Taking the Plunge

Sorry for the delay! I’ve been insanely bombarded with papers and projects this past week. Over the Fourth of July weekend, I went up to the Highlands with three of my friends and about 14 other people.

Over the three day trip, we saw amazing the amazing scenery of the Glencoe mountains, Glenfinnan Viaduct (better known as the Harry Potter Bridge), Eilean Donan castle, the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, the Isle of Skye, the Quarang, Faerie Glen, Faerie Pools and Loch Ness. Photos don’t do these places justice.

Over the entire weekend, I would have to say jumping in Loch Ness was my favorite thing of everything, and truthfully, I almost backed out. The temperature in the loch stays relatively constant at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s some pretty damn cold water. Colder than any swimming pool that’s been graced by my presence. The only thing that rivals it was the one time I jumped into Lake of the Ozarks in early March.

But I said I was going to do it… so I did. While we were getting ready to jump in, there were many tourists and locals alike at the pier where we were… and all of them had their phones and cameras at the ready.

Lots of pictures and videos were taken.

Katelynn and another girl jumped in first. They screamed and shouted their expletives when they surfaced.

Kaitlyn and I were next. We grabbed each other’s hand and prepared ourselves as much as we possibly could for what we were about to do. Nory (our tour guide) counted down from three and before I knew it, we were in the air. I was flailing my arms and screaming the whole way down.

When I hit the water, an adrenaline rush went right through me. The water was so cold. When I was under, I opened my eyes. The water was green, but was still clear. No, I unfortunately did not see Nessie.

I was freezing when we got out, but I remember thinking “that was totally worth it.” And it was. Taking the plunge into Loch Ness was easily my favorite thing I’ve done while in Scotland. And just to think, I almost backed out. I chalk it up as a learning experience.

Take the plunge, even if you’re scared. If it’s crazy, if it’s something completely out of your comfort zone, do it anyway (within reason of course). Sometimes it’s the “small things” that end up meaning more to us in the end.

Things I miss the most

Originally written for my study abroad class.

When you’re far from home, you look for the little things that give you a sense of comfort. It’s those little things that give you peace. Picking up and starting up in some new place without ever having been there is a little discomforting. There are things from home that you can live without, and there are things that you have a hard time getting on without.

In Scotland, a first-world country, there isn’t a whole lot of disparity between it and the United States, but there are small differences. And some of those small differences feel very big.

Since I’ve been in Scotland for almost three weeks now, I’ve realized some of the things that I miss about home.

1. WatchESPN (and other streaming sites)

As someone who loves sports more than the average Joe, being without WatchESPN has made me feel like I’ve been living under a rock for the entirety of my stay in Scotland. Back in the States, every day when I wake up, I turn on SportsCenter and get my daily update.

Since I’ve been in Scotland, I feel like I’m completely out of the loop with all things sports related. I missed the last few games of the NBA Finals. I missed the NBA Draft. I missed the last few games of the NHL Finals. I’ve missed the majority of the Women’s World Cup. I’ve missed 17 Braves games (so far). I will be missing the majority World University Games.

2. Warm weather

Granted, this past week has been considered a “heat wave” by the locals, but all in all, it’s been quite cold. Some days it doesn’t get above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.It’s very weird to me that I need to wear a sweater or jacket when it’s June/July. I definitely miss my sticky and gross Nebraska heat. I miss the traditional summer that I grew up with: the lake, the pool, shorts, the list continues. Everyone knows where I’ll be when I get home.

3. Taking a long, uninterrupted shower

Showers are my happy place. My showers back home are where I can go think, sing as loud as I want, take as long as I want and get as clean as a whistle. Showers here live up to none of those things from the States.

  1. I understand the necessity and practicality, but I really don’t like showering with a “BopIt.”
    1. I can’t have a solid stream of conscious thought when I’m thinking, “did I press the button? Am I going to run out of water?”
    2. At home, I take 15-20 minute showers. In Scotland, I take 5-10 minute showers. Afterward, I don’t feel as clean as I do after I shower at home.
  2. My timing here is always very, very bad.
    1. Over half of the times I’ve taken a shower while at the University, I’ve been interrupted. I’ve been in the shower three times when the fire alarm has gone off. I’ve had the cleaners come into my flat twice when I’ve been in the middle of a shower. Thanks to that, I’ve been quite rushed.
  3. Singing? No chance.
    1. My roommates are all very quiet people. Half the time I don’t even know that they’re here. Whenever I’m playing music, I’m asked to shut it off. Whenever I’m on the phone, I’m asked to take it outside. If I were to sing in my shower, I’m sure it wouldn’t go over very well.

4. Having space

My flat isn’t very big. My room in my flat is even smaller. There is barely enough room for me to stand in between my bed and my desk comfortably. Even though I’m a small person, I take up a lot of space. I like to stretch out. Sometimes I like to lie on the floor. (I’m kind of weird. Don’t ask why.) Without having the space I have at home, I feel very cramped.

Do I like it here in Scotland? Yes. Of course I do. Traveling and diving into different cultures is something I love. However, there’s just something about the place you’re from and all the things you’re used to.

“There’s no place like home.”-Judy Garland

To the homeland!

I’m really good at making things difficult for myself (June 26)

After a class excursion to Scottish Parliament and the Queen’s Scottish castle in Edinburgh, I started my long journey to Dublin. Johanna (a fellow KU journalism student), Chris (goes to UW-Green Bay) and I split a taxi to the Edinburgh Waverley train station. Johanna was headed to Amsterdam, Chris to meet up with some friends in Edinburgh and I to Ireland.

However, I wasn’t very smart in booking my flight. There’s a perfectly good, functioning, airport in Edinburgh that has flights to Dublin. I’d flown into Edinburgh twice and out of it once by then. But nooooo, I decided to select a flight out of Glasgow, an airport two hours by train and bus away from the city centre of Edinburgh.

At 2:00, I boarded the soonest train to the area I needed to go to. That was Helensburgh. There was a train headed for Glasgow Cental about five minutes later. I was just ready to embrace the long train rides as a punishment for making things unnecessarily difficult for myself, so being impatient, I boarded the train for Helensburgh. Once the doors shut and we got to rolling, I was completely ready for my weekend to begin.

