KyungSun in Scotland: Home Sweet Home

May 26, 2015

I know most study abroad students dread going back home, but I was ready to go back. Traveling, believe or not, is 60% stress and 40% enjoyment. Before arriving home in the States, I traveled to Athens (Greece), Rome (Italy), Budapest (Hungary), and London (UK). Let’s just say that every travel nightmare you could imagine happened to my brother and me during our trip.

Missed our flight? Check.

Had to pay to check our carry-on luggage? Check.

Got mobbed by selfie-stick and tour group vendors? Check.

It was definitely a learning curve for both of us. We can’t explain exactly why everything happened the way it happened. All we can tell you as fresh travelers is that you just have to keep calm and carry on. I kept repeating these words to myself during the entire trip. The best story to exemplify what my travels were like and how I emerged stronger, wiser, and utterly exhausted is our Rome story. Here’s how it went:

After the bus waved us off, my brother and I made our way along the dark streets to our hostel. We made our way with my phone glaring with low-battery warnings and picked up our pace when suddenly, we were hit with the strong smell of fresh urine. When we at last found our hostel, we dished out some extra Euro to pay city taxes that were not included in our initial booking. We were ready for some fluffy pillows by this point. I saw the open door to our mixed dorm room, walked in, and found five shirtless guys lazing around. I was the only girl. Sounds like a dream, but all I wanted was to freely strip out of my clothes, wear my fluffy PJs, and snore my heart away. After a long and surprise-ridden day, I longed for some comfort and privacy. But, I kept calm and carried on hoping for a more relaxing tomorrow.

              ***

The next morning we were ready for the amazing Rome experience everyone raved about. We grabbed our extra battery pack and set out for the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and the many Roman piazzas. My brother and I aren’t really big on having a fixed schedule. We like to have an idea of where we want to go and what places we want to see that day, but we welcome detours to hole-in-the-wall restaurants and signs pointing toward other cool looking places.

KSun pasta

We ended up hitting a lot of tourist sites, gelato shops, and a hole-in-the wall bakery that had the most scrumptious desserts we’ve ever had. This was the Italy I had imagined. What I hadn’t imagined was how hard it was to find food. How can this be you may ask? Well, first we had to get lost. Friends have told us that the best Italian food were in the hole-in-the wall places hidden from the touristy areas. But somehow we always ended up right back on a bustling street. Maybe we weren’t trying hard enough or maybe subconsciously our fear of getting too lost led us back where we unknowingly wanted to be. Whatever our issue was, we were so hungry we sat down at the next restaurant on a semi-quiet street only to discover that it had been a tourist restaurant. After a couple of bites of the pasta, I had a King Kong roar moment. The pasta disappointed my Italy-expectations. But it was only our first day out and we were hopeful for the next meal.

***

Day 3 of Rome was the. most. challenging. day. It’s supposed to get easier right? But in order for this to be a reality, we should have hit the Vatican on day 1. We got up extra early and rushed to the subway in hopes of getting in line early for the museum tickets. Little did I know, it was rush hour, and the metro was PACKED. I tried to make myself as small as I could as more people streamed in with every stop, and eventually ended up underneath someone’s armpit. When we finally squeezed our way out, we walked to the Vatican only to be welcomed with a flood of questions. Questions seemed to fly from all directions – Are you a student? Do you know where you’re going? We have free information! Do you have a reservation? Sensing they were vendors, we quickly pushed our way past only to be stopped by a vendor who gave us her spiel. Thankfully, she told us that we were going in the wrong direction – that the museum was on the other side. We kindly declined her tour and headed off to the museum line only to be bombarded by more vendors.

At one point I responded in Korean just so they would leave us alone. It was honestly overwhelming. I felt like the guy in Temple Run where the vendors were the monster and my brother and I were the poor fellow running for his life. Getting in line was the worst because we were sitting targets. One vendor came up to us and tried to convince us the line was on the other side of the street and that the “discounted” cost for students was 28 euros! I thankfully did my research beforehand and knew that the EU student discount was 7.50 euros. After what seemed like endless “No thank yous” we were halfway up the line and finally got some peace.

