Friday, 26 February 2010

Different than Some…

At lunch today, one of my friends said his grandmother forbade him to date Americans. Although I said nothing because it would be something very odd I feel to respond to, I felt compelled to write this afterward. I obviously don't know how all people feel but I feel compelled to say that I am glad I am somewhat open minded to every culture. I absolutely can not stand when people make assumptions on someone else due to where they were born. Sure, most people in that area may act in a certain way, but that doesn't mean all of them are the same. I don't think it's fair to judge someone on something they are unable to control, such as where they were born, but people do it all the time. I know it's a natural tendency and I try not to do it. To be honest, I may do it from time-to-time but I am certainly not inclined to. To be even more honest, I would definitely date a Scottish guy or a guy from any nationality really, as long as he fit my criteria as datable (amazing personality, good looks). It always makes me sad when people are this close minded. I'm guessing that's why I was compelled to write this today.
On the bright side of today, I woke up while my tutorial was starting and made it to the next one and it was fine with the tutor! YAY! AND I saw a blue VW Jetta, in the same late 90's model as mine as I was walking back to New Hall for lunch! These things, despite my sickness and the awful rain and wind that soaked my pants ("trousers") this morning, brightened my day… maybe the medicine also has something to do with it… maybe, also, the fact that I'm going to the DRA Ball tonight with my awesome new friend, Stuart… maybe because I'm having the time of my life in Scotland!!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Culture Lesson #1

I have noticed that it is really hard to write a blog everyday. I have not been able to keep up with it. Not because I can't, but well because I'm worried about not keeping up with class for the sake of my blog. :P I've decided to start some topic blogs as well so that I can keep writing without feeling like I must recount a WHOLE DAY!

Today's topic is differences. It is a quite odd concept to go to a country where everyone speaks your language but the culture there is different. I think I'm going to do this in list format.