However, three stops later (I had like 17 left at that point), the conductor comes on with bad news.

“Everyone needs to disembark the train at Bathgate. There has been a gas leak reported up ahead.”

Cool. That meant I had to take a different train from Bathgate back to Edinburgh Waverley and hop on the train bound for Glasgow Central. (The Helensburgh and Glasgow Central trains take different routes.)

While I was sitting and waiting for my new train to go back to Edinburgh Waverley, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw that one of my classmates, colleagues, and friends who is a congressional intern in D.C. this summer posted a photograph of the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Bathgate, Scotland. That’s where I was when same-sex marriage became legal in the United States..

It was 3:30 by the time we stopped back in Edinburgh. I quickly disembarked and hopped on the train bound for Glasgow Central. Luckily for me, it took off right as I walked on.

Thankfully, that train didn’t have any delays and arrived on time at Glasgow Central. Only Central wasn’t my final destination. I needed to get to the Paisley Gilmour Street exit, which was just one exit up on the Ayr train. So scramble around I did. It only took me 10 minutes to figure out where I was going. Considering the size of Glasgow Central, I was pretty impressed with myself.

While I was waiting at the platform for the train, a woman came up to me and asked me if I was waiting for the Ayr train. I told her that I was. Five minutes later, the same thing, with a different woman. I have no idea if they asked me just to reassure themselves or if I actually looked like I knew what I was doing. I’m hoping for the latter, but I’ll never know.

Sooner than later, the train I needed showed up, and I was set for that leg of my journey. That train ride was just a short jaunt, just one stop up. Once I arrived, I waited outside for the bus that was to take me to the airport. That bus was one hell of a bumpy ride, but it got me from point A to B.

After I got through security, I found a pub near my expected gate, ordered some dinner. As I was nearing closer to the bottom of my cider, I noticed some fine print on top of my boarding pass.

“All non-EU passengers must get their boarding pass stamped BEFORE going through security for passport/visa check. If not completed, travel will be denied.”

Well shit. I hadn’t ever needed to do that before and I’ve been to 25 countries. So, I downed the rest of my cider, packed up my things and headed back to security. I explained my situation to a nice security worker and I was on my way downstairs to get my ever-so-necessary stamp.

Thankfully, it was only a couple minutes walk away and the line to get my stamp was non-existent.

“You’re the only passenger on the Dublin flight from the States,” the lady told me as she was glancing over my passport. Within seconds, my boarding pass was stamped and I made my way back upstairs.

So, I went through security for the second time. Thankfully that line wasn’t long either. It took me maybe 10 minutes to get back through. By that time, my gate had been announced (long story short, they announce the gates an hour before departure), so I booked it to where I needed to be.

While waiting in line to board the plane, the lady in front of me turned around and started making small talk.

“Going home?” she asked.

I chuckled and said, “Nope. Just going to the land of my people.”

“Oh, I saw your claddaugh ring and with your red hair and freckles, I just assumed,” she said.

“Not to worry,” I said, ending our conversation with a smile.

The flight from Glasgow to Dublin was full. There wasn’t a seat left on the plane. Fortunately, the flight was only 45 minutes, so we weren’t packed like sardines for too long.

Upon landing, going through customs was easy, considering I was one of like five people who didn’t have an EU passport. The customs officer grilled me with a bunch of questions, but that was to be expected.

After five minutes or so of grilling, I proceeded to find the bus that would take me to my hostel. I was sitting next to Australian guys who were interning in London and were spending the weekend in Dublin. We got to chatting so much that we all missed our stop and had to walk even further to our respective hostels.

The Irish love their alcohol (June 27) 

I couldn’t sleep. I was going to be seeing my two of my best friends in just a few hours and I could hardly contain my excitement.

We're cute. Our friendship is great.

We’re cute. Our friendship is great.

Tyler got to my hostel at 11:30 and we went out to grab some lunch. Only problem was, it was 11:30 and most Irish on Saturday mornings aren’t up that early because they drank a lot the night before. So what did we do? We ran across a local pub and ordered a drink and just chatted until noon or so.

Cailey was supposed to arrive around noon, so we went back to the hostel, got on our wifi and saw that she was going to be getting in a little later. So, we went out for lunch. I had a burger, half a sandwich, some chips, a cider and Jameson. I could already tell that this was going to be a long day.

When Cailey got in, she managed to find where we were eating and we were all finally together. After we walked for several minutes, we headed to O’Connell Street to find some of the people Tyler lives with so we could watch the Pride Parade.

[On May 22, 2015, same-sex marriage became approved following a referendum that was passed. Marriages are expected to be performed starting this fall after the referendum is ratified. Dublin pride week was from June 19-28. The week consisted of different events, with the pride parade on June 28. The pride parade was the first pride parade since the referendum was passed.

The parade fell less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and the support on social media was overwhelming, and at least one person was wearing the American flag draped over their shoulders during the parade.]

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening walking around Dublin, seeing some of the sights (Dublin Castle and St. Patrick’s Cathedral), as well as hitting up more pubs and just chatting.

Chatting with two of my best friends, just catching up and reminiscing? Sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

So, I sort of geeked out in St. Andrews…

Dumyat x2 (Night Edition) (June 24)

I loved the pain of hiking the Dumyat so much, I decided to do it again. Only this time, it wasn’t nice outside. It wasn’t even light out. A group of us wanted to see the Northern lights, and what better view than from the top of the Dumyat, right?

Well. It would have worked if it hadn’t been rainy and cloudy. The view as we were walking up was gorgeous, but it most definitely wasn’t what we wanted. At that point, there was no turning back. We were going to the summit. Again. In the rain. Being sized up by sheep. Hiking through the mud.

By the time we were about halfway up, my shoes were at maximum water capacity, as were my socks. My sweatpants were disgusting as well. But it didn’t matter; we were having fun.

It took about two hours for us to dredge through the mud to reach the top. Were we exhausted? I know I was. Did we see the Northern Lights? Not a chance.

