Last article for you guys... I started writting this article on may 14th, and finally finished it today june 6th... Lot of things happened in such a short time, me living Edinburgh and finally going home... It's been 2 weeks now and i'm still not sure how I feel about it! Part of me feels like I never left, part of me still thinks in english - in the first few days I couldn't help but mixing english and french when I talked! And part of me miss the incredible city Edinburgh and my dear friends I made...
It will probably take some time before I realise that it is over.
One sure thing, I never regretted my decision to come in Scotland, and I had an awesome time. Really. I think you can sense it through my photos, btw I am planning to create a huge photo-album.
But let's stop being emotional!
On this last article I will share with you the things that I enjoyed the most, from my trip on Skye Island to my stay on this awesome little charity shop on Tollcross ♥
Just so you know, I have taken and kept around 2900 pictures since January (much more that I suppressed).
Aaaah, beautiful view from Prince Street... (Phone Pics)
~ A random walk in Edinburgh to watch people and catch a ray of sunshine: Grassmarket, Victoria Street, North Bridge
~ Beltane Fire Festival:
Remember when I said naked people dancing in the night ? We froze. But I got a few nice pictures.
~ My charity shop: Hospices of Hope, Home Street.
A very very sweet green little thing, with strange purple clients and lovely managers ♥ And look, it's even rated on the 5 best charity shops in Edinburgh! I'm very proud aww :D
Top five charity shops
I spent two days per week during almost 3 months there, managing the till, pricing clothes and putting books in order... It's usually rather quiet, but there is always someone to talk to, and I was able to meet people I would have never had a chance to meet overwize.
~ So as you might have understood already, i went on a avdenture! Four girls, a tiny car, three days to discover Isle of Skye... No GPS used, much funnier with a good old map! Windy and rainy AF. Pints of beers and sandwiches for breakfast (eww).
I have much more pics but i'm afraid the website will crash if i put more...
But let's not forget the beautifull Royal Botanical Gardens! Out of all the museum/parcs/zoo I visited they were my favorite. The Glasshouse is really really worth the ticket.
I got my results, I passed my three modules with merit, and an overall grade of 75%. Good job me! I'm very happy with myself, if I may say hahaha.
Well, I have to leave you here now. Go to Edimburgh, meet different people, avoid the french (seriously), and most of all
Eat well, travel often
I must admit I had a lot of trouble to fill up this article. I never watched TV in Edinburgh and rarely had the opportunity to listen to the radio ~ that doesn't help. So of course there are those free news paper in the buses, but honestly, they only talked about supposely interesting people I don't know, places I've never been, or politics - sure, politics were really important and loud, but I already talked about it... But did I tell you that in Isle of Skye, we could basically see SNP tracts everywhere, including in the most lost tiny little road in the middle of nowhere? This is just how deep they are in Scotland's roots now, from Edinburgh to Inverness...
Portree saying Yes
Anyway, let's be honest, there is no "most shocking local news" if i have to take off politics... Edinburgh is a rather small and safe city compared to Lyon.
There was the royal baby named Charlotte (poor child). Scottish people don't really care but it is still written everywhere.
Rape rumors on campus, relayed by the local student news paper.
The best burger in Edinburgh, which we tried, and that was indeed freaking awesome.
Dinosaurs at the Edinburgh Zoo. Pandas being in love.
And pinguin's eggs. Pinguins in nests. Pinguins everywhere. (Edinburgh loves its zoo, covers the buses with cute pictures).
A lack of donations in the Charity shops, worried because of the bad weather chasing the people away from the streets, and less and less clients.
Backpiper's meetings, Beltane Fire Festival celebrating spring (lots of naked people dancing and playing with fire on Carlton Hill during the night of the first of may - it was 4°C) (very springy indeed)
Hi friends !
A new month went by and the lectures are now over. I started working since march 16th in a charity shop called Hospice of Hope for Romania, raising money for eastern-Europe people to offer access to paliative care and dignity.
I keep roaming around, from Glencoe to Inverness, Perth or Glasgow... I saw the solar eclipse in march (90% from up here)... Went to Edinburgh zoo and saw the Pandas... To the Scottish Parliament and saw a debate... Oh and lately I went to see a rugby game between Glasgow and Cardiff (the later got crushed eheh...). I keep eating burgers and scotch pies, hoping for the sun to remember that winter is over and that we are allowed to rise over 10°C now. I mean, come on, I even brought a swimsuit.
However I'm having a few issues lately. First of all, my Charity Shop keeps forgetting (voluntarily?!) to fill the internship form. Since I still don't know if it will be accepted by the school, I can't book my flight back home. No to mention that I will be homeless on may 29. This is stressing me out.
