Jordan in Scotland

Jordan is a senior majoring in English in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, with minors in journalism and fashion media in Meadows School of the Arts. In fall 2013, she is studying abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, through SMU Abroad and IFSA-Butler. These are excerpts from her personal blog: http://fifelife.wordpress.com/

The Learned List

Jordan Learned ListTo sum up many of the things I have learned here, I’ve compiled a list (in no particular order of importance):

1) Cash

Yes, I already knew how to use an ATM machine. What I didn’t know until my time abroad is how much money I can spend without realizing it. I haven’t shopped much at all since I’ve been here in terms of clothes, but the little things add up; groceries, dinner out, taking a taxi or the occasional weekend trip, of course. Because it’s so much easier to use cash here, I’ve had to make far too many trips to the ATM than comfortable. Back home, I’d use my debit card most of the time, so changing to cash was an adjustment. I have a feeling, however, that once I’m home I’ll stick to cash so that I can really monitor my spending!

2) Walk when you can 

Because my accommodation is the furthest from town (a little over a mile), I really got a lot of walking in. At first, it seemed a nuisance to have to make the trek everyday into town for class or a simple trip to the store for everyday necessities. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that a walk was the only way I’d learn the paths and inner-workings of St Andrews. Of course, when that northern wind begins blowing, a week-long bus pass is the way to go. Or of course, if you happen to be in London, take the tube since there is so much packed into one city!

3) Balance old and new

Being so far from home, I learned that I had to find the familiar for comfort, but also make new things familiar to make my new home, home. For example, Starbucks was and is a habit that began at home. Despite it being a chain, that part doesn’t matter; it’s simply having a place around that is also located back home. In a way, it sort of connected my two very different worlds together. Of course, I had to find things that I could make familiar to me. Taste, a local coffee shop that in size, is smaller than my flat, became a new place to go and feel warm. Also, Northpoint (where I’m actually writing this very post) became a friendly place to go for food. The point is, make sure to have both worlds on your side by being involved with both; take an interest in maintaing a relationship with home and simultaneously taking an interest in a new relationship.

3) Talk

Speaking of home, I learned how important it is to Skype, use Viber and Facebook for communicating with loved ones from home. For all the highs and lows, the only constants in my time abroad were loved ones. For all that was good, I wanted to share with those from home; for all that was difficult, I needed advice from those I could trust and be open with. Skype was my saving grace so many times while I was here.

4) Engage

While on the topic of relationships, being abroad forced me to engage. What I mean is, anything and anyone that came around, I learned to simply engage and commit. The way I see it, any person you come across or any situation you happen upon, it’s best to run with it because more than likely, those people and opportunities may be once-in-a-lifetime things. I think that’s what has made my experiences so memorable. I have every intention of maintaining a few friendships that began here as well. And I have been inspired forever from my experiences here.

5) Write

I could be biased here, as I am an avid writer, but I would recommend that anyone traveling write down his/her experiences. Memories will be made of course, but writing them down is a nice documentation of all the details; it makes those memories more concrete. And, if you happen to set up a blog, others can live out your experiences with you, no matter where they are in the world in relation to you.

6) Lose sleep

Although my first month here was a month of stolen sleep, looking back on the nights spent out were well worth it. Some of my best memories have been the nights that turned into morning out on the town and outside of bed. Besides, you never know the personality of a town until you see it at night. The stars come out, the street lights come on and the seriousness under the sun cools off to the memories made under the moon. It’s worth it to lose a bit of sleep now and then while abroad. Besides, it extends your time!

7) Enjoy

It may sound like a cliché, but as simple as it sounds, enjoy. If anything, simply just be and let be and enjoy every minute that you have abroad. It may only happen once, so worries of everyday life can wait until you’re back home. I’ve forced myself to relax and adapt, which, as a usually anxious individual, is a big step for me.

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These are only seven things I’ve learned in Scotland, but they’re invaluable lessons to me.

