My first week in Stirling, Scotland

After the long travel here, I woke up three hours later than I hoped. The night before was too rainy and dark to be able to see what was outside my hotel window. But, that morning the sun was shining and was so beautiful as my first site of what Scotland is and not a sleep deprived zombie. That moment I felt I was where I belonged. I shared a taxi to the Uni with another student who stayed at the hotel and would be studying abroad for the semester too. She was from the Philippians and gave me advice that I would soon wish I didn’t take. I thought I would go to the building I would be staying the whole semester but she, very kindly, said that I should go to the main building to get my key, as she had to for the building she is staying (which is a much older building that didn’t have a main office in the lobby) So, I went with my huge suite case and bags up the stairs to the main atrium of the student center, finding out I indeed should have just gone to my building. So, I made my way across the very large, compared to St. Norbert, campus up the hill that my building was resting on. But new student helpers saw me and took my bags for me and helped me settle in (which if you girls read this at all, THANK YOU!). I then was introduced to my room that I will soon make home for the semester and was completely happy and excited.
A little while later two other girls from St. Norbert, Charlotte and Kelsey, settled in. We met two other girls living in the flat and all went into the town on a bus for lunch and to get a few supplies for the flat. The town is a perfect example of a small town filled with centuries of history. The town is full of shops, cafes, pubs, and other attractions, but all settled in buildings from the 1700 and 1800’s. We had lunch in a little café that had an ice cream shop attached to it. We learned all about each other and I enjoyed some fish and chips as my first meal in Scotland. There is a mall right in the center of town called The Thistles where we were able to get some groceries and bathroom supplies. We then made our way back to the beautiful campus and spent the rest of the night getting settled in and decorating my room with the photos I printed out before I left.

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The next day, Sunday, we had an orientation for new students and studying abroad students. During it I saw the girl from Germany I met on the Shuttle to Stirling. I also ended up winning a paid trip around Scotland for a weekend that all study abroad students put a ballot in for and two were chosen! It was a tremendous start to the adventure of Scotland! After Charlotte, and flat mate named Jess, and I received our IDs, we ventured back into town to get some more things at the store and decided to go to a pub called Molly Malloy’s for dinner. There we ordered very Scottish dished, such as shepherd’s pie, Haggis, and steak pie. We also all got beer on tap, although I was only able to take a couple sips of it (not the best taste to me). Practice, practice!

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My first Monday there was no class, only settling in still and choosing what seminars I would like to take outside of the lectures (lectures are the 150+ people classes we just listen, seminars are small groups of 15 students the class gives which work is done, one on one time with the tutor is given, and attendance is mandatory). At night my flat mates and I decided to out to the town at night and see what attractions there were for the night life and ended up sitting and talking for hours at Molly Malloy’s talking about life and each other. A very comfortable and enjoyable night with new friends. The next couple days were stayed on campus and mostly doing work and relaxing in my flat.
Wednesday I decided on a whim to head to Edinburgh to visit a friend, Maggie, from St. Norbert who was visiting the town for a few days before heading to school in London for the semester. I was able to take the train by myself without any issues (yes, trains here are very much nicer than back in the States). When I got into the town, I was able to find my friend right away and we made our way to T.K Max (off brand of T.J Max here) so that she could get a coat since here bag was lost while flying into Scotland. We got coffee and talked about how everything was going and then ventured to Royal Mile (part of old town that had all the main shops and attractions). There we were able to meet and hold a beautiful owl named Hazel. We then were able to go on a walking tour around the town that was for 18+ aged people (mostly because of the swearing, but a few very racy stories). It was very funny though and actually very informational. The tour guide was very nice and was very easy to know he loved his job.

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After, we got dinner at a café that I sadly forget the name of. We then went into a pub called the Filling Station and talked more about life until I made my way back to the train station that started a new adventure. Apparently there was an issue with the train I was going to take, so I had to take a bus about two hours out to another train station, where I made my way back to Stirling, and then took a taxi back to my accommodation building.
Thursday, September 15th was my 21st birthday. I had a nice day keeping busy with classes and watching a movie in between them. After my last class my friend I visited the day before came to spend my birthday with me. My flat mates and I all went out into town and went to a restaurant called City Walls which was very, very nice! We had very interesting talks and I had my first drink at age 21 by having Kopparberg wild berry cider (Hoping I can find this brand when I come back home in winter!). We then went to Molly Malloy’s again and listened to someone sing there for the night. We decided it was too loud to be able to talk so decided to go to the pub on campus, so got Indian food we get every time we leave Molly’s and called the taxi we have managed to get the same driver for every time. When we got back to the flat we found out the bar was only open for freshman that night, so decided to have the night end there. It was a very nice Birthday being able to spend it as a relaxed night with new friends. I then was able to video chat the rest of the night with my boyfriend, Johnny, which completed the day.

