Beware - it’s long. If you don’t have time to read it all, you should wait until you do have time. I have too much to say!
Hello hello hello!! I know it’s been about two and a half weeks since I’ve posted anything, but I’d like to say - studying abroad in only six weeks doesn’t give us a lot of time to do much of anything! I’ve been so incredibly busy this entire time, but I’m loving every minute of it.
SO the last time I left you, I was still in Orkney! Orkney was absolutely amazing and I miss it everyday. It’s such a beautiful place, and it has such a small town atmosphere. I felt so at home there (but of course I’m coming back to my real home, mom and dad!) My host family was wonderful, and they were willing to take us so many places and do so many things with us - I was very lucky to have them as host parents. Last time I posted was Thursday, May 30th, so I’ll take you through a rundown of the past two and a half weeks! Ready, steady GO!
Friday, May 31
I participated and supervised what was called Transition Sports Day with the school I was placed in. Transition sports is for all the P7 students (the equivalent to 6th graders in the States) from all the primary schools across the Orkney Islands to come together for a whole day of sports so they can all get to know each other. It was a very cool day, and I’m glad I was a part of it! After school, my host mom took me and my host sisters to the Ring of Brodgar, which is a neolithic site. Basically, it’s Orkney’s Stonehenge and you can TOUCH IT. It was actually very eery being there, but it was very cool. The stones were erected in a huge circle, and historians believe it was some sort of meeting or ceremonial place. We went when the sun was “setting” (quotes because the sun only sets for about five hours in Orkney) and it was gorgeous.
Saturday, June 1
On Saturday our host dad took us sailing! His boat’s name is the Peridot, and it’s just a cute little thing with a tiny cabin. It barely fits four people, but it made life pretty interesting. We sailed to Gairsay, which is an island located just across the bay from where my host parents lived on the Mainland of Orkney. Only one family lives on the island! We walked to the top of the hill (which was no piece of cake) and we could see almost all the islands. It was absolutely breathtaking! After that we motored (because the wind ran out) to another island called Shapinsay just for a quick walk around the marina and main part of the main town. We sailed straight to Kirkwall from there for the Pipe Band Parade, which was a group of bagpipers and drummers. That was really cool to watch! Bagpipes are not traditional to Orkney like they are in Scotland, but man can they play!
Sunday, June 2
Sunday was a jam-packed day with all six of us who were placed in Orkney. We went to the island of Westray (which is a two hour ferry ride away from the Mainland). Our first stop was the Castle o’Burrian and the cliffs where we saw THOUSANDS of puffins!!!!!!!! Cutest birds EVER. We were able to get so close to them! It was just AH awesome. After that, we went to Noltland Castle, which was an unfinished castle on Westray. We explored it and then ate our lunch in the courtyard (with no servants). Then we went to the Noup Head Lighthouse and the Noup Cliffs Nature Reserve, from where we were right on the North Sea. The cliffs were absolutely b-e-a-uuuuuu-tiful. We were a couple hundred feet above the sea, and WOW, it was just amazing. Being that close to the sea is incredible. We went to Grobust beach after the cliffs, and we walked along the beach for probably close to an hour. We all put our feet in the North Sea, and let me tell you - it is definitely not warm. It looks like Florida but it’s NOT. When we got back to the Mainland, we went to a concert at St. Magnus Cathedral to watch our host mom perform with her small orchestra.
Monday, June 3
On Monday, our head teacher gave us the afternoon to explore Kirkwall, so we walked around for hours exploring the charity shops and the local sites. The main site was St. Magnus Cathedral, which is the oldest still-used cathedral in Orkney (I do believe). It’s absolutely incredible inside.
Tuesday, June 4
On Tuesday, I went with a small group of P7 students (6th graders) to the Kirkwall Grammar School (secondary school, which would be equivalent to a combination of a middle school/junior high and a high school in the States) and toured KGS. It was an interesting experience, but it was also a little heartbreaking. I found out that J.K. Rowling TOTALLY DOOPED THE AMERICANS. You think she’s clever in HP when she talks about the first years, second years, etc., through the seventh years? No. You think she’s clever with her Houses and her House Cup winners at the end of the year? No. In the UK, all secondary schools have first year students (equivalent to seventh graders) through seventh year students (equivalent to seniors/18 year old students). All students are placed in different Houses, and each house competes for house points. At the end of the term, the house with the most points wins the House Cup. I can’t even believe I thought she was super clever, because she wasn’t. Anyway, that’s not really important. After my gigantic Hogwarts epiphany, I went with the P6 students (5th graders) to the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces. These students participate in a program where they have to dress up and lead tour groups of other students around the two palaces. We saw their dress rehearsal, so we were part of their tour group - it was very cute.
