Guest Blog: A Wee Lassie Abroad, Ya Keen?

Eva Hellreich-Newby is a 3rd year English student at Ryerson University.

In Fall semester 2012 a mass email was sent out through RyMail advertising the opportunity to study abroad. Frankly speaking, I’m not one for thoughtfully ingesting every mass email that the school sends out, but the caption of this one caught my eye. I even debated whether or not it would be worth applying – I have never inherently been the type of person to win things, whether it was soccer games in elementary school or something on a more serious note. But something pushed me to try anyways, and I figured if I wasn’t accepted I could just pretend I didn’t get around to applying.

Interestingly, this application process had its own set of purposes which ended up providing mentally healthy attitude changes. I began really caring about my grades ( suddenly I became that student that moans over a B grade), participating, making more personalized interactions with professors and day dreaming about how much more I could be if given the chance. By what felt like some miracle, after tedious and frantic letter writing, swapping sleep for studying, interviews and budgeting, which at times felt like it dragged on for more than two semesters, the news arrived that I had been accepted into all partner schools collaborating with Ryerson abroad. I was given the choice of Istanbul, Versailles and Edinburgh and (more or less impulsively) chose Edinburgh to reside in for 11 months. It shames me to say bidding farewell to many was not as melancholic as predicted. I couldn’t wait to experience a place I had never even visited before deciding to temporarily move there.

In August 2013 I set off blindly to spend a year doing a work/study program in Edinburgh. Prior to departure I had no idea what I was getting into, other than a high probability of rain attire soon to become my new fashion aesthetic. I had been informed of haggis and highlands, and been warned of the likelihood of  asking locals to repeat themselves numerous times. When I was boarding the plane from Pearson to Heathrow with the knowledge I wouldn’t see as much concrete or such variety of cuisine for the next 11 months, it still had yet to sink in what I was about to do and how it would change me for the better.

Things I Learnt Which I Did Not Expect:

  1. I am better at budgeting than predicted, and this new found knowledge provided me with an odd sense of newly found maturity.
  2. Stereotypes about Germans are not true. Stereotypes about Americans generally are (so are the stereotypes about Canadians. Sorry!).
  3. Something about gothic architecture will make you want to create beautiful things in order to share them with yourself in the future.
  4. It is way more interesting being surrounded by people who do not like the same things as you. Have a pint with the conservatives, with people who grew up under a different religion than you. Be patient and remember the majority of people don’t say insensitive things intentionally.
  5. International students know how to party!
  6. Studying abroad will host some of the most interesting potlucks and film nights yet.
  7. It is much easier to be honest with strangers, to invest yourself in them, when you know your relationship is short lived. Something about the time constrain makes every interaction aggressively meaningful. Try to make yourself apply this ferocity to everyday life in your home country.
  8. Going to another country or city for the weekend an amazing casual option. “What did you get up to last weekend?” “Oh, not much, just went to Berlin for a  few days. You?”
  9. You will learn appreciation of the national produce. Bring on the whiskey and potatoes!
  10. Scottish literature deserves more credit. Go read Alasdair Gray and George Douglas Brown immediately, and drink tea and eat shortbread whilst doing so.
  11. There is little point in life in staying still. Some humans are meant to be nomadic, and this only says strong things about ones character.

There are moments of homesickness but they are few and far between, and pass in a way that turning down an opportunity like studying abroad wouldn’t. The Scottish have a warmth and humour which is infectious. I will deeply miss Edinburgh and this experience in a melancholic state throughout the many years to come.

Where I worked: Portobello Beach’s coffee kiosk Crumbs of Portobello. The fellow staff was amazing and I am so grateful to them and my boss for the kindness and laughs they shared.

highlands

Pictured Above: The Highlands, about 3 hours drive outside of Edinburgh

portobello

Pictured Above: Portobello Beach, where rainbows are a common occurrence and on clear days you can see the highlands across the sea. I worked in a crêpe stall here for the majority of my time and loved every second of it. Located half an hour by bus from city centre.

view

Pictured Above: The view of Edinburgh and the city volcano,  Arthur’s seat, out a window in Edinburgh Castle (which dates back to the 12th century)

sunrise

Pictured Above: Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat

glencoe

Pictured Above: Glencoe, Scottish Highlands. 4 Germans and I rented a car for a 3 day road trip through this region; if there is a heaven, I imagine this is what it would resemble. This is one of my fondest memories of my exchange.

group

An assorted of Swedes and Germans at a Christmas Swedish Saint Lucia party.

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