The Vatican itself was amazing. Beautiful. Stunning as we had been told.

One of the many intricate ceilings at the Vatican Museum

One of the many intricate ceilings at the Vatican Museum

Vatican City

Vatican City

Rome was one of our early trips, so the obstacles that we faced with every step stuck out the most mostly because they were the first memories of our travels. However, although in the beginning our trip was 60% stress and 40% enjoyment, the percentage did change as the trip went on. We were exhausted, but each day we were able to walk a bit further. We had a better gauge of when to rest, where to eat, and who to ask for information. By the time we ended up in Budapest, we were eating all the traditional local foods, hitting up the tourist sites with ease, and ended up well-rested and financially sound at the end of the day.

St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest was particularly breathtaking.

The process in getting to the 90% enjoyment, 10% stress took longer than we expected, but I’ve learned that this is the main theme of a study abroad experience. You’re thrown into a new environment where you don’t know anyone or anything. All you have are your past experiences, instincts, a dying battery, and the flood of people around you. Although it was scary in the beginning, I’ve found that embracing my vulnerability and tapping the shoulder of the stranger in front of me for directions was usually the best next step for new travelers like my brother and me. The “worst” we’ve faced is when someone ran away because they couldn’t speak English (happened to us in Athens) and the best was when we met someone in line at a Hungarian restaurant and we ended up having an entire dinner conversation with them.

I am extremely grateful to have had the comfort and familiarity of being in a country that uses the same language and has similar cultural aspects and traveling around the EU definitely made me appreciate this fact ten times more. However, my travels were the final growing stretches I needed before arriving back home. Being back home has already made me appreciate all the comforts and joys of familiar things like homemade Korean food, my beautiful countryside town, DINERS, my fluffy blankets, and greatest of all – my friends and family who supported me throughout the journey.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Thank you to all who have followed me on this life-changing experience. I wish you all the best of luck in your next big step – I hope you get to travel someday as well and visit the places you’ve always wanted to – I hope you break your expectations of the things that have been romanticized and discover new loves that you never thought of before – but most importantly, I hope you have wonderful people to share them with along the way like you all have done for me. Thank you!! 🙂

London: The British National Museum

London: The British National Museum

Athens: At the Theatre of Dionysos

Athens: At the Theatre of Dionysos

Rome: The Trevi Fountain (under construction)

Rome: The Trevi Fountain (under construction)

Budapest: Representing UR!

Budapest: Representing UR!

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KyungSun in Scotland: The Hardest Goodbye

May 5, 2015

Everyone is leaving, returning, graduating, and getting busy all too fast. I am trying my best to see what I haven’t yet seen of Scotland (weather permitting), have a meaningful goodbye with my exchange friends, say goodbye to my senior friends back at UR that are graduating, AND prepare for my upcoming trip around Europe. It’s honestly an understatement saying that it’s been a roller coaster ride. I’m feeling so many emotions in a day and constantly pressured to absorb as much of Scotland as possible, all while the weather teases me like the stubborn version of myself when I don’t know what I want.

Typical stubborn Scotland.

Typical stubborn Scotland.

I realize that no matter how many gifts I buy, no matter how many pictures I take, or how many meaningful memories I make in these last few days, I can’t capture it all. There’s no way. The other day, I was briefly taken back to my Spain Facebook album, when I traveled there the summer before my senior year in high school. I hadn’t seen these pictures in over three years and I was surprised at how little I remembered. I got pangs of slight familiarity when I saw my photos, but when I compared my photos to my friend Jackie’s photos of Madrid, I had forgotten how intricately detailed and beautiful the buildings were, what each place was called, and how delicious the tapas looked. Most importantly, I forgot what I learned besides the fact that it was my first time abroad.

