Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Oban and Isle of Mull

So sorry it has been so long since I last posted! Things have been very busy, which I guess is a good thing, but I am sorry I haven't been keeping you updated on what I have been up to!

So this past weekend about 12 of us went on a weekend trip with the International Society into the highlands.  We left bright and early Saturday morning and took the 3 hour bus ride to the town of Oban.  Oban is an adorable little seaside town, with great views, and it was a beautiful sunny day.  The only disappointment was that apparently most places in the highlands take January as a holiday, so the museums, chocolate factory and brewery we were supposed to tour were closed.  But we made the most of it and explored the city, took lots of pictures and hiked up to a huge monument on top of the city.  I even brought my new black and white film camera that I have for my photography class, and started trying out the setting for the 36 pictures I have due on Friday.  Here are some pictures from our time in Oban!
The city of Oban

Ian, Betsey, Nicole and Christine by the water

an adorable little house in the city

The monument we climbed up to

So after our long bus ride and a few hours exploring the city, all 150 or so of us returned to the hostel we were staying in for a dinner our leaders were preparing for us.  It was pasta with chili, which was delicious, and then we chatted with the hostel owner for a bit and asked for a pub in the area to meets some locals.  He ended up coming to the pub with us, and played darts and chatted with us about Scotland and the highlands for a few hours, which was a really great way to hear about the country! Then we returned to the hostel and went to bed, because we had to be up early for breakfast and our next adventure.

The next morning we woke up at 8 am to get down for the fresh baked scones the hostel had prepared for us.  Then by 9 we headed back to the bus, loaded up our bags, and walked to the ferry to go to the Isle of Mull, a 45 minute boat ride away and where some of the Harry Potter films were made!  We stayed on top of the ferry even though it was cold to take advantage of the lovely views, and were in the city by 11.  Again, sadly the Island was a bit abandoned since it was January, but it was another sunday day so we found a nature trail and started hiking.  Then 7 of us decided to find a place for lunch, so we went to the only pub open on the entire island.  The owner was kind of overwhelmed by the unexpected amount of visitors, but the food was delicious, although everything, including my veggie burger, was deep fat fried, which seems to be a trend here in Scotland.  After lunch we headed out again, this time walking in the direction of the castle.  We found a smaller castle which was privately owned, and got to explore the pastures and look at the horses and other animals.  I got some more great black and white photos here, and hopefully they will turn out well when I learn to process and develop them in the upcoming weeks!  After making it to a view of the real castle, we returned to the ferry, exhausted from our miles of walking, and then took the bus home and were safe in our apartments by 10, just in time to get ready for bed and well rested for our week.  Here are some pictures from the Isle of Mull.

Anyway, I have to cut this blog post short, because I am about to meet people to go to a traditional Burn's dinner. We will get to try haggis, hear bagpipes and some traditional scottish dancing, as well as hear some of Robert Burns poetry read.  So Happy Burn's Night to you all, and I will tell you all how haggis is soon!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Freshers Week

So its friday, and i'm currently waiting for my sleepyhead new friends to finally wake up so that we can head into City Center to do a little shopping and some more exploring and figuring out our way around.  Then we will be having a pretty laid back night tonight since we have to wake up early to go on our first International Society day trip to a near by town, Stirling, and see the castle there, take a whiskey tour and just enjoy a different city.  The tickets sold out before some of our friends could get them, but there are about 6 of us going together so it should be really fun!

Tuesday I didn't have class, but still had to get up early to go get my student ID.  Since we were on campus anyway, my friend Karin and I who have Scottish Literature together explored the library and found some of the books we are going to need for that class.  Then we met up with Sam and Ian and went to join the two Unions and check out the activities fair. There weren't too many clubs there, but a few of the girls and I are going to check out one of the dance clubs on Monday to see if it would something fun, and different from what we do at home, and a good way to meet some other girls from Glasgow.  Tuesday night we went to one of the unions for a pub night/dance.  This week is called "Freshers week" which means the Unions host events every night open to everyone, to try to get people to join the Union.  We all went around 9 and sat upstairs chatting and playing pool.  We were going leave at 12 since we were getting tired, but on our way out saw the dance floor, which looked like too much fun to pass up.  So we dancing to the music they listen to here, which is a lot of pop and oldies, so it is really fun to dance to! We all walked home together and were tucked into bed a little later than planned, but it was worth it.

Wednesday I had two classes, my second Scottish Literature class where we learned about the language "Scots" and then my Exploring Scottish Culture Class, which seems like its going to be awesome because I love the professor already.  After class, I invited some of our friends from orientation over for dinner.  Two of my roommates, Ani and Kristin, joined us to eat and it ended up being about 18 people. Betsey and Nicole cooked pasta in their house and brought it over, so Sam and Ian helped me cook a little more pasta and chicken with mushrooms, onions and peppers for our friends who are allergic to gluten.  It was anything fancy, but it was great to be able to have everyone over.  Most people left at around 8 30, but the girls who lived closer stayed and hung out with me, Ani and Kristin until it was time to go to bed.