I also still have a paper to handout on april 22, and uh, I did not start it yet. That's not cool, it's on a very complicated subject - a research proposal about the behaviour of people concerning big issues in small places. Sounds unclear? Same here.
And lastly, poor me wanted to dye my hair turquoise but apparently, it wont work unless I bleach my hair first. I don't want to. I'll have to give up my dreams to be a blue mermaid - I'll just go for red, meh.
But let's go down to business to defeat the huns :
Hmmm... This article is more about politics than geopolitics, because it's quite clear for anyone i think... Rich country, part of Europe, commonwealth and NATO, nuclear power, huge soft power because of culture, links with US, and language and rolling with Iraki war.
The basics: Scotland is a country, but is part of the United Kingdom and politically depends for a consequent part of London. So basically, Scotland has two parliaments: London and Edinburgh, and two first ministers, aka Nicola Sturgeon (yes she's a woman, Scottish National Party - SNP) and David Cameron. I'm sure you are aware that the Queen has no word to say in politics matters, and the Prince - supposed to be the next king - is facing issues right now because of his habit to try to influence the government.
Now I am sure you all are aware of the recent referendum, last september, about Scotland's independance. I won't spoil you either by saying that the No won. That was a close call, though, 55% to 45%, and it let an inheritance wich surprised everybody in the last elections...
So whisle the UK has a conservative first minister, Scotland has historically been a labour fief, basically more from left and center-left. Scotland and England have opposite ideas on a lot of matters, and the coexistence of two government leads to some weirdness now and then. For exemple, the Scottish Parliament is free to act on some subjects, for example education, while others are reserved to the London Parliament ; but the Scottish electors still get the right to vote to the London parliament concerning this matter, even if it doesn't concern them!
On the 7 of May, a big election took place in the whole UK to elect the new London Parliament. The Tories (Conservatives) won, which was a surprise, and David Cameron was reelected. Meanwhile in Scotland... 56 of the 59 seats were taken by the SNP, with a huge defeat of the Labour party. The SNP is the party fighting for Scottish independance. England and Scotland have never been so opposed.
What will happen next ?! Cameron wants a referendum about exiting Europe. Scotland is very widly against it. Sturgeon said she would never let that happen, and either put her veto to it - or get another referendum about independance.
The bets are open on Scotland future... Good thing for me, if Scotland becomes independant, then Edinburgh will be a capital and a well known city from the employers ;)
Time to be a bit scholar and to give some cultural details...
Social Rituals in Scotland
Customs & Symbols
As I said earlier, I am following Scottish Culture & Society lectures at uni, allowing me to discover the history and what makes the country proud. The Scottish flag is the St Andrew’s Cross, the blue and white cross we can see as well in the union jack flag. The official languages in Scotland are English and Scottish Gaelic, even if some people seriously consider that the Scottish English is a separate language!
- Clans: Scotland highlanders used to be divided in hundreds of Clans, who all had distinctive identities, flags, lands, tartans, etc. It’s basically the equivalent of French Middle-Ages lords and their people, but giving a strong sense of belonging to Scots even nowadays, as the names keep being transmitted. The most important and famous clans of Scotland are the McDonald and the Campbell: incidentally, those two are enemies and hold long-term grudges!
- Scots are really proud of their Tartans, a woollen tissue - mostly used to make kilts and scarves – with distinctive patterns of lines and colours for each clan. Buying a tartan scarf is the most usual souvenir tourists bring back.
- Kilts. Yes, they really wear them, it is not a legend. It’s the equivalent to the tuxedo here! Scots wear them for weddings/funerals, any formal events, sport games, graduation ceremony, etc… Not to mention the Bagpipers everywhere in Edinburgh who are always always wearing the entire attire – kilt, socks, moccasins, specific shirts and jackets and purses... The whole thing costs the price of a small car, by the way.
- Bagpipes: You can hear them in most of ceremonies, in the streets of Edinburgh and St Andrew, and even in the army. Another Scottish symbol! Did I mention that the unicorn is the national animal?
- A bit of history: We only studied the 17th and 18th century. To sum it up, Scotland has been a very poor country until the 18th century, regularly uprising against the English and failing miserably each time, until they finally resigned to sign a treaty of Union in 1707, allowing the English to use the Scottish Army in their battles and giving substantial funds to Scotland in return. Cruel truth the Scottish people are not so proud about. The Glencoe Massacre and failed Darien colony in Panama are also two key historical markers.
National celebrations & Events
- Highland games: where big men throw huge trees as a game. I don’t know much about them, but I have my tickets booked for those when they begin in the whole country – in May.
- St Andrew’s Day (30th November), is the National day.
- Hogmanay: The New year celebrations
- Burns Night (jan 25th): Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and is revered here.