• TRAFFIC: Quite obviously, a big difference between the British and Americans is which side of the road they drive on. But there is much more to it than just the SIDE they drive on…
○ LOOK RIGHT FIRST BEFORE CROSSING!!!: well, it seems self-explanatory, but in America everyone looks left first because that's where the closest cars are coming from. It's a confusing concept too because you're thinking…"oh….they drive on the left…so, left?" but it's really right.
○ WATCH OUT!!! (no J-walking): there seems to be no such thing as "pedestrians have the right away" here. I'm used to that being the #1 rule to driving so it's no wonder that I'm surprised when I run out in the street and cars don't slow down. (DON'T WORRY MOMMY! I made sure they were far enough away first!!!! And I haven't been hit, and I know better now, so PLEASE DON'T WORRY!!!)
○ USE THE CROSS-WALKS!!!: there are two types of cross-walks: ones with traffic lights where you have to push a button for the light to turn red (the light doesn't stay red very long though so if you're not right up on the street when the light turns red, you're probably going to have to wait for it to turn green and then red again) and then there are the cross-walks with big poles beside them that have yellow blinking lights at the top. These are the best because it seems cars have to stop at these whenever a pedestrian is crossing.
○ Round-abouts: these are used at intersections instead of traffic lights. A little more convenient for the drivers (not having to wait for the light) but less convenient for pedestrians (having to go find a cross-walk nearby, that's usually a traffic light one)
• FOOD: oh, the dinning hall…
○ We're all starving: Upon entering the dinning hall for the first time, I was excited to see that it looked somewhat similar to Gee's set-up (kitchen inside, with lots to choose from) as for some reason I was expecting them to give us a general plate of food that everyone got. However, as I went off naming the things I wanted, I was yelled at, "You can only choose ONE entrée!" (I was quite upset…I am used to an all-you-can-eat buffet in Gee dining hall). Another reason why this is upsetting is when there are long lines and I cannot see all there is to offer, I'll often see a more desirable food after I have already settled for something I was unsure of. However, I am not able to get this more desirable food and it really does upset me. Surprisingly enough though, they seem quite generous with breakfast as I can get an entrée, a cereal, a fruit, toast, AND coffee!! During lunch and dinner, however, we can only get an entrée, fruit and a side (either appetizer or desert) so if you're really hungry you're screwed! At least the entrée comes with salad…
○ Shortage of Ketchup: I have also had a hard time with ketchup! Whenever I get "chips" (fries), they only give me two packets of ketchup. However, that is sadly not enough to cover all of my "chips." :'( I tried going back to get just one more and got YELLED at and then they called seconds (yes, they call seconds and you can go get something else if there's anything appetizing left, but I don't know how exactly it works so I haven't done it yet and whenever I want to it seems I come too early and must wait 45minutes before seconds, so I just leave) and I tried to get more ketchup again and got yelled at again. :'( I guess I'm too American.
○ Pitchers: When going out to dinner, everyone will get a glass and a pitcher of water to share. I was worried about my "endless cup" going away, but this works. :)
• Academia: here's what I want you to find….now go off and find it!!!
○ Print your own syllabi!: "Hello class, welcome! I assume all of you have been on Web CT and printed off the syllabus, yes?" (Web CT????!) "It has a list of readings on it. You have to do all of the ones on Section A, but the Section B readings are optional." (Readings??? Wait…what textbook do I need to buy??? I'm confused!!!!) This is how my first lecture began. The lecture's words in quotes and my thoughts in parenthesis. She went on to confuse me more by talking about some other professor coming to talk to us in week 3 and in the tutorials. The only thing I understood correctly is that I was not going to be GIVEN a syllabus, I had to go print it myself. It was the same in my psychology class, but in my other philosophy class, I was lucky to have a professor who handed them out. I did find out what Web CT is (had to do a search) and I logged on and all my syllabi were on there and a few of the readings as well.
○ There's no such thing as a "textbook": Upon reading my syllabi, nothing made since to me. Every reading is a different article…so what textbooks did I need? I didn't find this out until my first Philosophy of Mind course when the professor was talking about 3 different textbooks we could buy. I raised my hand and said, "So…do we have to buy them all or just one of them…?" He responded, "Oh…well, yes…uh…I believe textbooks mean something different in America…textbooks are books to give you just a background information on the topic." I was still a little confused, but basically I only needed one and I really don't need it very often either. :/ There is also a collection I needed as well. So far, it's more of the "textbook" of the course I guess you could say. I'm glad it's useful.

There is, of course, the different things they will say, but I will go into that another day...

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Day 3: (2/5/10) Matriculation and Ceilidh

After finding a more suitable alarm the night before, I woke up to Sugar Glyder's Bcde! :D A song that plays soft serene music then says, "It's time to wake up! It's time…" and then plays alarm noises. A very nice way to wake up! :) Maybe I should do something about it repeating though… :/ I really don't want to get sick of it. I showered and went to breakfast. They had a potato and beans. Other than that, I got the same things I had the day before.
My advising meeting was at 10:45 in the library. While I was walking over there, I was thinking about how happy I am to be here and how much I love this place! When I got there, there were a few people at the psychology table but the philosophy table was PACKED! So, I saw the psychology advisor first and got put in Developmental Psychology and Assessment in Clinical Psychology. Turns out, they are at the same time because Developmental is for the first half of the semester and Clinical is for the second half. I was advised not to take Philosophy of Mind because it is a really high-level philosophy course, but it is not offered at Converse, so why not take it while I can? I'll see if I can handle it… I am also taking Rationality and Action. Funny enough…none of these courses start until Tuesday…so I don't have to do anything on Monday, but find out where they are and what books I need for them.
After advising, I went to Younger Hall where I showed them my passport, paid my tuition fees, got my ID and turned in my health care form.
After all of that was over, I went back to New Hall for lunch and dinner and chilled for a while.
Victoria, Ruth (Victoria's acquaintance from her home school), Michael name that texted Victoria at 3am the night before, and me walked over to the student union for the Ceilidh festival. This was a festival of Scottish food and dancing.
When we arrived things had not started yet. Wendy encouraged us to get a drink. :P I thought it was pretty funny. The haggis was actually pretty good, despite some hard to chew parts.
I was hesitant to dance at first but I did do the group dances. After a while of wondering around and such I asked this guy that was randomly standing by us to dance. Afterward he stuttered and I felt bad because my intentions were not to make him feel uncomfortable but I feared I must have been the only girl to do this…or I'm just really hot…or he just stutters frequently. I do not know. However, Victoria went on to dance with him and I danced with Sahd. I met a few people that night, including this one guy I got into a really deep conversation with that just left with his brother.