Champions.

Champions.

We spent several minutes trying to get the perfect picture of all of us before we sat to take in the scenery. I don’t remember how much time went by before we looked over and saw that the clouds were slowly starting to creep up to where we were. We took that as a sign that it was time to leave.

The walk down wasn’t near as bad as I thought it was going to be. I didn’t fall down once. I was proud of myself. Y’all know I’m clumsy.

The Mecca of Golf (June 25)

7:00 a.m. came quick after the night hike to the Dumyat summit. But I didn’t care. We were headed to St. Andrews and I was overly ecstatic. It’s not everyday you get to go to where a sport was invented. (I mean, I kind of do, I work at the basketball Mecca. And that never gets old.)

It was a long bus ride and I couldn’t fall asleep. I was too excited. When we arrived, a group of us wandered around to find a place to eat breakfast. After a few blocks and a slight deterrent, we ended up at the Bean Room and I had the best vanilla latte I’ve ever had. The food was decent as well.

After that, we headed down to the Old Course. Most of the group didn’t care in the slightest about golf, so they headed to the beach. Ole Miss Ryan and I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to get exploring around the Old Course. So, we were by ourselves for the majority of the rest of the day.

It's really hard to put the beauty of the Old Course into words.

It’s really hard to put the beauty of the Old Course into words. It’s just magical, simply put.

In the earlier part of the day, it was partly cloudy and relatively nice outside. I really couldn’t complain, considering St. Andrews is generally cold, completely overcast and rainy.

The course was closed in preparation for the Open. This was both frustrating and relieving at the same time. Frustrating because I wanted to see actual golf being played on the Old Course, but relieving because we got to walk around on the green without any care in the world.

As Ryan and I were walking around, we came across the Himalayas or the “Women’s putting green.” Now, I’m not sure about the history to the name, but there were men playing on it, as well as little children. But, yes, there were several little old ladies killing it out there as well.

Ryan asked me how much it was to play, thinking that it was going to be astronomically high, because it’s, you know, the Mecca of golf. We walked around to where we were to rent clubs and balls… and it was 3 pounds per person. Personally, I would have paid a lot more than that to play, but I was definitely not complaining.

I was pretty darn excited, OK?

I was pretty darn excited, OK?

While we were waiting to play on the first hole, Ryan was totally geeking out while I was making fun of him. One of the little old ladies in front of us turned to me and said something to the effect of how cute of a couple we were. I laughed on the inside, but told her thanks anyway. I didn’t feel that it was necessary to correct her. Besides, Ryan was too busy paying attention to the fact that he was about to play golf at St. Andrews.

I started out real hot, getting a birdie on the first hole, but that was about the extent of my success. In the 18 holes that we played I had two birdies in total (including that one) and made par four times. I’ve never been real good at golf. Ryan on the other hand, was toying with finishing below par from the 8th hole on. He was even after 17, but miraculously birdied on 18 to finish one under.

After my failure of a showing on the green, we walked around the course some more, taking in all of the history, and then met up with some of our friends to grab lunch. To finish out our afternoon, we went to the British Golf Museum and learned even more about the sport.

Being in St. Andrews was definitely my favorite experience so far.

Several hours later, once we were back in Stirling, we got ready for the night. Since it was a Thursday, we were headed to the Kilted Kangaroo, an Australian themed restaurant and bar that holds karaoke night every Thursday.

Throughout the night, I sang two songs (and kind of helped out on another). Ryan and I belted out Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi because we clearly love our American music (we performed Don’t Stop Believing about a week and a half before this), and Haley (a fellow KU journalism student) and I (with the accompaniment of some of our friends) sang Cable Car by the Fray. (I kind of sang with Cole on whatever song he did. I don’t remember what it was though.)

Until next time…

Music: a bond that crosses cultures

Originally written for my study abroad class

I studied abroad not only to learn more about myself, but also to learn more about the people from different cultures. I want to explore the differences and similarities between the United States and Scotland. Over the week and a half that I’ve been in Scotland, I noticed that music (aside from the bagpipes) is nearly the exact same in both places.

Late on a Monday night, two Americans got up to cover a Journey song in a local pub in the heart of Scotland. Several Americans joined in, singing while in the crowd, as well as Scottish folk and people from Spain, England, Ireland and Botswana.

In the Scottish capitol before the sun rose for Thursday, a club full of international and local people alike, took to the dance floor, getting down to their favorite songs.

In the wee hours of a Wednesday morning in the heart of Scotland, a group of several Americans, a man from Botswana, an Englishman and an Irish lass belted out the lyrics to songs that filled at least four different genres. The Backstreet Boys, the Fray, Fall Out Boy, the Lonely Island, R.Kelly, Beyoncé and more various artists were present.

Before any of this, I wondered why everywhere I listened, it was all American music coming from the speakers. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m in Scotland, not the United States. Why am I only hearing American music?”

Back to those early hours on a Wednesday, I found myself sitting on a couch, rapping along to the only hit from MIMS. I look over to my right and see Iain (from Botswana) rapping the lyrics right along with me. During a musical interlude, he looked over at me and laughed while saying how he loved that song as well. Only in that moment did it really hit me that no matter where you come from, music has the ability to transcend cultures.