Fortunately, I wrote most of it in my journal. This is something that I always do. Even back at home, I take time to reflect and write down not just what I’ve seen (because pictures do that for you), but what I’ve been thinking, feeling, and questioning. It’s not a daily thing. I write about every 2-3 days, and to take pressure of myself, I don’t write down everything, but only the things I’m reflecting on that day. It’s not only a great stress reliever, but also my personal way of capturing my growth during my college years. Journaling abroad has allowed me to add that last level of depth to my pictures, souvenirs, and videos. It also weirdly takes an enormous amount of pressure off to find the perfect souvenir for myself. So far, I bought a comic-style map of Scotland (since it listed a majority of places I’ve been to) and a few postcards. But then I still haven’t bought my shortbread, a Scottish flag, or a University of Edinburgh sweatshirt and that’s a must right?

To me, these things are the best representation of what I experienced in Scotland. The map represents where I was, and each postcard represents my favorite things about Scotland.

To me, these things are the best representation of what I experienced in Scotland. The map represents where I was, and each postcard represents my favorite things about Scotland.

I know in the end, we eventually become desensitized to things. I still have meaningful necklaces, posters, and t-shirts from past travels, but I never really notice them on a daily basis. And when I look at my Scotland posters and postcards, the last thing I want to do is simply say, “Wow, Scotland was so beautiful”. Instead, I want to absorb the lessons I’ve learned here and let my fresh perspective shape my experiences when I return. This way, by the time I graduate, I can look back on my four years, look at those souvenirs, and be reminded of how Scotland transformed how I spent my last year at Richmond.

Bonnie Loch Lomond

Bonnie Loch Lomond

So here I am, about to leave the place that I have gotten to know, explore, and be a part of for four months. Remember my post about love? Well, Scotland has taught me a lot about falling in love. Like I said, it’s a painful thing to have to let something or someone you love go, just like I am deeply sad in a way that I can never express in words about leaving Scotland. But you know when you’ve truly loved and not just clung onto something out of selfish desire when you get to know, understand, be immensely happy in, and happily, although sadly, let it go when you need to, knowing that it’s brought you much happiness through the joys and trials during your time together and at the end, inspired you to continue on a path towards becoming a better person.

Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh.

Edinburgh.

Scotland.

Scotland.


KyungSun in Scotland: Happy Graduation!

April 30, 2015
My teacher/Parliamentary program coordinator, Paddy, and the girls from my flat!

My teacher/Parliamentary program coordinator, Paddy, and the girls from my flat!

Last week marked the formal end of my internship. As I reflect on my time at Holyrood, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming mix of joy, accomplishment, and sadness. It takes me back to high school graduation. I remember down the red carpet with my diploma in hand, ready for the next step in my life, but also sad for the people I’d say goodbye to. The difference between then and now is that this time, I won’t be coming back to the same place. Scotland is and has always been the temporary home that my exchange friends, church friends, teachers, and MSPs shared. Now, I will be leaving this home in 6 days.

When I first arrived, I came with two main academic goals: to learn about the policy-making process and how Scotland delivers great healthcare through its NHS (National Healthcare System). I was expecting to just see and learn the formal processes in action, but instead learned in a much greater way.

My MSP, Richard, in particular created a very open space for me to learn and grow during my time at Holyrood. I initially was very nervous when I first came in and was immediately asked to write up briefings on research Richard needed. I thought it would be something that he would just skim or put aside for later, but was surprised to find out that he had sent out the reports to other staff members on the project. I was always diligent in my work, but of course I wasn’t perfect. I still had to get used to little things like the different spellings to the bigger things like not always knowing where to look for specific information. But being able to interact and bounce off these topics with Richard made me see how passionate he is about keeping people healthy. Something that struck me was when we were reviewing the percentages of waiting times and Richard, frustrated, had said something like this:  “Can you find me a number? I don’t like this report because it gives me a percentage and people are not percentages; they should be counted each as individuals”. I admired this statement; it reflects his dedication to bringing about change for the people he serves, and I’m glad to have been part of making the changes happen.