- The Edinburgh Fringe festival, a huge art festival taking place during summer. Like, really crazy, really huge.
Cultural & Family habits
Now let’s leave the clichés to observe in which way everyday life here can be different from France.
I already talked about the impressive way Scots resist to cold, so let’s observe their fashion sense.
One word is almost enough to sum up student fashion in Edinburgh: Primark. Students are obsessed with this shop, and I can recognize the pattern of their cheaper clothes everywhere on the streets. Scottish people dress way more colourful than the vast majority of French people! They also tend to assume more originality in their style. I died my hair orange (well it was supposed to be ginger, but it turned out orange) and nobody acted shocked on the street, when I think in Lyon – which is the second biggest city of France – people would have stared a lot!
Fashion style is also slightly different here from Lyon - I will only talk about Feminine fashion. Students going out usually seem to wear super-high-waisted super-skinny jeans, super-short shorts, skirts or dresses, super-high heels, and super-small crop tops! French style would probably be more discreet, simple and classic, but I also like this English version!
The great thing is that in France, women would probably not want to go out dressed as described, because of male pressure (cat calls everywhere) giving a very unwelcomed feeling of danger... I have not witnessed such a thing in Edinburgh, and I hope my guess is right!
I am also delighted by the number of vintage shops hidden everywhere in the city. Prices tend to differ a lot from one shop to another, but each of them is worth the visit!
We also went to the Vintage Fair in January: An experience I find fascinating and that I want to renew as soon as possible!
Everything cannot be perfect and if there is one field in which I have trouble to adjust, as a French food lover, it is Scottish food.
As I said earlier, I'm suffering from the lack of fresh food. Everything is really expensive compared to France and fresh and non-cooked meat, especially beef, is clearly unaffordable for me and also quite rare, at least in the local shops in the city center. It seems that my flatmates almost only eat pre-cooked and ready meals... Yup, I just spotted Cammy trying to make pasta: he put the pasta in cold water and tried to boil it. It’s probably because it’s his first year living alone…
I went to Mark & Spencer, guessing I would find some high quality basic food, but I was stunned to discover that actually 3/4 of the store was only ready meals! Moreover, when in France people eating ready meals would usually be students or single young active people, the supermarket was mainly visited by older people who seemed to buy big quantities of individual meals... Do they really eat those together with their family ? It does seem really strange to me. Here we have a quite clear cultural difference from France, where ready meals usually occupy only a single shelf in the supermarket. Same with sweets and crisps! (whereas in France it is more like two selves for cheese, two for meat, two for fresh vegetables etc...).
So of course, I tried the classic haggis, Scottish breakfast with black pudding, baked beans, garlic bread, porridge, cheddar, sticky toffee, shortbread and over very English cheesecakes... Most of them are quite good and I adopted porridge, but one cannot live only eating those! I would grow fat very quickly! Happily they also always have a camembert or two in the local shops, which in the end goes quite well with toasted bread and Italian ham! I eat European haha.
My next mission is to visit a hypermarket! Yeah I know, I should have already, but I am living in the city center and I have trouble finding one close enough to Fountainbridge.
PS: I hate cheddar, sorry
3) Hanging out in Scotland
I went twice to the cinema with my flatmates, and found out that eating during the movie is VERY important to them, and the size of the popcorn baskets impressed me. In France buying something to eat at the cinema is possible but not automatic: actually it’s even quite rare. Jack spent the double of the price of the ticket in sweets!
We went to see American Sniper and The Woman in Black 2: both movies were a disappointment to me, and I think my Scots and I shared the same feeling. We both cannot understand the American patriotism and are strongly disgusted by the idea of war. We share more culture and history than Americans…
One thing: I did not see fifty shades of grey, but I heard a lot about it, people getting really excited about it before seeing it. Also heard it was rated -15yo. Well in France, people did not make a big fuss about it, it was rated -12yo, and nobody was shocked! For some weird reason the movie went out two days before in France than in the UK.
Pubs are exactly as I imagined them to be: extra noisy, crowded, sympathetic places where a lot of different people from all ages, nationalities and social categories gather with friends to drink beer and eat comfort food. Very homey feeling.
Clubs are also way bigger and feel safer than in France.
After almost a month spent in the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen – I’m not biased at all – now seems a good time to give some news and explain a bit more what I’m doing here.
First the news: Still cold, still windy, still very very expensive. Seriously, I’ve spend a crazy amount of money in just living, keeping the extras to a bare minimum and I’m more than eager to receive my scholarships – they seem to have trouble finding me, must be the wind eh.