Yesterday I didn't have class since my bagpiping class starts next week, so I woke up at 9 and went to the gym instead.  Its a pretty nice gym, and Kristin and Betsey also love doing classes like me, so I think we are starting next week to do some kickboxing and yoga classes together.  After the gym I met up with Sam and we practiced walking to where our photography and bagpipe classes will be next week.  Its about a 30 minute walk, but we both agreed since its in the heart of city center on thursdays we would head in a little early to hang out in the city before class anyway.  We explored and did some shopping, and found some very inexpensive football (soccer) jerseys of teams here, so if anyone wants to put in a request let me know!  Then we met up with the others and bought our tickets for the day trip saturday.  We came back to my house and had left over pasta for dinner while getting ready to go out.  We went to the Hive, another Freshers week activity, which was really fun.  It started off as another traditional Scottish dance, which end up being very silly since no one knows what they are doing.  Then we met up with the rest of our friends who arrived a little late and headed down the "the Hive" which is a dance club type place in the Union.  It was very empty at first but our little group of 20 had fun dancing with ourselves.  Apparently Scottish people are a very late night group because it didn't really get crowded until 12.  I had a ton of fun, but by the end it got a little too crowded to be comfortable and people were getting stepped on so we decided to head out.  We walked home, went to bed, and luckily got to sleep in a little bit today.

But my friends just called, so we are heading in to do some exploring.  Hopefully this weekend is fun, and I will tell you all about our trip to Stirling later this week!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Surprise Dinner Party

So yesterday, after running errands in city center with my roommate Kristin and friends Nicole, Betsey and Christine, Kristin and I came home to our apartment to make dinner.  She had invited about 5 friends over for dinner, and invited me to eat with them which was SO nice of her, so of course I said yes.  I was chatting with Kristin and four of her friends, from China, Portugal and India nonetheless so quite a diverse group, and we were waiting on just one person, her friend Sneha.  So the pasta and salad we had made was just about finished when Sneha arrived....with 6 other friends we weren't expecting! She brought 2 of her friends who, like her, were from India and three of the vet students in the masters program at our University from Italy who she had just met.  Right as Kristin and I were whispering about how to make enough food, the pulled grocery bags out of their backpacks, these unexpected guests were cooking for us! So they got to work in our kitchen making a delicious risotto with pear and blue cheese, and a delicious, spicy Indian chicken dish, all while sharing some wine they had brought, and recipe tips for us all.  All of the food was SO delicious and by the end of the night we were all too full for dessert.  Everyone stayed until about 10 or 10:30, teaching us how to play poker while helping us to clean up the kitchen.  Before they left, all 13 of us were exchanging numbers and making plans of the next time we would do a big group dinner. It was definitely not the sunday night I was expecting, it was much more fun, friendly and filling that I could have even imagined.

Today was my first day of classes.  I had one class today, Scottish Literature, which is at 10am Mondays Wednesdays with a discussion that I have not been assigned yet. For the week this is what my schedule looks like as of now:
Monday: 10 am Scottish Literature
Tuesday: 10 am  Literature discussion  
Wednesday: 10 am Scottish Literature, 2-4pm Exploring Scottish Culture
Thursday: 4pm-6pm Bagpiping
Friday: 10am-1pm Black and White Photography

So the classes I ended up taking are all very focused on the Scottish culture, since I figured, where else can I take anything like these? My class today was super interesting, we learned all about the different books we will be reading and the papers and projects that will be due throughout the semester.  It is a class of about 100 people, but we will be broken up into smaller discussion groups once a week.  After class I met up with a few of my friends and we headed over to check out the gym and the bookstore.  I didn't buy any books yet, but will probably go back soon to get what I need.  I will also be headed back to the gym tomorrow to return my completed paperwork and hopefully get started in some kickboxing classes they have to counteract all of the potatoes and fried food they seem to love over here in Scotland. After these errands and exploring campus a little, my friend Sam came back to my apartment for lunch before he headed off to his class.  Then at 5:30 I met up with Sam and Ian, the two boys here from BC with my at Glasgow, and headed to Peperino's, an Italian restaurant to meet with our advisor from BC, Rhona.  Rhona is about 27, and works with all 150 international students, but especially closely with the three of us since BC gives her money to run a program with us.  So she took us out to dinner tonight to discuss our trips for the rest of the semester.  Over the pasta and pizza we got for dinner, we chatted about what we would do with the money BC gave our program.  We decided on: a weekend trip to the highlands of Scotland, a football game (the boys requested a Rangers game), trips to local museums and attractions, a distillery tour and a traditional Scottish dinner out at the end of the year. I am beyond excited for all of these trips.  After the dinner we said goodbye to Rhona, and the three of us headed to a near by pub to get a pint and watch the football game that was on TV.  We stayed there for quite a while and discussed our weeks plans.  I didn't really know Sam or Ian before coming to Glasgow, but we have hit it off quite well.  They tease me a lot, and often call themselves "the brothers I never wished I had", but its all in good fun and its really nice to have two people I have some ties with here with me as I settle in.