Richard

 Richard's Alcohol Bill Launch! One of the things he really pushed for is to reduce the alcohol/tobacco consumption in Scotland. Some of the measures in his bill include things like retailers not being able to sell packs of beer cheaper than if you would buy the same amount as individual cans.

Richard’s Alcohol Bill Launch! One of the things he really pushed for is to reduce the alcohol/tobacco consumption in Scotland. Some of the measures in his bill include things like retailers not being able to sell packs of beer cheaper than if you would buy the same amount as individual cans.

The greatest thing I admire about Scottish politics are the incentives built within the political system that enables the MSPs and their staff to focus on the work rather than the position. In Scotland, politicians have a modest spending budget limit for campaigns, which makes the position more accessible to the general public. It was both surprising and amazing when the other interns and I discovered that staff members of MSPs (Member of the Scottish Parliament) were running either as MSPs or as MPs! The other interns and I agreed that we would never see this in the States simply because you need a lot of money to have a good chance in the race. I certainly wish I could bring this feature of politics back with me to the States.

It initially didn’t hit me that it was time to say goodbye. I went into work as usual, had lunch with some of the other interns, and went campaigning on my last day as a final gathering with the team. The UK Election is now officially 1 week away and my MSP/staff have been busy campaigning for Gordon Banks, the Labour candidate running for MP (Member of the UK Parliament). I spent a very relaxing, fun day down in the constituency office in Alloa getting to know the other volunteers. I also got to share a car-ride chat with Gordon Banks about his work as an MP. I could see that he is someone who values the individual relationships he has with the community he serves and he told me that if he had the choice, he would choose to work from his constituency rather than spilt his time between London and Alloa. Even on my last day, I was happy to be learning more about the people driving change in Scotland/UK. But all too soon, the day ended, and I hugged everyone goodbye.

The Labour campaign team to re-elect Gordon Banks! He has served as an MP for the past 10 years already!

The Labour campaign team to re-elect Gordon Banks! He has served as an MP for the past 10 years already!

Where we were campaigning: in the quaint town of Alloa.

Where we were campaigning: in the quaint town of Alloa.

Initially, I had ruled out working in government simply because I saw it as a job that detaches you from the people you serve. But I am now re-considering the possibility of being involved in local or state government someday. I see it as a great incubator for change. I see so many possibilities as I enter my final year at University this upcoming fall. I see a long road of detours and discovery. But most of all, I see hope that I, although one person, can be a force of change.

With my Parliamentary Program diploma in hand, final research report submitted, and thank you cards given to the people who’ve given me this wonderful opportunity, the next and last thing to do is somehow begin preparing myself to say goodbye to Scotland and the friends I’ve made here. Till next time!


Kyungsun in Scotland: The Happiest Country In the World

April 23, 2015
The iconic picture of Denmark: Nyhaven

The iconic picture of Denmark: Nyhaven

When I arrived in Copenhagen, I was more excited to see my friend Amaury than the fact that I was in one of the happiest countries in the world. I was just happy to be in the presence of a familiar friend. As expected, it didn’t take long before we skipped the small talk and dived into a discussion about how our study abroad experience has transformed us. It was a warm relief knowing that he had been sharing similar struggles of changing friendships and becoming more independent like me.

The next day, we spent the entire day exploring the city. The best part about having a friend show you around is that you get your own personal tour guide. It was astonishing just how much Amaury knew about Denmark. He knew everything from the current politics to the historical significance of the main buildings. Two places in particular held the most meaning for me. As expected, my pictures don’t capture the full energy of the moment, but I hope I can still convey the spirit as well of the beauty of the city.

Christiana

The first thing I noticed was the sign. Welcome to Christiana! Once we went under the arch, Amaury told me to turn around as if I was exiting. You are now entering the EU. Huh?