Day 2: (2/4/10) Meeting and Drinking

Not wanting to miss out on any more events, I planned ahead for day 2. I woke up at 8am, showered and ate breakfast (eggs, a flatbread apple tart thing, Rice Krispies with "semi-skimmed milk" aka 2%, a piece of bread and another café mocha) with some really nice Asians. I can't remember the girl's name, but the guy's name was Chi. I decided to sit with him after he greeted me while I was getting my food. The cafeteria ladies were nicer and helpful because they realized I was new. So for breakfast I can get a main course AND cereal or porridge (I don't think I'm brave enough to try that), a fruit (or bread) and a drink.
At around 9:30, I headed out to the Introductory Talk. I figured out the day before, it takes me about 30 minutes to walk into town. It was cool because I followed a group of people that were apparently going to the same place. Upon walking in, I looked around thinking about where I should sit. When I looked to the left, I spotted a girl sitting all alone. I thought to myself, "Well, I should definitely make some gal pals" and sat down beside her. Turns out her name is Victoria, she's an English major from NC, an hour outside Charlotte, and goes to school in Kentucky (I believe). She was really nice (and knows who Sugar Glyder is!!!!) we expressed our desires to travel, learned that we live on the same floor and decided to stick together. We both agree that British accents are AMAZING! :D The session itself was quite useful since I learned about the St Andrews travel agency place where I can get student discounts on traveling, saw who Wendy (the SSS-Student Support Services lady) is and signed up for a tour (Victoria's going too!) to Lochness near the end of the month.
Victoria and I shopped around for a while. I found some cheap brown shoes (they were on sale at a consignment shop for £4.99--about $10) and some postcards for 40p (pence, they're cents). Both of us were looking for a phone and almost found one (they apparently ran out of that cheap model). We also found Tesco and that's when I realized the place I had gone last night (although right across the street and convenient as well was probably not where I was directed last night). There I bought heavy duty tape (for my plug so it will stay on my adapter, it does not fit tight enough, but it is fixed now due to the tape), laundry detergent and Special K bars.
I decided I was not going to pay more than £9 (pounds, about $18) for a phone, since I would have to pay an extra £10 (about $20) to "top up" (put minutes on it, for pay-as-you-go), so I still haven't gotten one yet. Everyone keeps asking me for my number, so I hope I can get a phone soon. I looked online and apparently they only ship to your billing address…and only in the UK and that's not applicable to me. :(
During this time alone, I went and took a library tour and found out that although it was on my map, the town library was not the University Library… my bad :P This helpful guy who's wife apparently studies here as a post-grad showed me to the right place.
On the tour, I met Sahd from Pakistan who has been studying in New York and a girl who's name I can't remember. Sahd was delighted to hear about Zareen. The three of us went to the session about "studying and living in the UK" at 2pm. Upon leaving the session, I met up with Victoria again and we went to get our tickets for the Lochness trip.
We proceeded to the wine reception where professors were available to meet and I had my first LEGAL alcoholic drink (red wine). I met some philosophy professors and a few other people studying abroad. Wendy talked to us again and some important figures gave some interesting speeches about the university. At the end we bought our tickets to the Ceilidh festival happening the following evening.
After that, I walked back to New Hall to put my stuff down and get dinner. However, on my way back I made plans with people who happened to live in new hall with me (Carter and Amelia…I believe) to go out to a pizza place.
When I met up with the others, we all went to the Pizza Express where there were many more people that we met up with there. The wait was apparently going to be long so we walked around trying to find places that would take us in until we finally found an Italian restaurant called Bella Italia. It's so odd to see how restaurants here advertise for valentine's day. I ended up ordering a pizza, since that's what I had been expecting to begin with… It was pretty good. I sat across from a girl from Germany (who’s name I could not spell for the life of me) and met a girl named Rebecca (from some other country…I forgot now and do not want to be wrong). They were all pretty awesome.