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Final Countdown

jordan final countdown

Well, guys, it’s safe to say I’ve been dreaming…dreaming of home, precisely.

I’m at the final countdown now with just eight days to go…Goodness, time really does fly. I’ll be sure to write a VERY lengthy post throughout the day I travel home (I’ve got long flights and layovers in between each). However, I’d like to turn my last week here into a sort of last challenge for myself this semester abroad. So, today, I’d like to share what I posted on Facebook this past week:

Scotland, I’ll miss you. I’ve learned so much because of you. I’ve learned what it means to be independent and yet how small I am in comparison to how big the world is. However, I feel taller, wiser and more important in the world than I did before. I have more purpose and more of an impact now that my feet have trodden the sand, grass and streets that led me to now. I’ve also learned that I can grow; I can observe, absorb and also let go of things that weigh me down. I’ve touched the flames of freedom and understood the fire that is reflected in my eyes in my heart. I’ve been stripped of familiarity and comfort and left with my bare hands to fend for myself and find my way. I did this by writing. All of it. Whether by pen and ink or the keys of a keyboard, my record of you sculpting me is evident in the words I formed for myself. Scotland, Ireland, England, I’ve met you, and one day I plan to return again so that I might get to know you more. You’ve known me. I’ll go home with a new appreciation for home, but never believe I’ll forget you. Thank you for four months of a wildness outside the familiar yet fooling confines of contentment. You offered me the necessary adventure of my life that changed me for the better, and I am forever grateful.

There will be an extended version of this coming within my last days here, but you can at least get a grasp of the bittersweet feelings I am experiencing as I realize my departure is imminent.

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London

jordan london

Well, I went to London! I can now check that off my bucket list.

I arrived late Thursday evening, when I met a family friend. I was in for the night, and didn’t explore London until the next day.

When I woke Friday morning, I was ready to go and see the city. Although, Oxford Circus was perhaps the worst place to begin my day off. I have never felt so uncomfortable or bombarded by a city in my life. Walking out from the underground and into the open circle of shoving people, honking taxis and a total loss of direction, I was in shock. But thankfully, two girls from the program happened to be in London for the weekend as well and called me at the moment in which I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.

I ended up finding my way to a tube station near where they were. I hadn’t quite gotten my bearings just yet, so when I couldn’t find Westminster, I stopped at Green Park station in the hopes that I would be semi-near the original point of meeting. As I walked through Green Park, headed for the street in what I could only guess was the way to Westminster, I stumbled into a rather exciting surprise. I had made my way to Buckingham Palace.

I knew as soon as I saw the tall black gates enameled with gold and the colossal building behind its bars that I had made it. It’s funny to see it in movies and see it in real life. I was taken by surprise, and as soon as I was, I was left to marvel. I could only gape at the monument standing in the roundabout out in front of the palace.

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 Of course, I had to stop and take a moment to take a few pictures before I felt prepared to find my way forward toward Westminster.

When I did finally arrive at Westminster Abbey, and saw Dalton and Heather, I couldn’t help but hug them. Familiar faces were exactly what I needed at that moment in time.

We took a tour of Westminster Abbey, and although I was hesitant at first, I am so thankful we did. In fact, that may have been my favorite thing we did the entire weekend.

The abbey was absolutely beautiful. It was even more grand and awe-inspiring than St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, which I had previously thought to be impossible. But with the history and the sheer size of the abbey, it won by a landslide.

Along with the fact that William and Kate were married in Westminster, the abbey’s history is incomparable. With the names of Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens carved into its walls and floors, Westminster is the burial place of many of history’s most well-known people.

My favorite portion of the entire abbey was the Lady Chapel, toward the back. It’s architecture is incomprehensibly stunning.

After about an hour and a half in the abbey, we wandered the streets of London, passing Big Ben, the London Eye and the Thames River. When it was dark, we grabbed a much-needed dinner in the warmth of a high-end pub.

Evening settled into night and I had to make my way back to Highbury and Islington before it was too late.