The second sign said that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures.

The third sign said that I was supposed to have fun.

A taste of Christiana (we were only allowed to take pictures before entering)

A taste of Christiana (we were only allowed to take pictures before entering)

Walking into Christiana was like stepping outside of Denmark. When I first walked around the streets of the Copenhagen, I saw the traditional colorful buildings, comparatively clean streets, beautiful people, and places to shop everywhere. But Christiana is the part of the city that is still not developed and not developed by choice.

I asked Amaury where he had brought me to and he said that Christiana was a community that represented freedom of expression. Indeed, I saw graffiti and color everywhere. Any white space was anyone’s canvas. You can build your own house in Christiana. But no one owns anything. Rather, everything is owned by the community. You are only allowed to live in Christiana if you are accepted by all 850 members in the community. It is also a town that claims that it’s separate from Denmark (hence the EU sign), but not recognized by any formal body.

After moving past the initial front, I was overcome with a tangible sense of peace that filled the area. But when I looked at the various colors and shapes of the houses, I also felt an uneasy feel of chaos. Nothing conformed to the thing next to it. Yet Amaury told me that there is a deep woven bond of community in Christiana that allowed everyone to enjoy a harmonious life. I suddenly found myself questioning the value of standardizing everything from our houses to our education – do we do it for the ease or for the control?

Did I also mention that weed is everywhere? On what is known as Pusher Street, stalls are lined with people selling, smoking, or buying weed (hence, no pictures). The police know this. The government knows this. And the teens at the local high school across the street certainly know this. Yet it’s an accepted part of Danish society. Occasionally there are police raids (which is why you’re also not allowed to run in Christiana). However, my expert tour guide told me that overall, the Danes want to maintain the essence of Christiana for what it is because it represents a part of Denmark’s history.

I left dizzy with questions and confusion. It made me question a lot about the ways in which we as communities and societies achieve things like safety, individual expression, and justice.

Amalienborg

Denmark continued to surprise me. Thursday was Queen Margrethe’s 75th Birthday. All I knew was to be at Amalienborg Palace, where the Queen lived, by twelve o’clock. Amaury was unfortunately in class. The morning was pretty calm as I was exploring Rosenborg Palace. Then I saw the band and guards lining up and when I turned the corner, people were everywhere. Little did I know this is where the party started.

It was actually a relief knowing that the guards were kicking off the celebrations with loud fanfare and a parade through the streets. This meant all I had to do was follow them to the other palace rather than stand out as a lost tourist. My favorite part about the parade is that anyone could simply be a part of it. The police encouraged everyone to make way for the guards and band, but a swarm of people trailed alongside or behind the line.

 

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On my way to Amalienborg Palace, I was handed a flag and again, turned a corner and saw everyone waiting to enter. But for some reason we weren’t being let in and the police kept pointing people to the left. I didn’t understand what anyone was saying but I decided to trust my instinct and follow the crowd.

It was a good move because I found the actual entrance! What I loved about the moment even before the celebration started is how energized everyone was to see the Queen. Amaury had told me the day before that the people loved the Queen. When I also asked what the Queen did outside her political duties, I was surprised that Amaury’s host family knew the answer. She apparently makes costumes for plays and paints.

 

 

Close up with Queen Margrethe!

Close up with Queen Margrethe!

Front row view to see her pass by!

Front row view to see her pass by!

parade

It was an interesting atmosphere to be in – I felt like the Queen was approachable. Even the Palace didn’t have any gates or barriers. You could just walk right up to the front door and knock on it if you wanted. I was told that it’s because the Danish Royalty embody the strange balance of humility and pride that make up the Danish lifestyle.