Anyway, I’ve still been able to walk around a bit since last time I reported here. So far we’ve been to Aberdeen, which is 2 hours away in the north; we have seen the majestic Dunnotar Castle (looks a lot like Winterfell to me) as well as the Crathes Castle where we enjoyed a really interesting tour and met the local ghost, the lovely Green Lady.
I finally got to try the English Breakfast and spent a few hours exploring the National Museum of Scotland, which I found big, with a large collection of Scottish items. I did not take a tour/guide and that may be the reason why I was a bit frustrated, not finding enough information to satisfy my curiosity. But it’s definitively a great place for the kids.
I went twice to the cinema with my flatmates, and found out that eating during the movie is VERY important to them, and the size of the popcorn baskets impressed me. Also visited an old tartan factory, and lastly spent the night in an Irish pub with 11 international students from all around the world – I was the only French. This week I’ve planned on visiting the Edinburgh Castle, maybe the zoo and we have a trip to the highlands planned on Saturday.
So that’s it for the report. Now let’s talk about the Uni (because yes, still have to go to uni).
Edinburgh Napier University was created in 1964 (…)
As for the “Welcoming week”, it barely lasted a day (7th of January) with a welcoming conference and some paperwork, which gave me the opportunity to get my ID student card. The lectures started on the 13th of January.
I have 8 hours of lecture or tutorial per week, when I had around 25h back in France. Being an exchange student, I had the choice with my classes, and I took those called Scottish Culture and Society, Intercultural Organizational Management and Exploring Culture. I have lectures from Tuesday to Thursday and a 4 days long week-end (not sure if it can still be called a week-end though when it’s longer than the working week eh).
Scottish Culture and Society takes places in the biggest amphi, and two Scottish ladies from the clans Campbell and Macdonald present the history of Scotland throughout the wars, uprisings against England, Jacobites, failed colonies in America and historic friendship with France… They are also the organizers of the Edinburgh Castle tour and later, in March, we will have a day-long trip to Glasgow. In this lecture the class is exclusively composed of international students, mostly North Americans, Canadians, Germans, French and Honk Hong students.
Intercultural Organizational Management (IOM) takes places twice in the week, with a lecture in amphi and a tutorial in small groups. It’s about comparing cultures as objectively as we can, using dimensions like though/tender society, Hierarchical/egalitarian societies etc. and using the stereotypes to find a better way to do business all around the world. I’m working with my two German friends and it’s really interesting to confront our points of view on each other cultures with an open-mind!
Exploring Culture, in the continuity of IOM, is about understanding our own frames of references, how knowledge and truth works, and how we construct those ideas in a philosophical dimension. To put it clearly, the main goal of the course is to make the students understand that the way they see the world is not an objective reality, but the result of their own cultural construction. It is clearly the most difficult class I took, and to be honest I’m not a fan of my teacher, but the contents are really interesting.
The conduct of the classes is not much different from France, but I still noticed some small but interesting differences: for example, teachers allow a lot of breaks and are more tolerant to the noise, students can drink coffee during class, and students are supposed to call the teachers by their first name. In France, students would always use really polite and respectful tone and words towards teachers, and any other drink than water would not be allowed during lectures. Moreover, I was surprised to see some students keeping their hat during lectures: In France, teachers would be offended by this behaviour and would ask the student to take it off, as it is considered as very rude. In High school, hats were also forbidden in all the school buildings!
Classes seem to be a bit more relaxed, and there are a lot of interactions and debate between students during tutorials when in France, students would probably be more passive and wait for the teacher to explain his point before asking a few questions. Students are also more enthusiasts towards the courses, probably because they chose them, when in France the majority of courses are imposed and students are not always interested in all of them. For example, I am a second year in Business School, and I have around thirteen imposed courses.
I also noticed that because of the very little amount of lectures we have (8h per week against 28h back in France) teachers give more homework, and except us to think about the subject before to be able to check the answers during the tutorial; when in France lectures would be used to explain concepts and theory and tutorials to do the exercises with the help of the teacher.
One last point : I live with four scottish freshmen, and I have been observing their behaviour towards uni. They tend to miss a lot of lectures for no reason, and one of them said he was probably going to drop out at the end of the year... Of course my observing scale is too small to draw any conclusion, so I am not sure if it is a common behaviour among firstyears, maybe because of the contrast between the highschool stricter frame and college new freedom, as it is their first year living on their own without anyone watching them... I did not notice that kind of behaviour after the end of highschool in France. I will keep my eyes open and try to find more about this !
Napier University as a lot of clubs but I did not subscribe in any. The international club plans bus journeys around the country and as I wrote earlier, I will join them on Saturday and probably in March too for a trip to the Loch Ness. I also have the possibility to assist to English courses to improve my writing, spelling etc… Finally the NSA, aka the Napier student association, organizes the student nightlife, and I occasionally join my flatmates.
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