Saturday began better than Friday. I was able to navigate the tube a bit better and I felt more comfortable with the city. We spent our day seeing the remainder of major touristy sights.

We took a water cruise down the Thames to the Tower of London. The Tower itself was not my favorite, but I got some worthy photos of London as we cruised down the river.

That night I had dinner with Anna, the family friend I stayed with, which was really nice. Afterwards, I went back out into the city for my last night in town. Me and the girls enjoyed a drink or two and went off along our own ways to get some rest for the journey home the next day.

Overall, I’d say London was a successful weekend trip. I’d like to see more of England, but for now, I’d say I at least got the taste I was looking for.

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Rugby

jordan rugbyI attended my first Rugby match yesterday, and let me tell you, it was the amazing.

A few friends and I hopped on a train to go to Edinburgh. Scotland versus Japan seemed like a good game to attend, and a good game it was.

Let me go ahead and admit to those of you who don’t know this about me: I don’t care for football (American football). Yeah, I know, that’s sort of a blasphemous thing to say since I’m from a Southern state…it’s the truth, though. I can count the total number of SMU games I’ve attended on just one hand. I apologize, SMU. It’s not that I don’t have school spirit, it’s simply the sport of football that I can’t force myself to sit through and watch. I won’t waste the time of explaining why, but I will explain why rugby is so much better than football.

As soon as we got off the train in Edinburgh, there was no need for directions nor a worry of getting lost because the city was on the march toward the stadium. There were throngs of people in blue trekking in one direction, so we followed.

This was a whole new kind of tailgate. People painted their faces, carried the Scottish flag on their backs and chanted Scottish tunes that I still have yet to learn. In fact, I could hear the chanting before we had come near the outskirts of the stadium. There were people of all ages and equal spirit ready for rugby.

Once inside, food and drink tents were pitched everywhere. Guinness and Grouse were perhaps the two tents that made me laugh most as I thought, “only in Scotland.” Some men had donned their kilts for the match as well, and again I thought, “only in Scotland.”

Once in our seats, we watched as the match began. In my opinion, 80 minutes is a perfectly suitable amount of time for a sporting event of any sort. The match didn’t drag, and it was paced well enough to hold interest. It was really a great time as well. Each time Scotland scored, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers blasted through the spears, and the entire crowd clapped and sang along.

Scottish pride permeated the atmosphere completely. Scottish pride, not simply in the sense of the Scottish national team, but as a whole. I think that is perhaps what I found most captivating at the match, and what I continue to find so admirable each and every day I spend here.

Moral of the story: go see a rugby match if you ever get the chance. I promise you, it is completely worth it.

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Team Wills

I was thinking yesterday about some of the funniest things that have happened to me here. Although I could list more than just a few, I have come to understand and accept the fact that many of them come from my own misunderstandings.

I am constantly reminded of one rather humorous incident…

Very early on, I became observant of a fashion trend that I seemed to see almost everywhere ( I still do): “Wills” apparel.

It seemed as if “Wills” was stamped on every t-shirt, sweatshirt and baseball cap parading through town. Because I’m in St Andrews – and perhaps because I’ve read a couple biographies on the royal couple – my mind immediately translated Wills to William. I thought, “Hey, that’s neat, there is ‘Team Wills’ apparel!” You know, kind of like when everyone was either Team Christina or Team Britney when it came to pop music (back when it was at its peak). I just assumed that St Andrews was making a statement and standing behind its royal alum, proudly stamping Prince William’s nickname on anything and everything. I was wrong, however.

I soon came across a clothing store by the name of Jack Wills. Needless to say, my fondness for what I thought was school, town and nation pride was turned on its head. But hey, its a great idea if you think about it. If “Wills” as in Team William apparel ever came around, I’d wear it.

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Follow Up

jordan follow upAs promised, I’m catching you all up to speed on my second class today and my week last week.