Amalienborg Palace

Amalienborg Palace

These two places are sadly only two snapshots out of the near 700 pictures of what I experienced. Copenhagen is a city like Edinburgh in that it has a great mix of nature, history, and modernity. Unfortunately, Copenhagen is also much bigger than Edinburgh. I didn’t get to explore the city fully, but I know I have to come back. As you can tell, Denmark was a place that really made me think about how the country has become such a loved, happy, accepting, humble, yet prideful country and much more.

I think this is the value of traveling. It makes you realize that other people do it differently. They provide welfare differently. They view wealth differently. They deal with social justice differently. And most of all, it makes me appreciate the various ways we all strive for the same thing.

Rosenborg Palace and King's Gardens

Rosenborg Palace and King’s Gardens


KyungSun in Scotland: More Than Beauty

April 14, 2015

In my last blog post, I said that I didn’t want to just see pretty views. Somewhere along my abroad journey, I made it my goal to find deeper connection to what I saw.  I didn’t want to go home with just pictures to show, but with a story to explain what these views meant to me. Norway was my first test to begin fulfilling my goal.

By trying to see Norway in a different light, I’ve had the most meaningful trip – one full of learning, understanding, and connecting – in the three short days I’ve been here. The meanings I developed were also not forced. Rather, they are products of reflecting on the things I saw that moved me.

Below, I tell my stories in three parts: what I first saw, what I was intended to see, and my interpretation of what I saw. By explaining it in this way, I hope you can see how I found deeper meaning in the things that I took pictures of during my trip.

***

Our first stop  in Oslo, the capital of Norway, was to see the 121 Vigeland statues in Frogner Park.

Here’s what I first saw: A lot of nude statues.

Frogner Park

Frogner Park

Here’s what Gustav Vigeland, the sculptor, intended for us to see: The many faces of human expression. Every statue has a clearly detailed facial expression of joy, sadness, anger, or love. His most famous statue is the Monolith, seen below, which depicts 121 people climbing and clawing on top of each other. This monument has been interpreted as Man’s Resurrection, the struggle for existence, Man’s yearning for spiritual spheres, the transcendence of everyday life and cyclic repetition according to Norway’s Tourist website.

The Monolith

The Monolith

Here’s what I saw: Me, my family, my friends, and how we interact with each other. I saw my dad protecting my mom, the sacrifices my mom made to give my brother and me the happiest future, the love that I’ve shared with someone, and my friend and I sitting together supporting each other in comfortable silence.

statue 1

statue 2

statue 3

statue 4

I circled around the statues, once, twice, then a third, and fourth time. Each time, I thought about how perfectly Vigeland captured the many emotions that exist in every relationship. During my time abroad, I’ve been trying to understand the various roles in the relationships that I currently have. What does it mean to be a sister? What does it mean to be a friend? What does it mean to love? Although I don’t have fully developed answers to these questions yet, thinking about these questions have made me think of ways to improve the relationships I have with other people.

For example, before I used to think that a best friend is someone you had everything in common with, someone you shared everything with, and knew you inside and out. But during college, my closest friends have been people different from me – in interests and personality – and I’ve never had as many introverted friends as I have now. Being an extrovert, this meant that I’ve had to learn and develop my meaning of friendship. Not sharing everything doesn’t mean that we’re not close and no matter how much you think you know about them, they’re always changing, which presents opportunities for me to learn something new about them every day.

***

Next, we took an overnight train to Bergen, a small coastal city on the other side of the country. Here, I did the Norway in a Nutshell tour with my flatmate, Lucy. The main theme of the trip was to see the grand fjords, which are long, narrow bodies of water surrounded by cliffs.

Here’s what I first saw: Snow. Lots and lots of snow.

Mydral, Norway

Mydral, Norway

Here’s what I was intended to see: Small towns along the fjords that used to make up the heart of Bergen.

One of the many little towns with the best quality of water!

One of the many little towns with the best quality of water!

