The End

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting over the past couple of days, thinking back over my time in Glasgow, trying to define it, to label it, to understand it. But there aren’t really words to express the enormity of what this semester has meant to me. I could write for hours and still walk away thinking I hadn’t expressed myself quite right. How do you quantify an entire semester?

  • 5 countries
  • 12 takeoffs and landings (and at least 3 to go)
  • 33.7 gigabytes of photographs and video
  • 110 days
  • 14,650 words

And then there’s the unquantifiable, unqualifiable. The hours spent walking, the light in the trees in Kelvingrove Park, the countless cups of tea consumed, the inability to decipher what the hell Scottish people are saying, the struggle to write essays, the banality of reading about the Scottish Enlightenment, the thrill of watching films for class, the sunrise on the Isle of Skye, looking out over Paris from Monmartre, walking in the street because the sidewalks are too icy, standing in front of Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom, eating caramel shortbreads at the Elephant House, that incessant Scottish rain…

And of course, the friends. Always the friends.

The time has come to say goodbye to this beautiful semester. Thank you, Scotland. I will miss you.

Until next time…

Megan

 

UK + Snow + Airplanes = Fail

London Heathrow is currently closed due to snow, so lots of flights have been canceled or delayed. I really hope the weather improves before Monday, because I don’t want to get stuck anywhere, even in Glasgow. It would be a pain to pack and get to the airport only to have to go back to my flat, try to get my key back, and unpack half my stuff… Let’s hope things clear up soon.

St. Andrews

Yesterday, Ariel and I went up to St. Andrews for the day. It is probably the most beautiful town I’ve ever seen. Here are a few of the many photos I took:

I’m going to dinner tonight with my flatmates, and then I’ve got to come back and cram for my cinema final tomorrow. I still haven’t really realized that my exam is tomorrow. With all of the traveling and things I’ve been doing over the past two weeks, I kind of got into vacation mode. I’ve been so focused on trying to do everything I didn’t get done earlier in the semester that I haven’t done too much studying. At the same time that I am thankful that my exam was scheduled on the last day (because it opened up time for me to travel), it’s also kind of annoying. It will be nice to get it over with tomorrow and not have to worry about it anymore. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a lot of studying done tonight! Wish me luck! Until next time…

Megan

“There’s a bird in Anth’s bed.”

I don’t have very much time to write this post about my trip to Barcelona, because I’ve got about a million things to do this week plus an exam on Friday. Instead of writing the usual recount of my travels, I’ll leave you with this short story.

Ariel and I arrived in Barcelona late Friday night. We checked into our hostel without a hitch and went up to our rooms to drop our bags and make our beds. I should mention here that I opted to book a coed, eight-person room while Ariel chose to live in luxury in an all-female, six-bed room. When I got up to my room and found my assigned bed, I saw that there were sheets on it. I wasn’t sure if someone was sleeping there or if they’d checked out and forgotten to remove their sheets. Not wanting to take someone else’s bed, I stripped the sheets from the bed I was assigned and put my sheets on it. I put my stuff in my locker and went to meet Ariel so we could get a late dinner of falafels. After dinner, exhausted, I climbed into bed and fell asleep. One would think the story would end there, but no. This is where it goes terribly, terribly wrong.

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I woke up to the dulcet tones of three inebriated Englishmen.

“There’s someone in my bed! There’s someone in my bed! Oi! You! Sleepyhead!”

“It’s a bird, I came in and she was sleeping there.”

“There’s a bird in my bed? There’s someone in my bed!”

Sleepy, disoriented, and unsure if they were talking about me or not, I tried to ignore them, but it didn’t work.

“Hey you, sleepyhead!” the voice says.

“Me?” I said, rolling over.

“Why are you in my bed?”

“This is the bed that was assigned to me,” I said.

“You thought you would just take the sheets off this bed and get in, when there is an empty bed over there?”

“This is the bed that was assigned to me,” I repeated. “I don’t know how I was supposed to know it was your bed. I didn’t take that one because I didn’t want to take someone else’s bed.”

“Anth, shut up,” said another voice. “Whose sheets are on this bed?” said the second voice, referring to my bed.

“Mine,” I said.

“What did you do with the sheets that were on it?” the second voice asked.

“I put them there,” I said, pointing to the ball of sheets I put on the floor near my bed.