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The rest of the weekend flat mates and I decided to be tourists and explore the town of Stirling, where we visited Stirling Castle, walked the streets of old town, and enjoy and take in the stunning sights of the mountains and miles of farm lands of the city. We managed to have great weather every day and were able to make every minute count. We tried new restaurants such as Papa Joe’s and No. 2 Baker Street, which had the most excellent food! All in all, this was a very special and wonderful first week in Scotland. I cannot wait to see what else will be in store this semester.

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Weekend with Unicorn Tours

This weekend was an emotional roller-coaster of feelings. In all, it was amazing and terrific to be in and see the places we were, but at the same time it was awful from the bus and tour we were stuck on to get to those places. Char and I decided to go on Unicorn Tours in the spur of the moment and were so excited! Our first clue of maybe it wasn’t such a great idea was from not being able to find any reviews of this tour company at all online. We felt a little awkward about going, but when I met some new people in the chaplaincy, they said if the college let them have a booth in the atrium then it should be safe. So, we decided to stick with the tour. The other clue it wasn’t the best idea was Mike, the tour guide, sending us hundreds of emails about the trip and asking over and over to try and find more people to go on the tour with us (Something we would soon find out from another tour we went on that a tour company with only 8 seats on a bus isn’t allowed to let individual people join a tour – it must be one full tour of people who know each other and book all at the same time…we didn’t know that at the time).

So, Friday came and we found it was us two and another girl who we will call Laura. She was such a sweetie. That was all of us. Us three girls and Mike the tour guide. Right when we got in the bus he directed us each where to sit, instead of us letting ourselves decide that. I should also say, our tour guide was a man with a thick German accent who still decided to wear a kilt and give tours around the country. Other tour guides, we found, didn’t like this because they said it was misleading for customers for wearing a kilt and giving tours of the highlands that others who lived their entire lives there were trying to have their own businesses of giving tours of their homelands. But it didn’t bother us that much. We started out trip with great Celtic music on and a beautiful sunny day with breathtaking scenery. This was my first time on this trip experiencing the stunning scenery and really taking it all in. I was so happy in that moment. We would stop on the side of the roads to take pictures now and then.

When we were almost at the House of Braur, the tour guide did something I am still astonished about to this day. He actually stopped to pick up hitchhikers!! I was fixed that these were hit men (it was a guy and a girl) that he hired to ‘whack’ us. Ha, so I moved up to sit by Char and any small movement they made I would whip my head back to look at them. Ha, it’s funny now to look back on. They turned out to be very nice and were a young couple from Germany backpacking around Scotland for vacation, but I do not think a tour guide should have picked up hitchhikers and then try to get them to join the tour for the weekend. Ha…can’t believe he did that… So, we made a pit stop at the House of Braur. We then made our way to Clava cairns (“Craig na dun”) Standing stones. This is where the idea for Outlander was made and where the standing stones in the book were created through. This was a huge moment for me, for Outlander is more than a book series I am into; it is very important to me. So being at a huge place for it made for a very important moment for me. BUT GOOD OLD MIKE. He had us “reenact” the scene from outlander where Claire (played by me) goes through the standing stones and meets Jamie (Played by the hitchhiker) and the tour were told many things of the book THAT WERE COMPLETELY WRONG. The tour guide I do not think actually read or watched outlander at all. And some point he started to talk about the books past the first, which my friend Char is not past yet, and Mike just ignored that and kept going, spoiling the story for her, while getting most information wrong. I just ignore that part of being at one of the most important places I visited and just remember the fact that I was there with a great friend.

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After Clava Cairns Standing Stones, we went to Culloden Battlefield for less than a minute until Mike rushed us to a Tesco to get supplies for dinner. I hope to return to Culloden to pay better respects to the men there. So, we went to Tesco, said goodbye to the hitchhikers and made our way to our hostel for the night in Inverness. When we pulled up to the hostel, I had another moment of thinking I was about to be whacked. We were in the middle of a field and drove up to a dark shed. It was very scary. BUT, it turned out to be the coolest hostel. Everything was brand new inside, including the bathrooms. We walked in and it was busy with friends and families making dinners and talking in the main area. At that moment I felt safe and sound. We made dinner and have a wonderful conversation with two blokes who were riding their motorbikes around Scotland and were very interesting and nice. We then went to bed in our room for just us three girls. We all debated who had to sit up front with Mike the next day (because even though none of us wanted to, it being Mike, we knew we didn’t have a choice).

