Scotland

L’Écosse

I need to rush this post out for two reasons: firstly, it is 10.30 pm and I want to sleep by 11, and secondly, if I don’t tonight, I’ll never get around to it; I can see myself getting through the next month without posting once, which would be just tragic. In the spirit of encouraging myself to post, I did not bother to resize photos.

The past week has been an intentional week of rest and leisure, framed by the company of two dear friends I had the good fortune of visiting. It was a trip long in planning, and I was glad to have gone, even though the weather turned out to be absolute shite and it might perhaps have served my purposes better if I had gone in the summer instead (except they wouldn’t have been there then because Oxford terms end later than theirs so the point is invalid anyway). I was gloriously lazy and did not do much beyond the requisite first day of sight-seeing; I mostly chilled in their residences, caught up on sleep (think 12-hour sleep periods) cooked for them and watched gratuitous episodes of HIMYM. Good times. If anything, it put an end to my post-term malaise (clearly evident in the previous post).

I. Edinburgh

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The Law faculty of the University of Edinburgh. Suitably imposing.

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The bane of my economic studies :P I kid – he’s a cool dude. I want my own statue in a famous capital.

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The very impressive castle that … we did not pay to enter.

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From my lone trek (not really – a single, albeit long bus ride) to the (apparently) famous seaside town in Edinburgh: Portobello. The sea wasn’t that remarkable, though I encountered many dogs, some gorgeous, some just hilarious (there was a sausage-looking dog with legs that were seriously only about 1-2 inches long, I kid you not. I wanted to take a photo of it but the owner looked grouchy.) Impressively, I made it back to A’s house on my own, though I did make a 20-min detour around the city centre because I forgot which side of the city he lived in.

All in all, I found Edinburgh as picturesque as I’ve heard, but it wasn’t quite as entrancing as I thought it would be. Granted, I did not climb Arthur’s Seat (see earlier point regarding laziness) and missed the impressive natural landscape features, but the city was smaller than I’d expected, and the university set-up reminded me a little of LSE (which … does not number among my favourite universities, shall we say). Charming, definitely, but not – settled enough, I think.

II. Glasgow

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Very European. And sunny! I was thrilled.

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S’ residence. It is unapologetically barren of amenities, but the canal (or, more fancifully, the moat) makes up for it. I think. Why isn’t there a single vending machine in a giant compound meant to be student residences?

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Everything about Glasgow seem so fairy-tale-esque.

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Look, the Kingdom of Magical Unicorns (or something) yonder.

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Experiencing both Scottish universities, I finally understood why local students are advised to attend open days and/or check out university campuses as far as possible, because I had a surprisingly strong preference for the university of Glasgow over its Edinburgh counterpart. Initially, I had thought I was more inclined towards Edinburgh (and indeed, it had been one of my UCAS options) but after the visit, I definitely felt more interested in Glasgow. It’s the way the university campus seems a lot more cohesive (and the buildings do seem grander? Or maybe it was the angle or the benevolent presence of the sun) and the atmosphere of the city livelier and seemingly more student-filled.

One thing’s for sure, though – those universities definitely seem a lot more independent and … for the lack of a better expression, more similar to real life, what with the taking of public transportation and purchasing of groceries. It reminded me of how, despite Oxford being the ultimate university experience (in a manner of speaking), it is not even close to the typical university experience. Simply the college system itself is so different, and though its supposed merits were a factor in my conscious choice of Oxford, I hadn’t quite appreciated its import until last week. Socialization is so much easier simply because there is already a clearly demarcated community of belonging, and the time spent with everyone facilitates relationships to a degree rarely found elsewhere. Of course, my friends live in self-catered housing so that might have been a misleading factor; the community feeling I mentioned might be more tangible in catered accommodation, but nothing can really come close to the college atmosphere, I suspect.

III. The train journey in between

(Just because I love snow when I’m safely ensconced indoors or some place warm, and also I am unfailingly persistent at taking mediocre photos of landscapes through the windows of a moving vehicle.)

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I want to road-trip through the most unforgiving landscapes of Scotland at some point, with perhaps someone else and a dog and a trusty journal to keep me company. Even the most forbidding terrains yield invitation if one possesses the luxury of warmth and shelter. Oh well, I make no claims to be a true adventurer(ess) !

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