In my reflection, I realized that the people who make up American music are more diverse than what meets the eye. In the the current Billboard Top 100, there are artists from:

  • Alabama (Little Big Town)
  • Arkansas (Ne-Yo)
  • Australia (Iggy Azalea, Sia)
  • Barbados (Rihanna)
  • California (Andy Grammer, Echosmith, Jhené Aiko, Kid Ink, Maroon 5, Omarion, Skrillex)
  • Canada (Allan Kingdom, Carly Rae Jepsen, Drake, Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, the Weeknd)
  • England (Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, George Ezra, Jessie J, Mark Ronson, Mumford & Sons, Paul McCartney, Sam Smith)
  • France (David Guetta, DJ Snake)
  • Florida (Ariana Grande, Easton Corbin, Fifth Harmony, Flo Rida, Jason Derulo, Michael Ray, Pitbull)
  • Georgia (2 Chainz, Bandit Gang Marco, Billy Currington, Brantley Gilbert, Future, Jason Aldean, Kanye West, Rich Homie Quan, Silento, Thomas Rhett, Zac Brown Band)
  • Germany (J. Cole)
  • Hawaii (Bruno Mars)
  • Illinois (Brett Eldredge, Fall Out Boy, Jeremih)
  • Jamaica (OMI, Shaggy)
  • Louisiana (August Alsina, DJ Khaled, Kevin Gates, Tim McGraw)
  • Massachusetts (Meghan Trainor, Nicky Jam, Rachel Platten)
  • Michigan (Big Sean, Frankie Ballard)
  • Mississippi (Britney Spears, Rae Sremmurd)
  • Missouri (Chris Janson, Tech N9ne)
  • Netherlands (Natalie la Rose)
  • New Jersey (Fetty Wap)
  • New York (ASAP Rocky, Jennifer Lopez, Prince Royce, X Ambassadors)
  • New Zealand (Keith Urban)
  • North Carolina (B.o.B, Eric Church)
  • North Dakota (Wiz Khalifa)
  • Ohio (Twenty One Pilots, Walk the Moon)
  • Oklahoma (Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood)
  • Pennsylvania (Taylor Swift)
  • Russia (Zedd)
  • Spain (Enrique Iglesias)
  • Sweden (Tove Lo)
  • Tennessee (A Thousand Horses, Dustin Lynch, Florida Georgia Line, Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Kelsea Ballerini, Sam Hunt)
  • Texas (Nick Jonas, Selena Gomez, T-Wayne, Usher)
  • Trinidad & Tobago (Nicki Minaj, Theophilus London)
  • Virginia (Canaan Smith, Chris Brown, Trey Songz)
  • Washington D.C. (Wale)
  • West Virginia (Brad Paisley)
  • Wisconsin (Jidenna)

69 artists and bands currently in the Billboard Top 100 hail from the United States and 29 artists and bands hail from outside the U.S. Clearly “American music” is much more than that.

Thanks to the technological inventions from the phonograph to the radio to the Internet, music from all over the world is able to be heard from sea to shining sea. And that music can be shared across all cultures with all people.

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”– Billy Joel

I’m so not in good shape

Planes, trains and automobiles (June 21)

After spending the weekend in England, it was time for me to head on back to Scotland. My flight out of Birmingham to Edinburgh was scheduled for 2:15, so Mike’s wife, Pat, drove me to the airport at noon. Security took no time at all, so I sat in the terminal playing more games of Fruit Ninja than I care to admit. The flight from Birmingham to Edinburgh was the same way: lots and lots of Fruit Ninja.

Once arriving in Edinburgh, I hopped on the tram that was to take me to the nearest train station, since there isn’t a train station within moderate walking distance of the airport. Only, I couldn’t get off at my designated stop because there were six or seven elementary school-aged kids running up and down the aisle, preventing me to get off.

The next stop was fortunately not too terribly far away, so I just got off then and walked back to the stop I was supposed to be at. Once there, I waited 20 minutes or so before boarding the replacement rail bus (the railway is under renovations in one area, resulting in the closure of that part of the line) that was to take me to the part of the line that was functioning. That bus ride was about an hour or so (meaning more Fruit Ninja). The driver dropped us off right outside of where to board the train to Stirling, and the train I needed had just arrived. The timing was absolutely perfect.

That train ride to Stirling was about 20 minutes. Once I arrived in Stirling, I walked two blocks to the bus stop, boarded the bus that took me back to the University, arrived back, and promptly went to bed.

I’m basically like Rose… but on a mountain, not a boat. (June 22)

After a short day of class (only one!), the ISS program hosted a hike up the Dumyat. The Dumyat, though classified as a hill, is easily a small mountain and overlooks campus. The hike up was very gorgeous. When we were walking up, I felt that I was in the shire. I felt like a hobbit.

I was most definitely feeling it in my legs, considering I hadn’t worked out over the past month much prior to hiking. When we finally reached the summit, I couldn’t seem to catch my breath, though not because of exhaustion, but rather because of how amazing the view was.

You can see for miles and miles and miles from atop the Dumyat summit.

You can see for miles and miles and miles from atop the Dumyat summit.

About 60 or so of us managed to hike to the summit and were were all exhausted by the time we reached the top.

I, of course, had to take a ridiculous picture, because that’s just who I am.

We hung around at the top for about 20 minutes before we made the trek back down. After that, I played some games in one of our friend’s flats before heading off to bed.

My kryptonites are the crossbar and the left post (June 23)

We were exhausted after our game. I was on the not-orange team, and we won 6-4.

We were exhausted after our game. I was on the not-orange team, and we won 6-4.

After my longest day of classes during the week, I, and a handful of other ISS students got together to play a game of football (not American football. We played soccer). Not enough of us were there to fill all the positions, so I played forward and midfielder all game, while the defenders played both defense and mid.

To say I was rusty was a bit of an understatement, considering I had seven shots on goal and converted none of them. Three of them hit the left post, two of them hit the crossbar, one was saved and the other slid just to the left of the goal. Needless to say, I need much more practice.

What have I learned over the past few days?

1. I’m not in good of shape as I thought I was.

I was out of breath multiple times on my hike and was panting like a dog after a walk on a hot day during the football game. I really need to step it up a notch when it comes to working out, because even the basic stuff has been phasing me.

2. Public transportation is a million times better here.

I think this has been well established, but public transit in the midwest is not even close to being as developed as it is over in Europe. Yes, it may be slow and much more frustrating when you know you could drive it faster, but getting from point A to point B is a lot easier here and there are a lot more routes to choose from.

Bagpipes and kilts, hedges and stones

My first week in Scotland has come to a close. Even though it’s only been a week, I’ve been up to a crazy amount of things.

I’m not in Kansas anymore (June 13) 

This picture was taken when I was walking around our loch that's on campus.

This picture was taken when I was walking around our loch that’s on campus.