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The next day we woke up early, had breakfast, and set out for a long but pleasant day. We started out driving to a river where fishermen catch salmon when they jump out of the water. We also saw a beautiful rainbow. It was very pretty. We then set out to drive to other locations but at one of the stops we made for pictures, the tour guide actually started peeing right across from where we were taking pictures!! Unbelievable, ha…  We then stopped at a nice small town called Donorch where there was a beautiful beach that we hung out at for a few minutes. It was very cool and different being on a beach in Scotland. We then saw seals hanging out on a iddy-biddy island made from the low-tide. The then stopped at Dunrobin Castle, which will be my starter house I believe. It was so big and pretty and right on the edge of the water with a huge garden.

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We then set out to see the Islands of Orkney. I have never seen water so aqua blue before. It was so beautiful. On the way to the cave of Smoo, the tour guide had to let another tour bus driver get us out of a situation that got him stuck in a ditch and said the F word about a thousand times with no spaces between them. It was sad because when that other driver got in the bus, we felt safer for a bit. He got us out of the situation though and we carried on with our way to Cave of Smoo. That place was amazing though! Mike also gave us space and let us discover it all ourselves which we liked. We spent lots of time in the cave then climbed up the hill above the cave and walked about 20 minutes out onto the side of cliff that was so beautiful and we were the only souls there. No buildings or roads at all around us.

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We then made our way back and Mike was determined to bring us to a location he talked about the whole day of a memorial to the Beatles. It started raining by this point and he said he was going to stay in the bus but wanted us to go see it… Ha, the “monument” was a small garden on the side of a gift shop that had a stone that had the lyrics to part of one of their songs. He yelled out of the bus that we were going the wrong way when we tried to see if there was any more…there wasn’t. Ha we just found it funny. So then the last place we were shown was the edge of another cliff that was really beautiful. There aqua blue seas were there and super green grass. It was very special to be there.

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After we made our 3 ½ hour drive back to Inverness, we asked Mike to drop us off in the town. He did. But he also tried to join us. We tried to just walk around town but he told us no and go where he told us to go and tried to bring us into a very extensive restaurant to eat in which we finally said we had it handled and were thankful for his help but really just wanted to hang out for the night and would get a taxi back to the hostel. So, he gave us “the address” to the hostel to give to the taxi driver, which we found out just said “hostel by the round-about of *which ever road* that not even the taxi driver knew where was. But we had a nice time in the city eating nice cheap Indian food and watching rugby in a pub. Inverness is a very pretty town to be in.

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The last day Char and I decided we couldn’t last another whole day with the uncomfortable tour and asked Mike to take us back to campus earlier than planned. I wanted to make it back in time for mass at 4 and told mike that I needed to be back by 3:30 (that didn’t happen). That day we went to a beach on the lake in the middle of a forest of pine trees. It was amazing and very peaceful to be there. It involved lots of walking though because Mike didn’t really have space boundaries and would try to keep standing right next to me. You see, that was how most of the trip was. Him standing a couple inches away from you or asking you if you are warm enough or if you want to wear some of his clothes (he asked that about 100 times) and with the whole dictating where we sat and walked and just things upon other things. It made for a very uncomfortable trip. The scenery made it all worth it though and my company with Char.

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We then visited a ski resort that still was awaiting the snow. We then made out way to a small and cute town where we had lunch at a small bread shop. It was 2 by that time and asked to start getting to campus so I could make it to mass. Mike said yeah, of course. On the way “back to campus” Mike started talking about a farm that was cool that he would take up to that had hairy coos we could see and sheep. Char said thanks but we really just wanted to get back to campus and he said okay. Then we heard him say to Laura, who was sitting in the front, “we shall still go to the farm”. So, we found ourselves at the farm that we found out the animals weren’t even there that day.. It was also 3 30 at that time. Mike said it was okay and he would just drop the girls off at campus and drive me directly to mass. I said no that was out of the question and that was really the last time I talked to the tour guide and when we got to campus we all just left inside.

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Even though we felt uncomfortable most of the time on this trip, I was very glad I went on that tour for the scenes I experienced and was lucky enough to see. I do not take this trip for granted. I know I am very lucky to be here in this amazing country and I will take every moment in and make the best out of everything. I am so glad I am able to be here and actually be in the places I’ve seen in picture and dream about going. I thank God and my family and friends for supporting me and making this amazing trip happen for me.