Today’s course, “Unreformed Scotland: Older Scots Literature to 1560,” was introduced by a rather delightful professor. I am also relieved to find that this course includes a final exam worth only 30% of my final grade, compared to the 50% in my other class… It’s also funny how this class is made up of almost all American students, minus two. I’m looking forward to reading old Scottish literature by some of the greats, including two of St. Andrews’ very own: William Dunbar and Gavin Douglas. We’ll see how quickly I can catch on the original Scottish tongue, maybe add a little Texas twang as well.

Last week was the perfect setup to the beginning of a new term. It’s kind of a blur, simply because there were an infinite and continual number of events; it was just one thing to the next. Although this is my fourth year rather than my first year of uni, I couldn’t help but appreciate all that they do here for students during the famous ‘Freshers Week.’ As I may have mentioned previously, campus is the town and the town is campus. Naturally, every place in town, an academic building or not, was loaded with socials, tasters, deals and giveaways.

I went out a few times, danced another ceilidh and got to know my flatmates even better, along with a few neighbors! Did I mention I also tried my hand at quidditch? Yes, you heard me correctly, QUIDDITCH. Muggle quidditch, of course, but it was as real as it could get; I ran around on a broom and played the position of a beater. Pegging people with a kickball is more fun than I would have expected it to be…Also, might I point out the snitch is a PERSON. I nearly peed my pants laughing when I saw the guy in highlighter-yellow attire running around, climbing trees and dodging the chasers aiming for the tennis ball attached behind him. Definitely the highlight of my day (haha, get it?).

This was only a fraction of the things I did this week, but I think the semester is off to a good start!

Now I must return to the one writer that so many of my English classes have turned to: Shakespeare.

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Oh, Shakespeare, we meet again. Perhaps a new conversation will turn up this term!

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Catch Up

I’ve been playing catch up this past week in order to prepare for the first day of classes, which was today! I was excited to begin, simply because I need some semblance of a routine schedule to begin after nearly three weeks of none at all.

But first, to get me in school mode, I attended a lecture a couple days ago titled “The Future of Universities.” Four academics related to the university made up the panel of speakers, including the principal herself, Louise Richardson.  Each of the four speakers discussed at least one important issue facing the future of tertiary education. I found the lecture quite interesting, particularly one segment that discussed the war between the humanities and the sciences. I’d hate to misquote who said what, so I’ll refrain. All I will say, is that I too am rooting for the humanities to flourish!

This morning I felt both a pinch of nervousness, but primarily a confidence that I was genuinely ready for the term to begin. Not that a near-two-week vacation touring Scotland isn’t nice, but I have been feeling a need to really begin what I came here for: a little Scottish schooling!

I had my first and only class today, British and Irish Drama, where we discussed a brief history of drama and highlighted noteworthy names of playwrights. Bernard Shaw was mentioned multiple times, so I think it’s safe to say I had better get to know him pretty well.

Speaking of theatre, I attended a two-hour improv workshop tonight (hence the reason I am writing so late), which was fun considering I’ve only taken one acting class. However, it was fun to actually participate and try my hand at it, especially since I am a regular attendee at the Dallas Comedy House. Which, for all you friends at home, you should go to a DCH show sometime if you haven’t already. Look for my feature story on the wall when you do!

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New in Town

Jordan 5&6

Again, sorry I haven’t written in a couple days, but I think this might happen quite frequently. Although every day here is something to see, I don’t always have a story to post about.

The past couple of days I have spent running more of those errands that I really needed to get done, as well as got some pictures I have been wanting to get for both readers and myself.

First off, you should see the back road I have been taking into town lately:

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I might as well get acquainted with this scene (no problem, really) since I will so often be passing through here on my way from my flat into town. As you can see, although the walk is quite a trek, it’s at least a beautiful one.

I’ve spent a couple nights out enjoying myself, including one night at a place called Forgan’s where they host traditional Scottish Ceilidhs every Friday and Saturday night. This had to be a highlight of my week.