After school, our host mom took us to the Churchill Barriers, but we couldn’t see much of them because the sea mist was coming in. It was actually really creepy, but pretty at the same time. We saw the Italian Chapel on the tiny tiny island of Lamb Holm, which was built by Italian prisoners of war during the Second World War. It’s made out of an air raid shelter, and the inside is completely hand-painted to look like stone. It’s just gorgeous. We also went to the islands of Burray and South Ronaldsay, which is the most southern of the islands.
Wednesday, June 5
On Wednesday we did the bike time trial again and I cut four minutes off my time!! I’m almost positive it was due to the less amount of wind than the week before. The three of us at our host family were in The Orcadian, the local paper! AH it was cool, and we were in the next week’s paper too. Famous!!!
Thursday, June 6
On Thursday, we went sailing in a race with our host dad and one of his friends. It was alright, it’s not my favorite thing to do but I don’t hate it. Sailing is actually really complicated. I got to help tack the boat around, and, let me tell you, it’s not easy. But it was fine. I also ate pig tongue. It’s gross.
Friday, June 7
Friday was Sports Day for all the kids at Glaitness, so I went around with a P2 (first grade) class, and it was SO MUCH FUN. The kids had a blast, and I had a blast just watching them. Friday was also laundry day, thank goodness.
Saturday, June 8
On Saturday, our host mom took us to Hoy so we could hike to the Old Man of Hoy. It was one of the coolest things I’ve done so far (besides getting a tennis ball from WIMBLEDON). The Old Man of Hoy is an enormous sea stack that is right next to the island. A lot of people climb it, and when we were there, actually, two people were just beginning to climb it. We also saw Dwarfie Stane, which is an unused neolithic tomb. It was eery.
Sunday, June 9
On Sunday, we had to unfortunately leave our host parents and return to Scotland. It was a sad day, and I’m hoping to keep in touch with Steve and Jenny. They were so good to us. We had (yet another) flight to Aberdeen from Orkney, and once we got to the University we just rested. Hung out, unpacked, and went grocery shopping.
Monday, June 10
Monday we started our first day of class (wait, what? I know.) by having a presentation and a tour of campus. The campus at the University of Aberdeen is beautiful. The university was founded in 1495, so it’s been around for a really really long time. We were lucky enough to be here when they inducted their next chancellor, who happened to be the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla! It was very cool to see her, so now I can say that I saw a member of the royal family.
Tuesday, June 11
On Tuesday, we had real class (what? I still know). After class, a small group of us and Dr. Battalio (our professor) took a 7 mile walk from campus down to the North Sea to downtown Aberdeen to our professor’s apartment and then back to campus. It was beautiful! It was a little chilly, especially walking right next to the sea, but it’s still so gorgeous.
Wednesday, June 12
After class on Wednesday, a small group of us went to S. Machar’s Cathedral, which is on our walk to class everyday. It was (yet again) stunning (P.S. I’m running out of adjectives for “beautiful”). We also visited the Cruickshank Botanic Garden and the Zoology building, which are both a part of the campus. The botanic gardens are 11 acres of pure brilliancy (there’s a new one!) and the zoology building is just really COOL. There are bones of alligators, horses, elephants, sabertooth tigers, regular tigers, sea turtles, monkeys. Basically you name it, they got it. Most of what they have, however, were acquired a long time ago so they have just kept preserving all the bones and stuffed animals. A lot of what they have today would be unacceptable to have gotten recently.
Thursday, June 13
Thursday was literally a homework day.
Friday, June 14
After class on Friday, a group of us went to the downtown area and walked around the mall and the shops. It’s not as touristy here as any of the other towns we’ve been to are. Aberdeen is a very blue collar, working class town, and a big oil industry city so the touristy places are few and far between. Our big group (there’s 15 of us total) went to The Bobbin, which is a pub closer to campus, with Dr. B on Friday night. They have a burger and a beer special for 5 pounds, which is a really good deal to us! I had two pints, one was a light beer called Tennent’s and the other was called Stronbow, which is a cider beer. The burgers here are interesting. Their beef tastes more like our sausage, and it’s just sort of weird. It’s good, but not the kind of burger I’m used to.
Saturday, June 15
On Saturday, a small group of us took the train (it was so cool!!) to St. Andrews, which is where golf was INVENTED. Very cool. We went to the St. Andrews University quad area, which is where Will and Kate went to school (I think?). We saw the St. Andrews Castle ruins and the St. Andrews Cathedral ruins, both of which were beautiful. We went to the St. Andrews Museum, which was definitely not the best museum I’ve ever been to. After that, we went to the Old Course which is the FIRST GOLF COURSE EVER. It’s actually pretty small for a golf course. You can literally see the whole thing from one spot, without walking around it. We (obviously) took pictures on the Wee Bridge, which was funny for the locals because we weren’t sure if we could actually go out onto the course but we did anyway (in natural fashion) and quickly took pictures and then ran off. The locals were literally laughing at us, but hey, I don’t blame them. We are pretty hilarious. We wanted to try to get into the clubhouse (yeah right) but even their benches (seriously, not kidding) are roped off and have MEMBERS ONLY painted on them. A little overboard, even if it is the first golf course ever. Calm down. After that, we went to Market Street, which is the main shopping drag of St. Andrews and just purused around. We went to Fisher & Donaldson, which is a famous bakery famous for their fudge donuts. We took the train (still really cool!) back to Aberdeen, and walked around for probably close to two hours looking for somewhere to eat, but a lot of places were either closed or too expensive (still college students), so we ended up going back to The Bobbin, where, hilariously enough, most of the rest of the group was walking up to at the same time.