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Traveling is for the Patient

First I would like to say sorry for not writing that much for this blog. Writing is not my strong suite and so I have been procrastinating a bit with starting it up. But this country is one of the most, if not thee greatest and most beautiful countries I have ever gotten the opportunity to visit. I will be living here for three months, and will have 12 weekends to go on adventures in different cities in the country, and maybe other countries. The first adventure, though, I experienced for studying abroad here, is the travel to actual Stirling, Scotland.

20160908_122100`I said goodbye to my two pups, Luna and Millie at 8:30 and departed off to the airport with my mother. We made it to the airport, I checked in, emptied things from my checked bag into my carry-on to reach the weight limit, and said goodbye to my mother. I thought I did well with not being emotional at all while saying goodbye to my loyal dogs and would have been also for my mother, if not for her tearing up while saying goodbye. But I said my goodbye and made it through security in record breaking time (about 5 minutes total), while making a friend with a security man who liked the stickers of pictures of me and my boyfriend on my laptop. After I made it to my gate, I decided to get a bite to eat and then waited for my plane to Newark, New Jersey. That flight was one of the easiest i have been on. Watched New Girl and Big Bang Theory while discovering travel coffee creamers are actually the worst things ever.

When I made it to Newark, I hurried to my net gate even though i have a three and a half hour layover, so I would be able to just relax until then. I have nachos as, what I though would be, my last meal in America before heading off to Scotland for three months. So fast forward to boarding time, which was fairly easy. I sat next to a cute middle aged couple who had Scottish accents and held eachother’s hands. I turned on Mama Mia on my personal TV and waited for the flight to take off. A little over half into the movie, I realize we haven’t taken off after driving over to the runway. A second later the pilot tells the passengers that due to a problem with a propeller in the wing for A.C, we have to go back to the gate, but they don’t want us to get off the plane just yet. Fast forward forty minutes, we are told that they would like us to get off the plane and take all our things with us. They said it should take an hour and a half to fix the problem, and if it took any longer, they would give us a different plane.

After a hour and a half, around 10:45, they moved the time back another hour and a half. Then they did that two more times. But, luckily I had Netflix to watch and the airlines gave all passangers vouchers to spend to get dinner while we waited. So my last meal in America ended up becoming a Uncrustable and pretzels with hummus. At 1:20. They told us that after many hours trying to fix the problem, they were just going to give us a new plane but, the plane hadn’t come in yet, so we must wait for it to land and then get cleaned up for us. During all this, though I found myself not being too upset with any of it. As my good friend told me, if you can’t change anything, then why stress out about it at all? I also feel I didn’t mind too much because deep down I was okay with not leaving America in a hurry, even though I was very excited to start my new adventure abroad.

So, at about 1:20 in the morning we started to board the new plane headed off to Glasgow, Scotland. At 1:40, half hour after we should have landed at out destination, we took off and headed over the pond. During the flight, I’d had about an hour of sleep. The rest of the time I caught up on some movies they had. Sadly, Mama Mia was not on the new plane’s listings, so I was never able to finish it. At about 1-something, we landed in beautiful and rainy, Glasgow!

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When we were able to leave the plane, most of us waited in the line for customs for about an hour and twenty minutes. After the long travel though, all the time blended together and I did not really mind waiting, since I wasn’t even quite sure the shuttle I reserved would be at the airport. After getting to the man in customs and being my lovely awkward self to him, I made it to the luggage carousel. Here is the most surprising thing: it took less than a second to get my bag! was right there in front of me when I walked up. Hooray!!

So, I made my way up to the arrival area and there was more good luck! the Stirling Direct shuttle driver was there right away, shaking my hand. I then met two other students who are studying at the same university as I, Emily from Alabama, and a guy from China who I do not wish to even attempt to butcher the name. We then, after a while of waiting for the next flight to get in, met a girl from France and a girl from Germany. We all got along quite quickly and all shared our excitement of being in Scotland as we ran through the rain, with out Harry potter styled luggage carts, to the bus. We talked for a while on our way to Stirling while we were stuck in traffic and until I embarrassingly fell asleep in the middle of a conversation. When I woke, we were at my hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, Stirling.

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Finally in beautiful Scotland where I could finally relax. I ended up contacting my family that I was there, tried to watch a bit of Netflix, and slept till 10:30 a.m, the next day. (as move in was 10-12 for the university) Oops!! But as was my thought for everything that happened so far, patience and going with the flow is key when it comes to traveling.

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