Immediately after I landed in Edinburgh, I was transported to Stirling, where my university is. It was about an hour drive in. After all the check-in procedures were all wrapped up, I unpacked and walked around campus. Saying that the campus is green is an understatement. My photos look doctored because of the incredible lushness of the plants.

Early that evening, we had an informal intro session in the castle on campus. (Yep. There’s a castle.) All 8 of us KU students got together with our professor and went over various things. After that intro session, we KU students and two other of our new found friends walked into a neighboring town to grab some dinner. Westerton Arms (the name of the pub) made a mean macaroni cheese dish.

Let’s get down to business (June 14)

Sunday was a bit more of an educational leaning day. For most of the day we had informational sessions, then went into town to buy some groceries and such. Going into Stirling that first day definitely scared me. There were 100+ of us scrambling around Sainsbury’s (the local grocery store chain) and the Thistle’s center (shopping mall in the city centre) trying to find what we needed. I remember thinking that there was no way in the world I was going to figure out the layout of Stirling.

When we got back, even though it was cold, I was a sweaty mess, so I took a shower. Now, normally I wouldn’t include something as trivial as a shower, but believe me, showering at the university is something unlike I’ve ever experienced. Scotland is very eco-friendly. There are recycling bins on nearly every street. When you go to the grocery store, they charge you 5 pence (8 cents) for each plastic bag that you use. Remember the BopIt? Well. Think of the shower having a big BopIt button on the wall, and if you don’t push it every 30 seconds, the water stops. It makes you think of how much water you actually use when you’re taking a shower, but when you just want to stand there and relax, it makes things difficult.

Later on that evening, we went out to celebrate Matt’s 21st birthday at Fubar (a club that had a terrible ambiance and was incredibly overpriced for serving mainly American alcohol). Regardless of how expensive it was, we all had a good time.

Classes, cemeteries and Journey (June 15)

My two classes began on Monday. My first class is about how the media has covered the Royal Family throughout the years. To me, this subject seems relatively interesting, but we didn’t quite get to that during our first meeting. We went through the entire Royal Family lineage. And that bored me (and the rest of my class) nearly back to sleep. My KU class was fairly simple that day. We just went over the basics, nothing too out of the ordinary.

No one really wanted to cook yet, so we went out for dinner. Jeanne, a student at Ohio University, met some locals at Fubar the night before who said Settle Inn was a great pub. We Americans didn’t realize not all pubs have food. Settle Inn? It’s one of those old, traditional pubs that just serves booze, but we didn’t know that until we walked in. The owner of the pub (at least that’s what I thought he was, anyway) was more than happy to give us a recommendation of where to eat– the Portcullis, just up the hill. He even called up there and had them get a table ready for us. That dinner was pretty darn good. Who knew the Scottish could make delicious lasagna?

This cemetery was amazing. Looking at all the history really blew my mind.

This cemetery was amazing. Looking at all the history really blew my mind.

We discovered that the Portcullis was right next to Stirling Castle and a really old, creepy cemetery. So, naturally, we all walked around, looking at the gravestones and admiring the beauty (typically you don’t associate graveyard with beauty, but I assure you, this one was). When we were done meandering around the castle grounds, we walked back down the hill to grab a drink at Settle Inn, to repay the owner for helping us out. Our one drink turned into a couple more and we ended up closing down the pub. (It closed at midnight. We weren’t out THAT late.)

It was open mic night at Settle Inn and my big mouth had to say that I knew how to sing. After relentless peer pressure from my friends (and Ole Miss Ryan saying he’d play the guitar with me), I went up and sang Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. There’s apparently a video somewhere. I haven’t watched it yet. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one from our group who went up and performed. KU Ryan told the host that our friend Johanna could, um, whistle in a peculiar fashion, so she ended up being called out without knowing what was going on.

After the pub closed, it was time to go home. It being after 11, the buses were no longer running and there were no cabs in sight, so we decided to walk home, with guidance of some locals. We, being dumb Americans, ended up getting lost and a walk that should have taken no more than 45 minutes took around an hour and a half. We made it back in one piece (except for the aching legs and sore feet).

Battle of the Bulge (June 16)

The second day of classes were a breeze, considering I only had one class. So that night, our International Summer School (ISS, not to be confused with ISIS) program held a Pub Quiz (very similar to trivia night) at a local restaurant– the Kilted Kangaroo. I played with different people. They were people I had only seen, not met. We were team The Brady Bunch… and we won. We only won bragging rights, but everyone who knows me knows that I really like winning, even if it doesn’t matter.

Many of the ISS students continued on with a pub crawl, but several of my friends and I didn’t really feel like spending any more money, so we went back to campus and played Go Fish. None of us remembered the rules. We played one round and we definitely messed up, so we turned to Heads Up (that game where you put your phone on your forehead, similar to CatchPhrase) and had a night chalk full of laughs. Pretty sure I haven’t laughed that hard since I was a kid who laughed at everything.

The Hive = Scotland’s version of the Hawk (June 17)

After our third day of classes were done, 10 of us in our little group took the train to Edinburgh to explore the nightlife. We stayed in St. Christopher’s hostel which was right near Edinburgh Waverley train station (the main station in Edinburgh). Eight of us stayed in one room, while two stayed in another. We met a girl from New Zealand who was traveling all over. She told us a horror story about the other guy (a 40-year-old man) who was staying in our room. Apparently he went out the night before, brought a girl back and well, I’m not going to go into any further details about that.

When we left, we were hungry, so we decided to try and find some place to eat. The first place that we went by was McDonald’s. I had the Chicken Selects, and they were 100 times better than the ones in America. MSGs are outlawed here, so that’s probably why.

The description on Spirytus Delikatesowy and Spirtytus Rektyfikowany scared me.

The description on Spirytus Delikatesowy and Spirtytus Rektyfikowany scared me.

The first bar we went to was called “Secret Arcade Vodka Bar.” It was most definitely secluded down an alley and up a flight or two of stairs. I tried their homemade Skittles vodka. (Marshawn Lynch would have gone wild.) It was pretty amazing. It was like I ate an entire packet of green Skittles. They had even crazier stuff, but there was no way I was actually going to try any of it.

