Edinburgh, Scotland: The city is the campus and the people are the professors
By Liz Lyon ’12
The Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland is filled with winding streets, narrow closes and houses all jumbled close together. Edinburgh is famous for its Jekyll-and-Hyde like atmosphere because the New Town puts up a brave, clean face, while the Old Town is the traditional haunt of debauchery. Like the old parts of any European city, you have to watch where you walk; you could stumble on a misplaced cobblestone, dog excrement or a few questionable puddles of liquid. There is a duality in the streets of the Old Town themselves; some are broad and bright, while others are dark and wind through gargantuan tunnels, creating a true under city to complement the high, Victorian-style buildings up above.
Three other internationals and I wandered around the Grassmarket, site of all the city’s executions and just below the Hogwarts-esque Edinburgh Castle, looking for a pub with live music. It was a Friday night, and we spied a caravan that sold crepes just down the lane. French cuisine was a bit out-of-place in Edinburgh, but there are a lot of things you won’t expect to find, like Turkish kebab joints, library-themed pubs, and churches that have been converted into furniture stores. As we were waiting in line for crepes, one of the other customers asked my friend in a drunken slur of words, “Cannae take yer botes off tonnae?” Apparently he was propositioning her, but I could barely distinguish one word from another. We quickly popped into the Last Drop for a drink – like elsewhere in Europe, the legal drinking age is 18, so getting into a pub was not a problem at all – and then talked about Edinburgh and home.
Edinburgh is almost the polar opposite of Scripps. It’s a fairly metropolitan city, has a huge university and my experience here has been one gigantic blur of people and city and getting to know it. Independence is the key here, and it seems to spread into every walk of life. Students aren’t coddled: everything from figuring out meals to classes, they have to figure out for themselves. Professors give you a list of suggested reading and then expect you to keep up and follow up on the work on your own. With club meetings, you usually meet up at a pub and have a social night, which makes all events have this “public” feeling to them.
Getting to classes on time requires a bit more effort; the longest walk to my class I’ve had at Scripps was 15 minutes. Here, 15 minutes is about average commute time to class, and if I want to get to the other side of the city where the museums are, it’s about a 20 or 30 minute walk. The whole city seems to be distended; you walk everywhere, and once things are out of your mile-orbit, it becomes a pain to have to walk far or to figure out how to use the bus system.
Despite any of my negative comments about Edinburgh, it is such a refreshing change from Scripps – all of the people, the events, the independence. Negatives can turn out to be positive, as well, as my walks have given me the chance to really see the city and the people. Not to be too démodé, but the city is the campus, and the people the professors. I’ve only been here a few weeks, but already I can feel that the experience has broadened my knowledge, my experience and my maturity so much more than spending this semester at Scripps ever could have done.