Wednesday, 17 February 2010

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.

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