This town was originally where all the mail was sent for the people of Bergen

This town was originally where all the mail was sent for the people of Bergen

Here’s what I saw: Back in my Isle of Skye post, I mentioned that I love nature because it helps me realize that my problems are small compared to the vast land stretched out before me. This was especially true when I was looking at the grand fjords. I saw tall mountains with snow-capped tops with green bottoms, I saw houses buried in snow, and white that stretched for miles.

Among all this great scenery, all I could think was how often I missed what was right in front of me. I get so caught up in the future which lately consists of what I’ll be doing post-graduation, if my relationships with friends will change when I go back home, and what the summer has in store. But when I looked out, it suddenly brought me to the present. I saw the beauty around me, was cognizant of the fact that I was sitting here seeing this in person, finally seeing the pictures I had only seen on Buzzfeed’s “Top Cities You Must Visit Before You Die” articles, and feeling relaxed and peaceful. It made me realize how difficult it was to be mindful of the present and that appreciation, happiness, and satisfaction comes from being aware of where you are right now.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking that I think too much. I consider it both a blessing and a curse. But for an experience as important as this one, I know I’m not just on vacation. For me, it’s always been about growing in my perspective, mindset, and independence and that doesn’t come without some hardcore reflection. Of course, I couldn’t relate to all that Norway had to offer like its reindeer meat and obsession with bacon-wrapped hot dogs. But by thinking about what I’ve been doing just a little bit more, I’ve come to a better understanding of how my friends and family can relate to my abroad experience when I go back home.

Feeling so small!

Feeling so small!


KyungSun in Scotland: Not All Who Wander Are Lost

April 9, 2015

Isn’t it amazing when the sun comes out? Suddenly everything is brighter, more hopeful, and alive. My beloved Edinburgh has brought me the perfect weather for my spring break. These past few days I’ve finally had the chance to explore more of the city. I had a great time playing tourist, getting lost on random streets, and picnicking on a hill watching the sun set. If it all sounds like a romanticized dream, blame the weather. It has a way of transforming the mundane into something beautiful and exciting.

My friend Bec and I picnicking on Calton Hill

My friend Bec and I picnicking on Calton Hill

Sunsetting over Calton Hill

Sun setting over Calton Hill

My friend Meghan and I greeting the spring!

My friend Meghan and I greeting the spring!

What I love about my friend Meghan is that she is her own compass. She never comes with a plan, map, or on time. But she and I balance each other out. I like to have a general idea of where to go, but am open to however we get there. Detours are also highly welcome. Therefore, it did not fluster us that we got lost (several) times and ended up stumbling upon (several) amazing hidden views on our way to Haymarket, our final destination.

Onto the market we go…

We had walked less than 2 minutes when we made our first stop. We had to get ice cream. All our friends have been raving about this place called Mary’s Milk Bar. They feature everything unique from hot chocolate floats to chocolate and olive ice cream. In fact, it is so popular that they can afford to close and open at random hours during the week. As expected, the first sip of my milkshake was amazing. I have no recollection of the sips after because when I looked down there was nothing left. Okay, it wasn’t the best milkshake I’ve had. But it was the most delicious flavour I’ve ever had. Almond and apple rhubarb milkshake will forever remind me of this day.

Mary's Milk Bar

Mary’s Milk Bar

With (empty) drinks in hand….

We just followed the skyline. Whenever we saw a cool, pointy tip peaking above the square buildings, we ran toward it. The first of these ended up being St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. But for a second I thought I was in Spain again. Everything around Haymarket is pretty new, clean, and modern. I was therefore surprised to suddenly see this beautifully old, detailed, and ornate church. We peeked inside and it was just as striking as the outside. But this feeling lasted about a minute. I felt like I’d seen this before.

St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Edinburgh

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh

St. Giles Church in Edinburgh

St. Giles Church in Edinburgh

Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland

Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland

Something that hit me while wandering is the creeping fear that I am not appreciating everything enough. When I was inside the church, I tried to shake off the sudden feeling that these amazing structures were beginning to become “normal” to me. But how can we appreciate each structure or view as its own unique piece? My best guess is that the key to appreciation is the story behind it. Although I’m not a huge fan of history or have access to guides, I think it’s important to understand the how and why something came to be. Otherwise, all the beautiful views just start to blur together.

