic outlook when it is “just raining.” Although having to dress for all four seasons in one day can get a bit irksome, there really is a warm cup of tea waiting for me when I get inside, as the cliché goes. The Scots are welcoming and they are force-feeding me toast right now—I couldn’t ask for a better transition into the first week of my study abroad experience.

Surprisingly, I’m less culture-shocked than I thought I would be. This is mostly because Edinburgh is more of an international city than a Scottish one. Both the number of Americans—there are 1,200 at the University of Edinburgh—and Starbucks are ubiquitous. And when I’m not hearing Americans say “bathroom” instead of “toilets,” I hear everything from Polish to Japanese. My flatmates are an intriguing mix of a Scottish Highlander, a girl from Manchester and an Australian, so I’m not sure I can tell you what an authentic Scot is really like yet. It is comforting though that a good portion of this city’s inhabitants don’t know what haggis is though. However, once you get past the shops selling tartan to Chinese tourists, you will find real Scots aching to tell you about Robert Burns or playing in bagpipe rock bands. Their accents are charming, not incomprehensible as I feared, and I can already hear a little Scottish lilt in mine just from being around them so much.

Even though the University of Edinburgh is older than the United States is as a country, not all of it is steeped in tea and tradition. Edinburgh is only five hours ahead of D.C., but culturally everything seems five months ahead. So let me be your personal Marty McFly: put away the leather leggings and grab some jeggings to pair with floral tops and Victorian lace-up boots. Start listening to Mumford and Sons—a band that’s only selling out the 9:30 Club in D.C. but whole stadiums in the United Kingdom. Trust me, you’ll thank me in February when these trends hit Stateside. While only a few Americans know who David Tenant is, Scots know more about American pop culture than I do. They are just as eager to find out how “True Blood” ends as we are, except they’re two seasons behind and everything in the local movie theater is a month behind. This is one personal victory for me while my British friends make fun of me for not knowing what to order at a pub because our drinking age is three years behind.

I’m still tripping down cobblestone streets like in D.C., but that’s really the only comparison. What D.C. is to politics, Edinburgh is to literature. There are monuments to Sir Walter Scott instead of Lincoln, and the café where J.K. Rowling wrote the first “Harry Potter” book is marked. There is an obelisk and Greco-Roman columns on the top of Carlton Hill—a truly great view of the city and where my column photo was taken.

Although Freshers Week – an insane version of C.I. with dozens of events a day and nearly as many pints – has been exhausting, I know going abroad here is the right decision for me! Once classes start next week, I will really feel at home here. I look forward to running into J.K. Rowling and possibly developing webbed feet with all of this rain.