Olivia in Scotland: Easy as 1, 2,3

Hello again!

So, it may not sound like it from my previous posts, but I’ve actually been going to classes while I’ve been here! Shocking, I know. It’s definitely a lot harder to focus on them here than it is when I’m at UR, but I’ve enjoyed them and learned some cool things about Scottish culture and how their universities work.

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Jumping into classes at Edinburgh! #badpun #notasmanycoolpicturesforliteraturecourses

Class #1: Early Modern Tragedy. This is a 3rd year English seminar with a very depressing title. Luckily, our tutor (they don’t call them “professors” here) has that wry, Scottish sense of humor that can find something to laugh about even in the darkest of texts. Like my English courses at home, this class is largely discussion-based, but it only meets once a week and each student has an assigned Autonomous Learning Group (ALG) that you have to meet with outside of class as well. It’s definitely a lot of independent learning, but thankfully you have a group of people to talk through the texts with when they get confusing. One cool thing: I went to see Macbeth at the Globe Theatre a few weeks ago, and while we didn’t actually read that play in this course, I felt like I had a much deeper understanding of the genre and themes because I’m taking this.

Class #2: Edinburgh in Fiction/Fiction in Edinburgh. In this English seminar, we read novels from various time periods that are set in (or partially set in) the city of Edinburgh. This course can be really cool because you can actually picture the places that they talk about in the books; in one novel we read, the characters actually lived in my neighborhood! I love getting to hear different authors describe the city in different contexts and learning more about its evolution over time to where we are today. There’s only one problem with this course: there’s more reading than just about anyone in the class can actually finish. One of the big things I prefer about UR is that the professors tend to split up texts between different class meetings whenever possible so you get a deeper understanding of fewer texts. Here, it feels like you tend to get a shallower understanding of more texts. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the essay will pan out because of this. And yes, as you may have heard, nearly all your grade is determined by an essay at the middle of the term and another one at the end of the term. (Keep your fingers crossed for me please.)

Class #3 (my last class because the courses are worth more credits here): Scotland and Orality. This is a course I’m taking just for fun because I can’t really take it anywhere else in the world. We look at Scotland’s oral tradition—that means ballads, fables, myths, legends, songs, children’s games, and lots more—past and present. One of the strangest things about this course for me is finding out that some of the things I think of as distinctly American are actually Scottish things. In our first course meeting, we listened to some fiddle music, and it sounded pretty much exactly like Appalachian fiddle music in the US. This made sense to me since I myself have Scottish ancestors who immigrated to those mountains, but I just hadn’t thought about it before. There have been lots of moments like that here—for instance, when I realize that Americans and Scots are both famous for frying food or that ceilidh dances here are a whole lot like square dances—but this course has given me a closer look at some of those things. Another cool moment in this course was when we talked about children’s games. A Scottish student and I tried to remember the words to the old game Miss Mary Mack together, and we knew all the same words except for one: I said “50 cents” and she said “50 pence!” Some things aren’t so different between the two sides of the Atlantic.

Those are my classes! Things are a lot more independent here and I definitely miss the more direct access to professors that you can get at UR, but it’s a good learning experience.

To close—living here longer makes me appreciate this city’s beauty even more. I can’t believe I’ve only got a little less than two months left!

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The view of Prince’s Street and Edinburgh Castle from Calton Hill. Gorgeous, right?

Till next time!

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