For the second half of my spring break, I’ll be making my way to Scandinavia to see more breathtaking views. My first stop is Norway, where I’ll be doing a day long train tour to see the grand fjords. My second stop is to my long-awaited trip to Denmark, where I’ll be reunited with my first friend from UR outside Scotland! However, this time I’ll be sure to not only see pretty views, but also hopefully have a story to tell about each one.

 

 


KyungSun in Scotland: Falling in Love

April 7, 2015

Love came unexpectedly. It creeped in slowly and hit me this past week. I am in love. It’s the kind that flutters your heart, makes you smile at the thought, and draws you in to drown you in it more and more. Of course, it didn’t start out this way.

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Opening scene: When I first arrived in Edinburgh, everything looked bleak. I was welcomed by the city with ice cold wind, miserable rain, and slippery cobblestone streets. But I kept telling myself it would get better. Edinburgh was my perfectly ideal city with its cross between modernity and history and nature. I just had a rough start. Conveniently, my first shopping outing ended up being an episode of my bag ripping and my food spilling out on the streets. It was the perfect beginning to my Scottish romantic comedy, where everything that happened was ridiculous and silly.

Yet I still found joy in the little things. I marveled living next to a castle, trying different restaurant with friends, dancing at ceilidhs, and seeing breathtaking views straight out of National Geographic. I was energized by the freshness and newness of everything I saw and did. Every little decision I made from buying my own food, to cooking my own meals, to booking my own flights were also small moments of empowerment. I felt like I was growing more independent and despite the occasional detours, everything was working out well.

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Loch Lomond

 

The Climax: I got hurt. It hurt realizing that some friendships weren’t as strong as I thought, it hurt when I was going through a tough time and had to bear the burden alone, it hurt that my exchange friends couldn’t sense my pain or comfort me or that I couldn’t even open up to them out of fear, it hurt that I missed friends and family back at home and am now realizing and appreciating that friendships take a long time to build.

While I’ve been here I’ve been changing, growing, morphing into an independent adult while some people remained the same. Part of the change meant realizing when I shouldn’t waste my time with people who weren’t worth it, moving past the disappointments, and interacting with different types of people. Part of the growth meant being okay with savoring moments on my own when there wasn’t anyone around to share it with or when people back at home didn’t understand what you saw or did. It also meant being vulnerable with people I’ve only known for two months and yet taking that step to open up to them that I would normally only do with close friends. Taking that chance meant some people responded well to it while others didn’t. Yet because I took that chance, I’ve made close friendships faster than I have ever before.

Lindy: My friend, flatmate, & hiking partner

Lindy: My friend, flatmate, & hiking partner

The (Near) Ending: Now I’m in the process of emerging from the things I’ve went through from the homesickness to changes in friendships to developments in new friendships to discovering my passion and to learning more about my strengths and weaknesses. Spring break is now here and these past two days have been nothing but sunshine. I see shorts, dresses, sunglasses, flowers, and changes that I welcome.

More importantly, I found love again. I see the place that I live in as my home, as a place where pain happened, but also endurance, and character through endurance, and hope through the character. Now I fear leaving. Time is running out and I feel like I still have so much to learn, so much to see, do, and experience. I will miss being able to travel with friends, learning, and stumbling upon beautiful landscapes.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

I love Scotland. I love it because of what it is but also what it has done for me. Although I’ll have to leave all this behind soon, slowly, with time, I’m preparing to let go. Rather than think of the fear and anxieties of leaving, I treasure the moments of spring, friends, and traveling all the more. Love is freedom and the love that my parents had for me enabled me to come here and love is what drove my growth during my time here. Now, it’s my turn to show my love for Scotland.

Calton Hill

Calton Hill


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