“Anth, there they are. Just take your sheets and make that bed and go to bed,” said the second voice.

“I have to make my bed twice in one day? Twice in one day! I tell you, I was really looking forward to getting into bed. And I come back, and there’s someone in my bed!”

“Anth, shut up,” said a third voice. “Sorry lass. What’s your name?”

“Megan,” I said.

“Sorry Megan, he’s harmless. No need to be scared. He’s just drunk,” said the third voice who happened to be in the bunk above mine. “To tell you the truth, if I were you, I’d be a bit mad. I can’t believe they put a bird in the same room with all of us. One lass and seven lads!”

Eventually, Anth settled down and got into bed, but not before drunkenly removing two of his friends’ mattresses and putting them in the middle of the room and gifting me with a meercat keychain to keep me company. As if that weren’t enough, he then put on his iPod which I could hear all the way across the room, despite the fact that he had headphones on. The other four guys came in sometime later and made a bit of noise trying to figure out what the deal was with their beds. After what felt like a couple of hours of them loudly discussing their night and laughing at the fact that I stole Anth’s bed, I checked my phone and it was 5:10 am. I fell asleep soon after that, but needless to say it was an interesting night.

At no point during that night was I actually worried for my safety. They really did seem like harmless guys, and a couple of them apologized to me more than once. And honestly, it was pretty funny. But still, I would have liked to have slept a little more. The next two nights, they were much quieter. I did wake up when they came in, but only for a few moments before drifting back to sleep.

Despite that rocky first night, the rest of the trip was a lot of fun. I’m so glad I got to go! Highlights included:

  • the Sagrada Familia: far and away the coolest church, nay the coolest building I have ever seen
  • Park Güell: the park with the wavy ceramic tiled benches
  • the Picasso Museum
  • the Joan Miro Museum
  • Montjuïc and the gorgeous park near the Miro Museum
  • the Mediterranean!
  • Las Ramblas: a big street with living statues, restaurants, and stalls selling everything from baby ducks to flowers to souvenirs
  • the flamenco performance
  • churros, tapas, paella, gelato
  • the gorgeous weather: it stayed around 60 F the entire time

Perhaps if I have time later this week, I can write a more detailed post about Barcelona, but I’m not promising anything. Overall, it was a great trip. Barcelona is a beautiful city, I would love to live there for a year or two. Erin, if you’re reading this, I’m jealous you get to spend all of next semester in Spain. If Madrid is anything like Barcelona, you are going to love it. Really. Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ve got to go study for my exam. I won’t have that much time tomorrow, because I am going to St. Andrews! Check out some of the photographs from my trip below. Until next time…

Window Seat

[Hint: See the little button that says 360 in the lower right-hand corner? Click it and then choose 720 to watch the clip in HD. Trust me, it’s better.]

The Amsterdam Post

As you may or may not know, I just got back to Glasgow from a short trip to Amsterdam. I went with four other girls who are studying abroad at Glasgow (three Americans, one Canadian). We left Sunday and got back Wednesday. Taking into account travel time, we had two half days and two full days in Amsterdam. Initially, I wasn’t going to go to Amsterdam at all, but I changed my mind at the last minute and bought a ticket. It was kind of a rash (and expensive) decision on my part, but it turned out well. I’m glad I went, for a variety of reasons which I will hopefully touch on throughout this post.

I’ll start from the beginning. We left Sunday morning around 10:00 to get to the airport for our 12:45 flight. Europe, in particular Scotland, has been experiencing some crazy winter weather lately, so we left praying that our flight would not be delayed as many other flights have been. Luckily, we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare and our flight left right on time. It was a pleasant flight made pleasanter due to the fact that we flew with KLM, not RyanAir.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that I’ve flown with RyanAir on all of my trips this semester. I appreciate RyanAir very much and would recommend it to anyone who wishes to explore Europe on a budget. It flies to places I want to go, it’s relatively dependable, and most importantly its fares are dirt cheap. But there are some annoying elements to flying with RyanAir, such as the baggage restrictions and the fact that they try to sell you everything under the sun during the flight (lottery tickets, cigarettes, etc.). So you can see why I enjoyed flying with a ‘real’ airline to Amsterdam. They even gave us sandwiches, delicious!

