I’m taking a break from the life I’ve been living here in Edinburgh, Scotland this past week to blog in the reception center of Pollock Halls at the University of Edinburgh. With the time commitment to class, educational field trips, my internship, and general familiarization with the city, sitting at the computer in the only room that provides internet for my group of eleven classmates is a rare event. I’m
here with the Edinburgh: City and the Environment program taking two classes, one of which will serve as credit toward my Environmental Sustainability certificate. In addition, I’m interning with the Cockburn Association, an urban planning civic society entrusted with the responsibility of upholding Edinburgh’s values of cultural integrity and environmental friendliness.
I arrived in Edinburgh exactly a week ago to the day and can already say that I’ve made some lasting memories. Sitting outside the airport here in Edinburgh last Sunday, I anxiously waited for my other classmates to trickle toward the bus stop where we were asked to meet as a group. The sight of Scotch and Seneca was a relief and another indicator that this trip was really happening. Although I had
only briefly met them at two meetings before the trip, I let out a sigh of relief and waved my arms to motion them over. Once everyone else from the first set of classmates settled at the bus stop, we were off to find our dorm.
Since then, I’ve had my History of Edinburgh class three times in addition to field trips around the city, which have served to compliment the material discussed. I’ve met with the director of the Cockburn Association, Marion Williams, and gained a general idea of what I’ll be doing to help the organization serve the public. Most importantly, I’ve begun to learn how to adapt to another new environment, in which context must be considered and cultural etiquette must be respected. People
here value their space and quiet atmosphere. The American stereotype of inappropriate loudness is therefore one that I try to avoid. If you’re no louder than anyone else in Edinburgh, you can’t cause offense. Other trips have trained me to observe my surroundings and assimilate into a different culture, but each time it’s been a unique and interesting process.
And it’s funny how language can completely alter an experience abroad. Although Scottish citizens speak English as well, their customs are in many ways more similar to those of any of the other European countries I have visited. However, the gap bridged by language has served as a peak into a collective European identity that I hadn’t really been able to attain before. The words and thoughts that would have gone over my head in Germany or the Czech Republic have found their way in because of a shared (although wildly distinctive) language. At times I forget just how far away I am from home because of it. At the same time, I hear conversations around me that could easily take place back home in Athens, Ohio. And that’s a comforting thought. We’re not all that different from each other. But that
won’t stop me from learning other languages! Traveling is amazing. What’s even better, however, is serving as an ambassador for your country, state, city, university, family, and self in a way that earns respect across cultural identities. Don’t be afraid to be you, but adjust.
So one week has passed. I haven’t revealed too much about the class or internship, but it’s still early. These first few days have been more about adapting to the new environment and getting comfortable with the people in the group. I’ll be able to reflect more on the main purposes of the trip in the coming weeks. In addition to the class and internship though, one purpose of the trip is my continued growth as a global citizen, and I’ll share what I experience outside of the classroom and office as well. In life, class is in session 24/7.