When we left the vodka bar, we made our way to the Hive. The only way to explain it is Scotland’s version of the Hawk… just a lot bigger. It smelled just like the Hawk. The floors were sticky and gross like the Hawk. There were two versions of the Boom. (For those of you who have no idea what the Hawk is… it’s a gross college bar in Lawrence. ) Unlike the Hawk, there was a lady who had this crazy stash of random stuff in the bathroom. She took up an entire sink area with it. She had perfumes, gum, lotions… you name it. She handed everyone paper towels, even though there were automatic dryers right there. If you didn’t give her change, she got mad. It was really weird. Miraculously, we all stayed relatively close to one another and we didn’t lose anyone throughout the night.

I love Edinburgh… and I hate Edinburgh. (June 18)

I woke up at 8 a.m. Thursday morning. Surprisingly enough, my bed at the hostel was very comfortable. We were getting ready to tour Edinburgh, as was the rest of our ISS group. When everyone was ready, we headed for Edinburgh Castle. By the time we got there, we realized it was actually relatively expensive to get in there and we would have rather spent our money on something else.

We did many various things throughout the day. Right after the walk up to Edinburgh castle, we went on the Harry Potter walking tour. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is from Edinburgh and still lives there. Many of the places in Edinburgh are where she wrote the books and drew inspiration for her novels.

The view from the top of the

The view from the top of the National Museum of Scotland.

After that, we went to the National Museum of Scotland. There were many exhibits spanning all the different intellectual avenues. We spent a solid two hours there. My favorite thing about the museum was not an exhibit, but rather the view from the roof terrace. From up there, you could see everything. Edinburgh is one beautiful city, especially the city centre area.

The view from the top of the Scott Monument.

The view from the top of the Scott Monument.

When we left there, we went to go shopping… until we realized you could walk up to the top of the Scott Monument. We hiked the 287 narrow stairs (backpacks/duffle bags and all) to the tippy top. And we thought the view from the National Museum of Scotland was amazing. This left me speechless. It was honestly breathtaking. Everything looked so small and peaceful, but it was far from that. The city centre was huge and chaotic.

Then, everyone left. It was time for the ISS buses to go back to Stirling. I had accommodations through the night because I had an early flight that was leaving out of Edinburgh. So, I found a taxi, and made my way there.

Now, when I arrived, it was weird. (Little background information: AirBnB is a website where people rent out rooms in their houses or apartments for people to stay in. I booked a room near the airport in a lady’s house. All of her reviews were great, so I wasn’t nervous or anything.) Her husband had no idea I was coming and made everything very awkward and uncomfortable. I took a nap, because I really needed one, but when I woke up, he was still making things incredibly awkward and horribly uncomfortable. I really didn’t feel very safe. Not that he was going to do anything, I just had a sour feeling in my stomach, so I made up some story saying that I was going to walk around, maybe grab something to eat and I bolted.

I walked five miles, searching for a hotel, but they were all booked. Every single one I walked into was booked. I was getting extremely frustrated. My feet were starting to bleed. (I had walked 15 miles by that point in not so good walking shoes.) I wasn’t in the best part of Edinburgh. After a scary situation that will easily stay with me forever (I’d rather not talk about it), a police officer who helped get me out of aforementioned scary situation drove me around and helped me find a place to stay.

Merry Olde England (June 19)

My flight departed for Birmingham, England at 7:00 a.m. I was definitely ready to see a close friend of my dad’s. Mike has been like another uncle to me. He flew from England to Nebraska to watch me run at state my senior year, and then stayed for the following week to see me graduate. That was the last time I saw him. When I got off the plane, everything worked out really well. The second I walked into the terminal, I saw him. He had just walked in.

Have you really visited a country if you don't take a selfie with the welcome sign?

Have you really visited a country if you don’t take a selfie with the welcome sign?

We drove back to his home, I dropped my stuff off, and we were on the road again. We went to Ludlow, a quaint little village, where there’s a castle and the historic Feathers hotel. We walked around there for a bit, and then on a whim drove over to Wales because we were so close.

That night, we went to a local pub restaurant. I had the best burger I’ve had in a while paired with a Swedish mixed berry cider. After that we went to the pub that’s right across from Mike’s home for another drink and went off to bed. It had most definitely been a long day.

Rocks and stuff (June 20)

On Saturday, I saw lots and lots of old rocks, but I was extremely excited about it. By old rocks, I mean Stonehenge and Avebury Henge. Yep. I’m the type of girl who gets excited about old rocks. Color me easy to entertain. Mike and I spent most of our day driving around the English countryside getting there and getting back.

3 things I’ve learned/reaffirmed so far

1. I really should have brought another heavier jacket.

Five pictures I've been in since I've been here. These have been taken on all different days. In four of them I'm wearing the same jacket.

Five pictures I’ve been in since I’ve been here. These have been taken on all different days. In four of them I’m wearing the same jacket.

I’ve been wearing my OPA quarter zip over everything for a week now. I definitely underestimated how cold it is here in relation to what I’m used to. Yes, I’m showering. Yes, I’m wearing other clothes underneath. I look really silly because I look the same in every single picture I’m in. It’s on my to-do list to buy another heavy-ish jacket. I don’t want to look the same in every single picture I take on the trip.

2. The drinking age in America is far too high.

You can die for your country, get married, have kids, and smoke cigarettes all when you’re 18, but drinking? You have to wait until your 21. No one in the UK (who I’ve talked to, anyway) understands why America is different in this way. They all have told me, “that’s why your country has such an alcohol problem.” I couldn’t agree more.

3. It’s unbelievable pretty over here.

I’m sure I’ve said this at least 100 times per day, but man. It’s gorgeous here. I can’t get over the beauty of the three countries I’ve visited thus far. I’m sure my photos speak for themselves.

Differences between Scotland and the United States

Originally written for my study abroad class.

Even though Scotland and the United States share a language, the two countries are separated by more than just the Atlantic Ocean.

The climate, attitudes, phrases and basic living arrangements in Scotland are very different than the Midwest United States.