After that, we walked back to New Hall and I went to sleep for the next day's matriculation.

Day 1: (2/3/10) Arriving in Bonnie Scotland (the LONGEST day EVER!)

Saying goodbye was harder than I expected. It sounds so easy and fun to leave everything and everyone you know to start over completely fresh in a new country for 4 months. However, when you realize that you won't see someone you love again for 4 months…you won't be able to hug/kiss them or spend time with them, it is definitely hard and this is something that only hit me hard at parting. Once you start through that security gate, there's no turning back.
Packing took most of my day as well since I had gone to the Owl City concert the night before, I was quite tired and unwilling to get up early as I had planned, but it all worked out in the end. :)
My first flight left Charleston "International" Airport at 4:10pm on Tuesday, February 2nd. In a slightly larger, but still small plane that appeared as if it were straight out of the 70s, I was flown from Charleston to Newark, NJ (which I had never herd of before my mother booked this flight). It was a 2 hour flight on which I read my tour book and took a few pictures of the clouds. It was also the first time I saw the place I was landing (other than Charleston) before landing there.
Upon arriving to Newark, I had to take a bus from Gate A where the plane let us off to Gate C where I was taking my international flight.
Once I got to Gate C, I waited for about an hour 1/2. During this time, I made final phone calls to Sonja (my BFF) and my parents. As soon as I got on the plane and was told to turn off my phone I knew that was it…my phone would not be available to use for 4 months.
My seat was next to the window and sitting not right next to me but on the aisle was a guy coming over to Edinburgh for business for a few days. Between us was an empty seat! :) As the plane took off, I thought to myself, "Goodbye America!!! See ya (in 4 months)!" I first watched The Phantom of the Opera for the very first time while eating pasta with meatballs…plane food… I then tried to sleep while listening to music (to drown out the sound of the engine) but it was unsuccessful, I was too excited. There was nothing to see outside the window until we were over Ireland and Scotland. I did see some lights then. It was also quite odd to see the cars traveling on the left (instead of the right) side of the road.
When the plane landed (at 7:30ish am on Wednesday, February 3rd, British time) and I walked to the passport line (or queue, as they say here), I was awed by all these different advertisements…it's fascinating to see a foreign advertisement, but it's even more interesting when you can read and understand the language (or maybe it just seems that way because I am not used to it).
In the "queue" there were quite a few American students coming to study at St Andrews, like myself. I became excited when I overheard them discussing this, but since I was far back in the line, I did not get much of a chance to say anything.
The lady that stamped my visa was very nice. She was all like, "You know…you are very smart for getting a visa. Because you have a Tier 4 you can work and you're permitted to stay until September! So if you like it here, you can get a job and stay over the summer!" I smiled. I know she may be saying that for benefit of their economy or something like that, but it's also really nice to feel that welcomed.
It did not take me long to find my luggage. It was on it's way back into the unknown on the conveyer belt when I spotted it. I had to run to pick it up! It was difficult at first to roll both bags (I have 2 suitcases with me) but it's really a space-permitting sort of thing, and the luggage area was quite crowded still. After leaving the luggage area, I caught up with some of the other American St Andrews students, and we immediately found the St Andrews Direct lady (the service that takes students of St Andrews to and from Edinburgh Airport). She told me to wait near other students. I had only been waiting for like 5 minutes or so when she told us to follow her to the bus. We followed her. The bus was narrow-looking but tall. There was a small trailer attached where we put our luggage. The trip was supposed to take an hour but there was traffic. I got to see the mountains and countryside though. The former part of the trip, snow was apparent. It soon turned to just ice and then just grass. I saw many things and many confusing roads. I am not sure I would WANT to drive here even if I could. The other students weren't very talkative. They put on their mp3 players within a few minutes of riding. I was a little disappointed. I really wanted to get to know people and make friends.