Anyway, the flight was a nice way to start out the trip. We made it to Amsterdam and grabbed a taxi to the hostel. Our hostel was in a great location, close to the museums and not too far from city center. We checked in and after dropping off our bags in our room, we set off to explore and find some dinner. (Sidenote: I wish I had taken a picture of the hostel, because it was pretty cool. Our room was located on the top floor of the hostel. To get to it, we had to walk up four very narrow and steep staircases. Also, our room had slanted ceilings with wooden beams which for some reason reminded me of my first bedroom/closet at home. I really enjoyed staying there.)

Anyway, one of the first things we saw when we went out to wander was a Winter Wonderland. Though we didn’t know it at the time, there were several Winter Wonderlands set up in squares across the city. They usually had an ice skating rink, several pastry and food vendors, and Christmas decorations. I read somewhere that the Dutch exchange gifts on St. Nicholas Day (which was Sunday, the day we flew in), so maybe that explains all the Winter Wonderlands. Anyway, we found some relatively cheap dinner, wandered around some more, and called it a night.

The next day, we woke up early and headed over to the Van Gogh Museum. Wow. I never realized just how cool Van Gogh’s work is. I knew about Sunflowers and The Starry Night and the whole ear fiasco, but I’d never given his work much thought. One of the most interesting things I learned at the Van Gogh Museum was that Van Gogh just up and decided to be an artist. He decided that was what he wanted to do, and without knowing if he would be any good at it, he dedicated himself to his art. Overall, the museum was very interesting and well-organized. It was just the right size, too. I felt like I was able to see all of the paintings, read most of the descriptions, and leave without feeling like I was going to fall over (as is often the case with larger museums).

The Van Gogh Museum made me realize that one of my favorite parts of this whole study abroad experience has been the opportunity to visit art museums. I’m really grateful to have been able to see so many interesting pieces of art this semester. With every museum I visit, I find myself wanting more and more to create things: writing, drawing, film, etc. Simply put, it’s refreshing and inspiring to be able to see such magnificent art. It makes me want to be a smarter, better, more dedicated artist myself.

After the Van Gogh Museum, we wandered our way down to city center. I must say, Amsterdam is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s a beautiful city filled with canals, houses crammed in rows, brick streets, and millions of bicycles. Walking around is a little scary because things aren’t marked very clearly. You’re never sure if you are walking in a street or a bike lane or on the sidewalk, so you’ve got to keep a sharp eye out or you’ll get hit. And you’ve got to watch out for the trams, too.

Anyway, after browsing several souvenir shops, wandering around an outdoor plant market, and generally soaking up the Amsterdam ambiance, we were pretty hungry. So we found a little restaurant and ordered a very Dutch lunch: pancakes! Pancakes and waffles are everywhere. I had an apple pancake, which was delicious but so big I couldn’t finish it. The other options for pancakes included banana, pineapple, chocolate, ham and cheese, rum, and more.

After lunch, we found our way to the Anne Frank House. Though I’ve never actually read her diary, I know the general story. It was a pretty powerful experience to see the actual rooms where she hid from the Nazis, especially knowing how things ended for her. Throughout the house (which is also a museum), there are displays about Anne and her family. Reading some of the excerpts from her diary and seeing some actual pages from rewrites she did really made me want to read her diary. I resisted buying a copy in the giftshop, since I’m pretty sure we’ve got a copy at home (if not two or three, knowing the Carroll library).

One of the things that stuck with me about my visit to the Anne Frank House was Otto Frank’s (her father) desire to make the house not only a monument to remember the horror of the Holocaust but also a reminder that the fight against racism and prejudice is not finished. It is still something we must fight against. One point that came up in my discussion with my friends after leaving the house was the unbelievable fact that the Holocaust even happened. How could the rest of the world let such a terrible thing go on for so long, we wondered. That, in turn, made me think about modern atrocities we so often turn a blind eye to: the war in the Congo, child soldiers in Burma, the invisible children of Uganda, etc. How many Anne Franks live in the world today? What will be the Anne Frank House of the future? Maybe it’s a depressing thought, but it makes Otto Frank’s vision all the more relevant.

