After 18: Sophia McCarron

Studying in a European city.

Sophia McCarron (center right) at the University of Edinburgh versus St. Andrews University rugby game.- Courtesy Sophia McCarron

Every year The MV Times asks four recent high school graduates to write about their experiences during their first year after graduation. Sophia McCarron graduated from MVRHS in 2017, and is studying at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland. This is Sophia’s second dispatch.

Last Friday marked one month from the day that my parents and I hauled my bags up four flights of stairs to my new flat. My room has the dimensions and look of a beige shoebox, but with some fairy lights, plants in the window, and a tapestry on the wall, I’m starting to call it home.

Sophia McCarron (center right) at the University of Edinburgh versus St. Andrews University rugby game.- Cou rtesy Sophia McCarron

The idea of moving to Scotland for college (or Uni as they say here) seemed a bit daunting at first; I didn’t know who my friends would be or if I would be lost in a sea of undergraduates. Although the school is large, I’m beginning to recognize people on my walk to class and around campus.  

There are still some things I’m getting used to. My friends have gotten into the habit of flinging an arm out in front of me to keep me from walking into oncoming traffic — driving on the left is proving to be a difficult concept to grasp. I’ve begun planning my meals and going food shopping, because after the first week of eating solely buttered crumpets and calling that cooking for myself, I reached my limit. It was really exciting when I made dinner the other week and nothing burned.

Cooking has become less of a chore and more of an opportunity to relax. On Sunday, a group of us in my building made ‘American’ pancakes and bacon for brunch. We sat around the table in my friends’ kitchen and hung out until the realization  crept up on us that Monday was fast approaching and there was work to be done.

This semester I’m in three classes; Arabic, Introduction to Politics and International Relations, and Historian’s Toolkit (which is glorified study skills). The University of Edinburgh puts a lot of emphasis on self-directed learning; this means that even if I only have 12 hours of class a week, I’ve had to spend a lot of my time at the library in order to keep up.

That being said, I’ve enjoyed structuring my own time. I can plan my day around yoga classes and lectures, filling in with the library during free hours. I’m also quickly learning that I’m not the type of person who can sit still for a long period of time and focus on work and expect to absorb the material. I need to get up and go for a run halfway through; even walking to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea helps.

There’s so much to do on campus and throughout the city that it is easy to skip out on a day at the library when the sun is shining. I rationalize this by telling myself that soon the dark hours will be longer than the day so I might as well take advantage of it.

I’ve joined the hillwalking society (which is their version of an outing club) and gone on trips into the Pentland Hills, which are about a 30-minute bus ride outside the city. When I first went on one of these trips I underestimated the term hills. Halfway up my legs were burning and I couldn’t maintain conversation, but at the top we got views of the whole of Edinburgh and looked down on some highland cows who were not terribly happy to have us pass on our way up.

In the city there are farmers markets on Saturdays and pubs that screen free movies every night. I’ve gone to Ceilidhs (pronounced Kaley) which are traditional Scottish folk dances. I was skeptical at first of the idea of line dancing to a fiddle band, but campus gets so excited at the prospect of a Ceilidh that I thought I would try it out. Since no one has a very clear idea of what they’re doing, it turns into three hours of people laughing at themselves and having fun.

One thing people don’t tell you about life at college is that it fundamentally resembles life at home. I still have to do my laundry and wash dishes, although now there’s no one to do it for me if things get to a desperate state. It’s still hard to wake up when my alarm goes off and motivate myself to be productive. I might be living farther away from my physical home than I’ve ever been, but the daily aspects of home life are the same and in an odd way, that’s comforting.