Wanderlust: Studying Abroad in Edinburgh

By Dylan Young on March 5, 2013

From September 2011 until July 2012 I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland in a tiny flat next to The Meadows in the Old Town section of the city. I have been an Anglophile practically since birth, ever since I watched The Parent Trap for the first time and started mimicking Lindsay Lohan’s character’s English accent. When my junior year of college rolled around, I leapt at the chance to live across the pond. I had lived in the same valley for all of my twenty years. I’d lived in the same house, in the same room, in the same bed, up until I went to college—twenty minutes from my hometown. I went to high school literally two minutes away from my college. Edinburgh was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. And it was exactly what I needed.

Those eleven months were some of the most incredible, exhilarating, exhausting, rewarding, terrifying, and beautiful days I have experienced on this earth. I made friends who have become so close that I call them family. I tried strange new foods and drank gallons of hot, strong tea. I got lost in the winding back streets of the city. I went to pubs and clubs and ceilidhs and plays. I attempted to play the bagpipes. I picked up slang and bits of accents and a taste for Yorkshire Puddings.

I travelled. I travelled to the Isle of Skye and Inverness and Penicuik. I trekked down to Cardiff and Dartmoor and Cornwall. I ran around London and Oxford. I flew to Paris and Florence and Venice and Holland. I met Mexican opera singers and Australian doctors and chewed on snails in Paris at eleven in the evening in a café in Montmartre. I hiked the moors and Old Man of Storr and rode a train over the Glenfinnan Viaduct. I hitchhiked to Loch Ness and went searching for Nessie.

Photo Courtesy of Carla Grant

But above all of this, above all the adventures and mistakes and laughter and food and Irn Bru, I have figured out something that I was never really sure of: I can do this thing we call living in the world. I can go out with a backpack and a map and figure out how to survive in a country where I don’t speak the language. I can make friends and be happy and confident and self-sufficient, away from this valley where I have lived all my life. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it, that I wouldn’t be able to manage living away from all my friends and family and the familiar places of home. But I’ve figured out that home is what you make of it. Home is fluid and life is short. And if you’ve got guts and some brains and a smattering of common sense, the boundaries of what you can and can’t do are broad and maybe just a little less solid than you thought they were. So here’s to adventure. Here’s to wanderlust. Here’s to going after what you want. And here’s to the happiness you will find there.

Journal Entry from September 20th, 2011: “There’s a place on Nicolson Street called Black Medicine Coffee Co. It’s got these big glass windows looking out onto the street. It’s all rough stone and wood and scarlet painted moulding and it’s always full of people and the smell of coffee. There’s a piano in the corner and a well-used chess set and sprawling plants by the windows. It is a warm little cave in the middle of this windswept city.

I have fallen in love with this city. I am in love with her uneven streets. I am in love with her rain and squalls. I am in love with her street names that are impossible to pronounce. I am in love with her lack of order and her bizarre little passages and parks. I am in love with her narrowness and her wideness.

There are moments, when the lights dim and the night rises up, when I miss the thousand stars and the pines and the forty-minute bus rides to civilization. There are times when I wake up in the middle of the night and forget where I am, thinking I am in my bed at home.

But it was the right choice to come. It was always the right choice.”

Dylan is an Anthropology student and senior at Mount Holyoke College. She enjoys watching films with friends, attempting to make good risotto, going out, staying in, exploring, chatting, rearranging furniture, playing music, writing letters the old fashioned way, staying up all night, painting, dancing terribly, making copious amounts of tea, getting up to shenanigans, making plans, not making plans. Current Mission: To meet, to greet, to see, to do, to music, to create, to cook, to be.

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