The first stop was New Hall, where I live. It has automatic sliding doors and a reception desk, just like a hotel. Upon checking in, I got my key, my meal car and a whole packet of information on living here. My room number is 2068. I took the "lift" up, due to my large amount of luggage and found my room without much problem. New Hall is like a hotel only each hallway ends in a "fire door" to another hallway and has a shared kitchen. I haven't been in the kitchen yet and do not really need to since I am a catered student. However, we are not fed on Saturday and Sunday nights. I'm thinking I'd like to go out and eat then but we'll just have to see how that all works out. I am on a budget after all…at least until I (maybe) get a job.
My room was just around the corner and not too hard to find. I walked in to find it tinier than my expectations, but rather nice considering it still is a dorm. I have a bedside lamp, a desk lamp, a queen sized bed, my VERY OWN bathroom and a closet with hangers as well as tack boards, nightstands, a bookshelf above my desk and a TV. I do not have the bath I was hoping for but I do have a shower. It's very odd. The floor for the shower is nearly on the same level as the bathroom floor but about a centimeter shorter. There is no barrier. It is easy to flood. The drain for the shower drains, but very slowly. Either it's broken or on purpose to try to control water consumption (and also freeze me to death!) I'm thinking I might buy a cheep used towel (yes, you can buy used towels here apparently), to use for the floor by the shower to help it not overflow so bad. Maybe this is a good thing... I'm learning to take shorter showers.
I spent a while in my room. I was jet lagged badly. While it was 9:30 here, at home it was only 3:30am!!! I put my phone on standalone mode, set the alarm and took a nap. Although the alarm did not wake me up, I woke up around 3:10, which was pretty reasonable considering. I checked my computer and tried to make it to the 4:00 walking tour. Unfortunately, I went the wrong way initially and did not make it on time. I went around asking about tours and ended up going far out of my way before I went back to the Student's Union (where the tours were, and where I had started this journey initially) I did, however, get my bearings (and note that I loved the nice pub in the union because they were playing Owl City!). After clearing up that I had not missed much and I was capable of finding my way around with the map anyway, I set out to find this grocery store called "Tesco" the lady directed me too. I ended up going to a smaller grocery store called "Nisa Today's", which is ironically right across from Tesco. After purchasing paper towels, hand soup, tissues and a "5 Litre" (big jug) of water (that's so big it has it's own handle), I headed back to my room, cleaned and set up the bathroom (the cleaning was quite ghetto actually, I used the paper towels and hand soup), then went to dinner. I was starving on account of the fact that I had missed lunch and had not eaten since the light breakfast on the airplane (that consisted of a warm croissant and fruit). For dinner I choose a vegetarian (vegetable) taco salad, rice and salad. I tried to get pasta as well but apparently I can only get one "entrée" (this is soooooo much different from the all-you-can-eat buffet in Gee Dining Hall at Converse that I'm used to.) I also got a café mocha at this nice coffee machine that they have. I did find out that you can get water and toast at any time during meals by getting up. The salt, pepper and napkins are on a table with the silverware, (which is not what I'm used to either, so I keep forgetting them). I sat down at the first place I saw, next to these Scottish guys that are sophomores (or "second years"). One of them was quite talkative, he said he flies planes and does other things for the military, it was quite impressive. They had an American friend who sat down and the talkative Scot was making fun of Americans "to annoy him." Still, they were really friendly people, and didn't seem offended by me.
That was pretty much all I did that day, after dinner, I went back to my room, the talkative Scot wished me luck and happiness settling in and I relaxed and went to sleep.