Sunday, June 16
On Sunday, the entire group plus our professor went to the Highland Games, which were fascinating! We saw log throwing (and when I say log throwing, I mean like tree throwing. Firewood-before-being-cut-up throwing. Impressive to say the least), weight being thrown over a tall bar (why not?), traditional dancing, and, of course, tug o’ war. SO. COOL. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I’m glad I got to experience it. Also, saw a lot of kilts. A LOT of kilts.
Monday, June 17
Today was a beautiful day, weather-wise. We’ve had amazing weather the entire time we’ve been here, we’ve been really lucky. After class today, a small group of us went to the Sir Duncan Rice Library, which is STUNNING. Look it up if you can, it’s an amazing work of architecture. And all afternoon I’ve been doing homework, homework, and then some homework.
I’m sorry I haven’t been updating as much as you’d like, or I’d like, but I do what I can fit it in! There just aren’t enough house in the day, sadly enough. I’ve been having way too much fun, and I’m loving every minute I’m here. We have less than three weeks left, which is kind of sad at this point. This is our last week of class, then we have our long weekend (Ireland, here I come!), then we meet back in Edinburgh and take our week-long Highlands trip, and then we go home. I’ll enjoy it while I can!
I miss you all, and even though I’m having the time of my life, I am excited to finally be back home again (promise). :)
Until next time, folks!
Hello friends!! I’m sorry I haven’t updated you all in a while - I have been so insanely busy doing crazy Scottish things that I haven’t had time to keep up!!
Here’s the breakdown:
Sunday, we flew from Edinburgh to Kirkwall, Orkney, in a tiny puddle-jumper, but it was probably the best of all the flights thus far! Three of us are staying with one family, two of us are staying with another family and one of us is staying with a different family. My host family, however, was on holiday (ironically) in Edinburgh until later Sunday evening, so we went home for a few hours with a different family. Their house was lovely and they made us dinner (lunch)! We also went out to Stromness and visited the Folk Festival there, which is a big gathering of people with food, fun, and lots and lots of music and performers. It wasn’t too exciting because it was windy and cold (an average day in Orkney) and many of the performers were gone since it was the last day of the festival. After that, our host family finally picked us up and we got a quick tour of our house and then it was off too bed since we had school the next morning!!
Monday was our first day in the schools and it was great! The whole staff is wonderful and very welcoming, and most of the students are not very timid around us. The young ones will come up, tug on our shirts and say, “Excuse me, who are you,” while the older ones will simply stare at us. When we got home on Monday afternoon, we got to feed the baby lambs our host family has!! They are super adorable, and it was fun to chase them around and feed them :)
Tuesday was an action-packed day that started with a squash lesson before school, which I did very well at! I lost because my serve is fairly awful, but my technique is great (told to me by a seasoned player). At school, I observed and participated in a storytelling workshop all day with 4th graders, and I learned about trows, which are [fictional :)] creatures native to Orkney that look like child-sized elderly folk. The kids were able to create their own stories and perform them to the class, we all had so much fun!! Tuesday afternoon, I helped unload and stack firewood, and used a push-mower for the first time in my life (yes, dad, I really did!!). After that, we went into town and heard traditional Scottish music from a local band, which was awesome! Bagpipes aren’t native to Orkney, so the instruments included accordions, guitars and violins/fiddles.
On Wednesday I went on a field trip to the Orkneyinga Saga Centre, which is a little museum that tells of the sagas from when Orkney was first settled, and that was very interesting.
Today I went on yet another field trip, with different students, to the island of Hoy, which is the most mountainous island of Orkney. Although what I saw was beautiful, we didn’t see the most beautiful part of the island because we went to the World War I and World War II cemetery and museum. It was loads of fun with all the kiddos, and also very educational and interesting. I learned a lot about Orkney and its significance in both World Wars [which I know mom will love :)].
Tonight is more of a hang-out and slow-down night, as both members of our host family are out and about tonight. One is in meetings until late and the other has choir rehearsal. Tomorrow I am going to be involved with Transition Sports Day, which will be really fun! It’s a day where all the students who are transitioning from Primary to Secondary school, from schools all around Orkney, are gathering and just having a fun day of different sports. It should be interesting, anyway! Tomorrow night, the six of us in Orkney might hit the town and have a taste of the nightlife in Kirkwall!
Hopefully I’ll be able to update you a bit sooner the next time around. :)