Jackets, jeans and good walking shoes are a must.

Jackets, jeans and good walking shoes are a must.

CLIMATE

The heart of Scotland during the summer is vastly different from the heartland of the United States.

The lush, green landscapes and mid-50 degree temperatures can be a bit of a shock for someone who is born and raised with scorching summers that can reach 110 degrees. I’ve worn shorts twice, and that’s just because I’m a stubborn Nebraskan who is in denial that it won’t get over 65 degrees the entire time I’m here.

ATTITUDES

The Scottish are, on average, more reserved than Americans. They are especially friendly if asked questions, but if you don’t ask, they are more than likely to keep to themselves.

Settle Inn is older than the United States.

Settle Inn (the oldest pub in Stirling) is 43 years older than the United States.

For example, a group of us Americans meandered into the oldest pub in Stirling, but we were under the impression that it served food as well. The owner politely told us that it didn’t, but he made a call to one of the local restaurants and told them that a group of ten of us were on the way up. On our way out, one of the women sitting at the pub walked outside with us and told us exactly where to go. We ended up going back later for drinks and ended up closing the pub. (I may or may not have sang at open mic night.)

PHRASES/ACCENT

It’s a wee bit baltic today, eh? It’s a little cold today, yes?

Even though the language is similar, it can sometimes be nearly impossible to understand someone who is using Scottish phrases.

Pizzas are delivered in “munchie boxes.” An overtly angry person is a “banger” and deserves to be “ragdolled” (grabbing someone by their collar and shaking them). And the ever so handy crosswalks are called “zebra crossings.”

Aside from different phrases, the accents are very different as well. Someone may be saying something completely “normal” to an American, but because of the accent, it can seem to get lost in translation.

“Ah wiz like” is “I was like.” “Ah’m gan ta Embra” is “I’m going to Edinburgh.”

Welcome to Embra... I mean Edinburgh.

Welcome to Embra… I mean Edinburgh.

BASIC LIVING

The flats (the Scottish word for apartments) at Stirling contain anywhere from five to seven bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen area and living room space. On the surface, things look similar, but there are many, many differences.

In the bathrooms and kitchen, the sinks have two spigots, one for hot water and the other for cold water. That makes things very difficult to get warm water. It makes things very difficult when I’m trying to wash my face.

Also in the bathroom, the shower has a push button for the water. The water stays on for 30 seconds then shuts off, so pushing the button multiple times per shower is mandatory. Remember the Bop It? It’s sort of like that.

In the kitchen, there is no dishwasher and there is a mini-fridge and a freezer the same size. However, most of the food in the UK doesn’t need refrigerating or freezing.

Recycling centers, such as this one, are all over Scotland. This one was at the Stirling ScotRail stop.

Recycling centers, such as this one, are all over Scotland. This one was at the Stirling ScotRail stop.

All appliances and things that need to be plugged in require a different plug than is used in America. Plugs in the UK are 220 volts, while plugs in the United States are 110 volts. That means don’t try using your American straightener while in the UK. It will smoke, possibly pop, and most likely be worthless after a few seconds. There are voltage converters available at some places, but even then, it’s still not wise to try.

In the United States, at some grocery stores, like HyVee, customers get a few cents off their purchase if they bring reusable bags. In Scotland, you get charged 5 pence if they don’t bring reusable bags. The entire country of Scotland is very eco-friendly. It’s very easy to recycle here, as there are various recycling bins on almost every street.

But if you have to know only one thing that separates Scotland from the United States, know that they drive on the left-hand side. You may not be driving, but you’ll sure be crossing the street, and you definitely need to know where to look.

It could have been worse…

After taking a pre-departure selfie with my mom and just barely having my bag weigh less than 50 pounds, I was on my way. For the first time in my last several trips, TSA didn’t grill me about my epi-pens, so I thought my day was going to be a good day. Well, that was about the only good thing to come from Omaha. (With the exception of my flight not getting cancelled.) I found my gate, plugged in my phone, and played some solitaire. Then things got weird. People started walking off a plane at a nearby gate. But they didn’t look relieved. Most of them were pissed. A couple guys who sat next to me while I was waiting for my flight to Newark told me that their flight to Chicago was scheduled to leave around 2:00 p.m. It was now approaching 4:15. They boarded like nothing was wrong, then two hours later while they were still on the tarmac, the plane came back to the gate and unloaded all the passengers. The announcements over the intercom said that they weren’t going to cancel the flight, but they suggested that people try to get different flights out of Omaha, but not to Chicago, because a storm was brewing and wasn’t going away. But the time the two gentlemen finished telling me their frustrations about their flight, I realized that it was 4:30—the time that my flight was supposed to start boarding. I looked over at my gate and nothing. We were set to leave at 4:55, but by the looks of things, that wasn’t happening.

At least it was pretty outside so I could distract from my paranoia.

At least it was pretty outside so I could distract from my paranoia.