So thats it for this entry so far, its getting late and I am going to head to bed.  Tomorrow is a day full of errands and other fun things, and then we will see how the rest of my second week in Scotland goes:)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

And so it begins

So yes, I have decided to keep a blog during my semester abroad.  Creative idea right? I will try my best to keep this updated, but we will see how that goes.

Today is Sunday, and I am getting ready to head out to City Center to run a few errands with a few girls to get things we need for our room and for classes, which start TOMORROW.  At University of Glasgow I will be taking 4 classes, Bagpiping, Scottish Literature, Exploring Scottish Culture and Black and White Photography.  In case you couldn't tell, I decided to take classes that were very unique to where I am studying, since, unless things have changed since I left boston, there is no bagpiping class there that I was aware of :)
I arrived in the UK about two weeks ago, so I will do a very brief overview of what I have done since then.  After the chaos caused by the very poorly timed blizzard which cancelled our flight, we left Ipswich and arrived in London on the 28th.  The 5 of us explored the city for the next 2 days, which was so much fun.  We saw the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the street that JK Rowling modeled Diagon Alley as well as taking a bus tour of the city and exploring many of the famous bridges and walkways by day.  At night we went to see Wicked, which was AMAZING. It was my first real theater show, and I absolutely loved it.  I would LOVE to go to another show in London while I am here, but they might be a little bit pricy for my already dwindling travelling student bank account.  We shall see though, I will be in London quite a few times this semester, so I might just have to see another show.  Here are a few pictures of our adventures in London.

The Westminster Abbey

The fam by a telephone booth, with big ben in the background nontheless

The 3 of us outside of the theater after Wicked

All 5 of us by the Abbey

Then on New Years Eve we took Lauren to the airport to send her to China for 3 weeks to visit Scott, before she comes back to this area to stay with me for a weekend:)  After waiting at the airport for about 7 hours since we got there SO early, the 4 of us finally boarded our flight and headed to Glasgow.  We went out to a DELICIOUS 3 course meal at a small Italian restaurant, and rang in the new year in the comfort of our adorable hotel.
Our New Year's Eve Celebration

My delicious dessert, champagne and red berrys with lemon sorbet

Happy New Year!

Hannah, me and Kennedy in 2011!

New Years Day we toured around Glasgow a bit.  This proved to be difficult since nearly everything was closed due to the holiday, but it was still great to get to walk around, and see the city center and my campus.  We took a bus tour of Glasgow, which was so much fun.  Glasgow was also the first place we experienced Dad driving on the other side of the road, which he handled very well, but was an interesting, and at time slightly stressful situation.  The next day we took a train into Edinburgh, where we went to another castle, and toured around, this time checking out the Crown Jewels.  Edinburgh was very cool, but much more touristy than Glasgow.  Then on my family's final day in Glasgow, they helped me move into my apartment, where I will be living with 4 other girls, all grad students, from the US, France and India.  One girl still has yet to move in, but they are all very nice, and one of my roommates, Kristin, is so much fun and I have been spending a lot of time with her which is awesome.  She is here studying creative writing, and has been here since September, so is full of helpful information while I am trying to find my way around.  After running errands and moving in, we went to a movie at a really quaint tiny movie theater, and then out to dinner.  After spending my last night with everyone in the hotel, my parents and Hannah dropped me off at my apartment on the 4th and I was officially in my home for the next 5 months!
The first two days I pretty much just settled in.  On Tuesday after my parents left, I moved in all my stuff, and then went to meet Ian, another study abroad student from Boston College, who was arriving that day.  We walked around the city for a little bit, and then went to meet my roommate Kristin and her friend Olivia at a restaurant near my house.  The next day Ian and I met with our advisor, toured around a bit more, and then I went to the Kelvingrove Museum, which is an awesome, free museum with art, history and animal exhibits.  I will definitely be spending some of my free time there! That night Kristin and I cooked dinner together, and then went to bed early because I had to wake up at 7 30 for orientation the next day!
My new Campus

Me on campus:)

Still campus, looks like hogwarts

JK Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter.  We eventually split up, and about 8 of us walked along the Royal Mile and explored.  Then 4 of us, me Betsey and Nicole from New York and Becky from Wisconsin, all climbed the tower which was SO cool, and I have a bunch of amazing photos from the top I will add soon. Then we headed back, and warmed up before our night time activity.  Saturday night the International Society arranged for a Celidh which is a traditional Scottish Dance.  From 8 to 12 at one of the campus unions they have live music and all of us learned how to dance in traditional Scottish style.  It was SO much fun, Kristin came with the girls and I who live down in Kelvinhaugh, and we met up with the rest of the group who all live up on the other side of campus there.  Then after the Celidh, the whole group of about 150 of us moved to Club Viper, which was a dance club near the Union that agreed to let us in for free.  We stayed out very late and had an absolute blast.  My feet were a little tired this morning, but it was definitely worth it.

So that's all for now, I'm about to go eat dinner and then get some things set up for school and try to go to bed somewhat early for class tomorrow.  I will hopefully update this soon to write about how my classes are and everything like that.