For those of you who don’t know what a ceilidh is, it’s quite difficult to explain, but let me try. Essentially, it’s a time when there is a folk band and it plays music and leads people at a particular venue on how to do different group-style dances. For example, there might be a couples’ dance or a circle dance with more people, either of which will each have its own song, and with each new song, more people can join in. It’s all just for fun! The group that I went with all joined in, along with myself, into one dance that involved one large circle. It was quite the time! Below is a quick snapshot of a couples’ dance that I watched:

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I sort of feel as though that was one of my many initiations into Scottish culture, haha.

I’ve also been hanging out with my new flatmates this week, and last night we enjoyed a new dessert favorite of mine: sticky toffee pudding. This stuff is amazing! Imagine a warm, chewy, toffee-flavored brownie served alongside vanilla ice cream…it’s mouth-watering.

Speaking of mouth-watering, I nearly drooled when I first saw this sign in town:

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Needless to say, I’ve already been there (Northpoint) twice already…oh well, no shame whatsoever.

I also took a walk through the St. Andrews Cathedral cemetery, and down the pier to get a view of the coast from a further vantage point. It’s beautiful, but admittedly a bit colder out on the water!

Along with the immediate touristy things I’ve taken care of, I’ve also taken care of some politics; I signed up for classes and am officially enrolled for the semester!

Getting to know my way around town is something I am getting used to after so many walks in and out of town/back and forth from my flat. I swear, I dunno how Harry, Ron and Hermione did it…St. Andrews is comparable to Hogwarts grounds, maybe bigger.

Anyway, I’m off to bed so I can ‘give it a go’ tomorrow at a few clubs/societies. I’ll check in again soon!

To view the original post, visit Jordan’s personal blog.

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From One Kingdom to Another

Jordan 3&4

Hi there!

Sorry I didn’t get the chance to post yesterday. I tried my best to enjoy my last day/night in Edinburgh, so I ended up cramming in a couple touristy things and spending an evening out for at least a little while.

I managed to finally find my way up to Edinburgh Castle and tour the grounds. I had been wanting to do this all week, but due to time constraints and the tightly managed schedule, it didn’t quite happen until the last day.

The castle is really something neat. It is primarily a military castle, displaying cannons, the Scottish flag and the Scottish National War Memorial. This was perhaps my favorite part of the castle. Even though I’m not a full-blooded Scot, I can honestly say the memorial portion of the castle was incredibly moving.

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Another area of the castle that was a favorite of mine was the room housing the Scottish crown jewels. Although I couldn’t take pictures in the actual room where the priceless items are held, I will say that seeing them was something hard to forget.

Today, I had quite the day…I finally arrived at the university!

We took a bus ride (a little over an hour) on the Forth Road Bridge over the North Sea and into Fife. The bus ride itself was gorgeous and full of green grass and sheep farms. I’ve never seen anything like it. Arriving in Fife was really something as well.

Although I haven’t gotten the opportunity to go about and get some pictures quite yet, I’ll do my best to explain my new home.

First, I noticed the water (obviously), which was a misty but whimsical blue, spanning itself as a backdrop to the castle and town that lies before it. The town is the campus, the campus is town. I’ve been told just to look for the blue doors, because those signify an academic building. This will come in handy when I roam the cobblestone streets of all very similar-looking fortresses.

North Street, Market Street and South Street make up the town of St. Andrews, providing food and shopping alongside the Scores, the street running parallel to the beach and perpendicular to the golf courses. New students are everywhere, alongside neighboring town dwellers that have lived here for years. It’s a charming and yes, magical place it seems for school.

I won’t bore you with the million errands I had to run today, but I will gladly tell you a bit about my flatmates.

I think we’ll all be able to bond over the fact that we will be residing in the furthest housing from town (about a 15 minute walk), and the fact that we’ll be living on the fourth floor (the top floor). Although, I’ll admit that I don’t mind the walk as long as I know where I’m going! But back to the point, I have another flatmate from Texas! Small world, yeah? The rest of my flat is mixed, with people coming from all over the globe. I think that helps make me feel as though we’re all on the same level.