Now me? I started to mildly panic because I knew that I only had an hour layover in Newark. To make things even better, my connecting flight from Newark to Edinburgh was on the exact opposite side of the airport. We started boarding at 4:45 and sat on the plane for an hour before we were in the air, 30-40 minutes of that was sitting on the tarmac. I don’t exactly remember. I fell asleep for a few minutes and when I woke up, we were in the exact same place. I became more and more paranoid through the flight. The lack of air conditioning didn’t exactly help that. (I overheard an attendant say that the temperature control was broken.) I couldn’t sleep. I would be checking my phone every few minutes. I calculated that we were going to land around 9:00 ET. My connecting flight was set to board at 9:05. Thankfully I wasn’t the only person on my flight heading to Edinburgh. An outstanding seven or eight of us were desperate to catch our plane. But making it wasn’t going to be easy… at least that’s the situation that presented itself. When we landed in Newark, there wasn’t an onramp driver (or whatever it’s called) anywhere nearby. We were all standing in the aisle with our bags, fanning ourselves with whatever we could. Me? I used my hands. The woman behind me used her boarding pass. The woman in front of me used a book. 10-15 minutes went by before we were let off. It was now 9:30 and I had 10 minutes to make my way across the entire Newark airport to catch my flight. Luckily for me, one of my friends and classmates, Ryan, was boots on the ground at the gate where we were headed. I messaged him for updates (and kind of venting frustrations. Sorry Ryan) and he said they hadn’t starting boarding yet. Sigh of relief. I still needed to get over there. Once I made my way off the plane, I hustled down to the shuttle bus that went from terminal to terminal. 9:40. We were still at the stop waiting for people to board. Our flight was supposed to be done boarding by now. It took 10 minutes or so (but it felt so much longer) to get to our terminal. And our gate was the one at the end of the never-ending hallway. I took off, backpack on and duffle bag slung across one shoulder. And I ran the whole way there. Pretty sure it was a mile. No. I’m not exaggerating. (At least I don’t think so.) By the time I arrived at our gate, I was sweaty and gross, and everyone was standing in line. I saw Ryan almost instantly. KU blue is real easy to pick out of a crowd. Apparently the air conditioner on the plane was broken? No way I wanted to go through that again. But later I heard that the plane hit birds, so I have no idea what actually happened. That’s United for you. We stood… and then sat… near the gate for at least 20 minutes more before they announced that they were going to delay the flight. 9:55 turned into 11:00. 11:00 turned into 11:30. We boarded at 11:30. I thought that was going to be the end of it. But I was so wrong.

Airplane food, am I right?

Airplane food, am I right?

11:30 turned into 11:55. 11:55 turned into I don’t even know because I started watching We’re the Millers. (And I almost finished it before we even left the gate.) I know the door to the cabin closed around 12:35 because that was the time I sent my dad the last message before I turned off my wifi. By that time I had sent my professor five different emails telling him our “supposed” approximate arrival time. Why were we in the plane for an hour before shoving off from the gate? All of the baggage hadn’t been loaded onto the plane and they were severely understaffed AND there was another mechanical issue. Eating dinner at 1:45 a.m. ET was weird though. And that was another disaster in itself. I’d rather eat the new slop that the inmates in OITNB get in season three. (Whoops. Should have put a spoiler alert on that one.) I didn’t even know what the “vegetable” was (I found out it was quinoa. I hadn’t eaten it before) and the pasta tasted really bad and it was covered in overcooked, way out of date spinach. Like, I’d rather have uncooked Spaghettio’s. At least the dinner roll and the sorbet were edible. The rest of the flight was relatively smooth. There wasn’t a large amount of turbulence, but I still couldn’t get to sleep. We arrived in Scotland in one piece just before noon BST. Customs was a breeze, because Ryan and I got off the plane relatively quickly and both of our baggage arrived. Half of the girls who were coming to Stirling with us weren’t as lucky. I keep telling myself that it could be worse. My bag could have ended up on another flight somewhere. My flights could have been cancelled. I could have missed my second flight altogether. The air conditioning on my second flight could have not worked. But thing is for sure: I’m never flying through Newark again.

Amie takes Scotland

Y’all have seen me yammer on about my trip to Scotland for months now. It’s about time I give y’all some details.

I am taking two classes (International Journalism and British Journalism) at the University of Stirling in Stirling, Scotland. Two? Yes. I’ll be over in the UK for four weeks. With my amazing internship with the Associated Press, I just can’t fathom studying abroad for an entire semester or year.

Stirling University This is the University of Stirling, where I’ll be studying for four weeks.

During a normal academic year, there are over 11,000 students that attend the University, and it’s ranked in the top 5 percent of universities in the world. I could rattle on about the awards and prestige that the University has, but I’ll spare you those details.

I’m enrolled in the International Summer School program the University puts on every year. There are eight of us KU students that are going, along with one of the KU professors. I have my classes Monday through Wednesday, class excursions on the first three Thursday’s I’m there, and then one class excursion on a Friday.

I fly out of the states on June 12. If you want to creep on my flights, I’m flying from Omaha to Newark and then Newark to Edinburgh. I fly back July 11.

Here is a tentative schedule of what I have planned for while I’m over there.

Week 1: Saturday, 13 June- Sunday, 21 June

  • 13 June- Arrive in Scotland
  • 14 June- Attend info sessions
  • 15-17 June- Classes
  • 18 June- Day trip to Edinburgh
  • 19-21 June- Personal trip to Birmingham, England

Week 2: Monday, 22 June- Sunday, 28 June

  • 22-24 June- Classes
  • 25 June- Day trip to St. Andrews
  • 26 June- Journalism class excursion, Destination TBA
  • 26-28 June- Personal trip to Dublin, Ireland

Week 3: Monday, 29 June- Sunday, 5 July

  • 29 June- 1 July- Classes
  • 2 July- Day trip to Glascow
  • 3-5 July- Personal trip to the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Week 4: Monday, 6 July- Saturday, 11 July

  • 6-8 July- Classes
  • 11 July- Return to United States

I’m extremely excited for this opportunity. I cannot wait to get over there and share my experiences with y’all. Prepare for a plethora of photos. Opportunities like this don’t come very often and I’m thrilled that I get to take this chance to study abroad now.

Unfortunately, traveling isn’t cheap, especially when you’re taking classes. I’ve set up a GoFundMe so my friends and family can help lift some of the financial burden of this experience. Anyone who knows me knows that I really don’t like asking for help. I’m the type of person who wants to do things by myself and not ask for assistance. I realize that this is one of those things where you need to ask for help. Being a full-time student is hard enough. Many of you have been there, you know this. With the job that I have (and I love oh so much), there really isn’t anything for me to do once basketball season is over, so being financially independent and trying to swing this on my own is really difficult. On top of that, no place wants to hire a college student for a summer job when she’s going to be gone for four weeks, then move two weeks later when she gets back.

To those who have already donated, I really appreciate it. Even though I’m a journalism major and an English minor, I can’t find the proper words of gratitude. To those thinking about it, I also appreciate the consideration. I know money doesn’t grow on trees and even you thinking about donating to my trip means a lot. I’m overall very thankful for everyone who has supported me through my almost 21 years. Having a vast support system is something I truly cherish.