When I first decided to study abroad, I was pretty worried about the idea of living in a city. There are awesome programs like the Bio FSP or the Stretch (the nickname for the Earth Sciences FSP) that do fieldwork in the rainforest or at geological sites, respectively, but I wanted to study philosophy, and the Philosophy Foreign Study Program (FSP) is located in Edinburgh, Scotland. It didn’t occur to me until pretty much when my plane landed that this would be my first time really living in a city since I moved out of Manhattan when I was four years old. One thing I love about Hanover is the ever-present opportunity to get off campus and into the mountains or rivers of New Hampshire for a study break, so the idea of not having somewhere to go and relax freaked me out a little bit. However, Edinburgh is conveniently home to a 250m tall dormant volcano, which happens to be surrounded by a huge nature reserve, all of which happens to be a 10-minute walk from my flat. The volcano’s name is Arthur’s Seat, and when it’s sunny outside, it’s a great place to sit and get some work done, as I learned yesterday when I curled up on a grassy patch next to the summit to read two articles for my Philosophy of Time Travel class.
Outside of Edinburgh, Scotland is actually full of mountains and lakes, as our group learned when we went on a tour of the Scottish Highlands. We saw some really, really old Highland cows, and drove through areas where Skyfall, Harry Potter, and Monty Python were all filmed. We also visited Loch Ness (no monsters though, just the lake). It was great to be able to see different parts of Scotland even before we’d started our classes, because it gave me a better sense of where I am in the world. It sounds really cheesy, but having some cultural context to complement the fact that we are studying in another country meant that my learning here is not limited to my classes, and that was really exciting. Speaking of classes, though, mine start on Wednesday. As is common with FSPs, I’m taking one class with everyone from Dartmouth, taught by Professor James Moor, who’s here in Edinburgh with us for the term. My other two classes are University of Edinburgh classes, so I’ll get to meet students that go to the university here and I’ll also be able to study topics that aren’t offered in Hanover (time travel, here I come). After a week of exploring, I’m pretty stoked to actually get back into the classroom.