I suppose I never realized just how international the University of St. Andrews is, but I am pleasantly surprised to find how friendly and open everyone is here. I know that seems like a clichéd phrase, but I will tell you now that that is a genuine description of the people here. Staff, students and the culture in and of itself is by far the most welcoming place I have ever found myself in. Which is funny being that I am 6 hours ahead and nearly 4,500 miles away from home.

Case and point, I know that things won’t always be easy, and I will have my times where I am not so in love with where I’m at, but I’m enjoying this time while I can. Before classes begin and challenge me, and before my heart has its pulses of homesickness, I have loved and am loving every moment here.

I do miss you folks from home, though, so know that much.

Going to bed now since this post is getting lengthy and I’m looking forward to rest without an alarm. So goodnight!

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Day 1: Finally

The view from my hotel room – the picture doesn't give it half its justice

The view from my hotel room – the picture doesn’t give it half its justice

Today was the first day of my journey across the pond. Naturally, it was a day full of traveling and little else.

One flight is enough to wear a traveler out, so those three today were a bit of a hit to my energy. Oddly enough, however, I couldn’t manage a wink of sleep despite my weary eyes. Perhaps it’s because I can never sleep on planes to begin with, but I think I was more-so anxious and excited to get to Scotland. I haven’t been able to sleep the past few days anyways, so what’s one more, really?

If you know me well, you’d know that I have a near-obsessive love for New York. Although I would usually be upset that I didn’t really get to spend much time in New York before I left the States, I think I was running around too much to think about the city of Manhattan just a cab ride away. Well, running around, plus the fact that once I finally did arrive to my gate, I was immediately face-to-face with a group of fellow St. Andrews students, which was really nice. I think things are off to a great start in terms of making friends in my home away from home.

Leaving New York was easier than any previous trip, not only for the people, but the place I’ll be for a whole semester! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and New York will be waiting for me when I come back.

Flying into the United Kingdom on the eve and into the start of my birthday is definitely a first, but also a unique gift that doesn’t come around very often. Do I wish my loved ones were here to celebrate with me on my birthday? Of course, but I’d like to think that you can still celebrate with warm wishes and a kind word despite the miles! Besides, it’s the feeling that counts, right? And to be honest, this has got to be the first time since I was a kid that I felt that birthday feeling. I mean, how can I not be feeling like a little girl playing dress-up again when I’m going to a real-life far-far-away fairytale? There are castles, there’s a queen, there are princes and princesses and for Merlin’s sake there is HARRY POTTER. So yes, a very happy birthday to me!

Arriving in London after the longest of my three flights was a big pat on the back and an accomplishment for the day. Heathrow airport was…intricate to say the least, and took a bit of navigation to get to the next gate. No matter; the flight to Edinburgh was the last stretch of the trip to finally arrive in Scotland.

At this point, I’d love for a two-hour nap just to get me through the day until I can gain a full night’s rest tonight (which, as I mentioned, I haven’t had in three days), as well as a shower and change of clothes before the first dinner this evening.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not feeling my best in health, but looking around I have noticed there are a couple that are in about the same shape as I am. Maybe it’s due to a lack of sleep, or maybe just traveling and going through not-so-sanitary spaces, but I need to catch my immune system back up, ASAP.

I felt a little better once arriving at the hotel, and while waiting on my room, I walked around a bit in Edinburgh to see what’s in town. I felt a little better a little later this evening.

A large group of us met in the lobby and walked about a quarter into the Royal Mile, before realizing how tired we all really were. We made a couple pub stops, shared a drink or two, and I ate my first Scottish meal: vegetable pie with chips and peas on the side. After a Guinness and making my way through at least half of a hearty meal, I felt well enough and sleepy enough to recoup tonight.

For now, I must say goodnight, however, as I haven’t slept in days and I’ll have more to write about tomorrow. Goodnight!

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