Moving on from that heavy subject… After the Anne Frank House, we found a grocery store and bought some supplies for dinner. We went back to the hostel, where we used the incredibly-slow-heating hot plate to make a delicious meal of spaghetti. Pasta: the food of the poor traveler. We spent most of the rest of the night hanging out in the hostel, playing cards and watching bad American television. We did pop over to the Winter Wonderland to pick up some Dutch donuts (exactly like beignets) for dessert. Delicious!

On Tuesday, we got up, had breakfast, and headed over to the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum is a large museum dedicated to Dutch art. It’s housed in a pretty impressive building, but unfortunately most of it is currently under construction. There was still a lot to see, however, so we spent a couple of hours wandering through the rooms soaking up the art. Lots of Rembrandt, a few Vermeers, things of that nature. The level of detail in some of the still lifes was astonishing, and it was neat to see Rembrandt and Vermeer’s techniques with light up close.

After the Rijksmuseum, we headed back to the hostel for a spaghetti lunch and then went to a flea market. It was nice to see more of Amsterdam, but the flea market wasn’t really anything special. Just the usual mix of knick knacks and knockoffs. Plus, it was freezing. We wandered around a bit and then ducked into a coffeeshop to warm up. We ordered hot chocolate, which came as a mug of hot milk with a side of chocolate chips to mix in. It was delicious.

We spent the rest of our trip just sort of wandering around Amsterdam, taking in the sights. Even though it was cold, and I sometimes couldn’t feel my toes, I really enjoyed the trip. It was great to experience a city so different from the American and British cities I know so well. It was also great to travel with my new friends Jess, Maija, Ellie, and Silvana. I enjoyed the laid back nature of the trip, but I was also happy that we got to do as much as we did in the little time we had in Amsterdam. All in all, it was a great experience. I can’t wait to go back sometime when it’s warmer!

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you right now. Tomorrow afternoon I leave for Barcelona. Hopefully, I’ll be able to write a post about that trip sometime next week in between all my studying and last-minute exploring. Thanks for reading! Until next time…

Megan

P.S.- Random sidenote: we spent quite a bit of time in the hostel common room (hanging out, eating meals, etc.) and every time we were there, there was this one group of guys glued to their computers. Seriously, they did not move for the three and a half days we were there. Why would you go to a foreign country just to sit on your computer and play World of Warcraft? Why? People like that make me lose faith in the human race.

What I Miss

So I should be writing my final Scottish literature essay right now, but I’m not. I woke up early this morning and wrote over 1000 words in less than two hours, so I figure I’m due for a little break. And yes, it is a little ironic that I’m taking a break from writing by writing. I like writing, just not always writing about the Scottish literary renaissance. Don’t worry though (not that I expect you to), I’m going to spend the rest of today and tomorrow finishing up the essay, because on Sunday I leave for Amsterdam! I’ll be there from Sunday until Wednesday at which point I will get back to Glasgow, hurriedly polish up my essays, turn them in, and then fly off to Barcelona next Friday! Then I’ll be back in Scotland, having fun and doing Christmas-ey things until my exam on the 17th. Then home on the 20th. What a life.

Anyway, the title of this post is something I don’t think I’ve written about on this blog yet. Those of you who know me might be surprised to learn that I have not been homesick at all during this semester. Sure, there are certain things that I miss, but I have not yet felt genuinely homesick. It’s strange how fast I got used to Glasgow; it feels like I’ve been here much longer than three months. So it’s with a certain sense of sadness that I approach the last two weeks of the semester. I’m ready to go home for Christmas, and yet I don’t really want to leave. Given the giant disaster that was the last time I spent an extended amount of time away from home (a disaster that also goes by the name of Santa Clara), I’d say this is a massive improvement.

So that being said, for no particular reason other than I feel like writing it, here’s a list of things I miss from home (aside from friends and family):

  • my piano
  • Chipotle/Taco Bell/Mexican food (both authentic and not)
  • my coffeemaker
  • Ted and Wally’s (the people and the ice cream)
  • shoveled sidewalks and snowboots
  • my car
  • Netflix
  • food that is not sandwiches, frozen dinners, or frozen pizza

So there, you have it. I’ve really been missing my piano the most. I haven’t found one here, so I think this is the longest I’ve ever gone without playing. Anyway, I’d better stop writing and get ready to go to class. My last class of the semester and my last class at the University of Glasgow! Until next time…

Megan