Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Last Chapter

Stella donning her Christmas gift - a bandana with the Scottish flag.

No one warned me that coming home would be way more difficult than leaving. Leaving was the easy part. There was nothing exciting about coming home. The adventure that I had planned for, over the course of a year, was over so fast. I felt empty. I didn't have anything to get excited about (except acting class - I was really looking forward to that). I felt angry that I still had work to do and that I would likely not have a break between the end of my work with Strathclyde and the beginning of the semester at UNCG. 

We had our Christmas gift exchange a day or so after my cousin and her husband left. It made me happy to share my gifts from Scotland with my family. 

Here is Yodel with his tartan bandana. It looks good on him!
He even struck a pose for me.

I was now working on my Organisational Analysis and Strategy "Portfolio" assignment. My room was a disaster (to me, this is a disaster...). I couldn't stand to look at this work anymore! For this project, we had to choose a company that was in the London Times top 100 and write about the organizational structure of the company. I never had a clear idea of what, exactly, we were supposed to be writing 2,500 words about, nor did my classmates. My professor had set up two different meeting times to have "surgery" appointments (what that means, I still have no idea), to discuss any questions we had about the assignment. I had so many other things going on, and I so dreaded this project, that I never met with her. This project was so frustrating to me. I wrote about the Intercontinental Hotels Group, and I was interested to learn about the company, especially what they are doing to be environmentally friendly, but it was very difficult to write an essay and compile a "portfolio" on the company when I really wasn't sure what was expected of me. This class seemed like a never-ending nightmare.

I was resentful that I still had work to do, but at the same time, I was grateful that I had something to keep me busy, otherwise, I may have just stayed in bed, moping, every day.

This project was incredibly boring, so I had to find ways to break the monotony. Here is Mazie with the Scottish flag bandana. She looks so dignified!

Even Stella can tell how miserable I am. "She just sits at her desk all day long. What is that silly human doing?"

By the time I finished that awful essay/portfolio, I had about 5 days left to start and complete my Human Resources essay on National Human Resource Development in India. This was by far the easiest essay to write and I was done in 4 days, which left me 4 days before my next semester began. Not much of a break. I spent most of the time getting ready for class and I went out one night with a friend I hadn't seen since before I left.

The good news that comes out of all of this hard work is that I received remarkably high scores as final grades: 75 in Human Resources, 70 in International Business, and 65 in Organisational Analysis and Strategy. Only absolute geniuses would receive a 100 in the UK grading system (think Einstein). Anything above a 70 is "Top Honors" which is like getting an "A" here. I was bummed about the 65 because that is like a "B" but considering how much I disliked the class, I think I did pretty well. My credit transfer adviser at UNCG was even impressed with my grades. I admitted that I should have spent more time having fun :).

I started the spring semester at UNCG as a very angry student. I was super mad because I was not granted a parking permit to park on campus, so I had to purchase a parking permit from a nearby church and use their lot, which added 15 more minutes onto my 1 hour commute. Not cool. I was also still upset about leaving Scotland, though I was thrilled to be done with the classes I had there. My only complaint about my whole experience was that I learn much more from my classes here than I learned in my classes there. I don't feel like there is a lot of "teaching" there; it seemed much more like learning from a bunch of research projects. Anyway, I also had 6 classes, which was the most I had ever had in a semester. It was going to be my most difficult semester yet, and to have an additional half an hour taken away every day because of the parking situation just made me livid. I also felt like I left school and came back and knew no one. I did have a few friends that I already knew in a couple of my classes, but I had to start from scratch in the rest, which isn't easy when you are in Debbie Downer mode.

I attended a Welcome Back reception the first week for students who had just come back from study abroad and for international students who were just beginning their study abroad. I was still grumpy, but thought it important to attend and I'm glad I did. I knew I shouldn't keep myself isolated in my unhappy world. 

As time went on, things got better. I tried to appreciate my walk to class every day because it was the only exercise that I got. I didn't have 11+ flights of stairs to climb up anymore. I got into a good rhythm with homework and classes by the 3rd week and I was involved in the Global Leadership Program and the Stateside club, which is for students who have studied abroad. It was definitely helpful to talk to other students who have studied abroad about my experience, and it was good to know that it's pretty normal to feel down when coming back from a study abroad. I had a couple of pet sitting jobs lined up and my catering job was very happy to have me back, even though I only had time to work one shift in February during the semester. 

My acting class was the highlight of my week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My Supply Chain Management class, which was immediately after my acting class, was a nightmare. I guess bad has to balance good? I made a good friend in my environmental studies class (the first day of class he said something like, "I'm such a nerd, I always get to class early. I'm glad ya'll are nerds too." I thought, "He and I are going to be friends, but not today. I can't be happy today." I was right. We quickly became pals and I'm glad I snapped out of my funk.) The General Biology II class and the biology lab class were much less challenging than I thought they would be. My marketing class, which I took as an honors course, was ridiculously easy. 

In March, I got to perform a play in my acting class. We were all assigned scenes and scene partners in February. My scene partner (who was also in my Bio class, how convenient!) and I were given a scene in a short play, and we were allowed to perform the entire play, if we so chose. We chose, and performed Poof! by Lynn Nottage. I think the performance lasted about 10 minutes whereas everyone else had about a 5-7 minute scene. We had simple props, simple costumes from home, and performed in the classroom. It was very different than any other experience I have had. I was extremely nervous to perform in front of the class, but I had my lines all memorized and my scene partner and I had done a sufficient amount of practice. It was incredible to have my focus on my memorized lines and rehearsed actions while blocking out distractions from the audience. I decided that if I ever got the opportunity, I'd like to do something like that again. This was the best day of the semester.

Sometimes it's very necessary to treat yourself to a fabulous home-cooked meal. The cheese on the bread is a blue cheese brie and it is my most favorite cheese in the world. The sauce is home-made too.

 In April, I volunteered at the International Festival on campus. I attended last year, and thought it might be nice to help out with set up this year. It was a lovely day and I think we had a pretty good turnout.

April turned out to be a busy but rewarding month for me. I was recognized for my academic achievement with my qualification for my award, aside from my high GPA, being that I am the first person in my family to attend college. I also received an invitation from one of my professors, in the middle of one of my classes, to become a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the highest recognition that a business student can achieve. It was something else to be recognized by my professor, out of the blue, in front of 80 fellow students, and receive this invitation. I was inducted into BGS later that month. I was also nominated by my honors adviser to become a member of UNCG's Golden Chain Honor Society. Not only was I elected as a member, but I was also one of two students to receive a $1,500 scholarship from the society, based on an essay I wrote about how I demonstrate the seven golden links.

Remember how I said this was my most difficult semester yet? I accepted the challenge and finished with my highest grades yet: 3 A+'s and 2 A's, and went right into the first summer semester 4 days after the spring semester ended, and 5 weeks later, I had earned another A+. I have been awarded 3 scholarships and enough grant money to cover just about all of my expenses next year. If all goes as planned, I will graduate in ten months. Now, I am enjoying a nice, long break from school and catching up on things (like this blog!) that have clearly been put aside for quite a while!

This year has gone by so fast. I don't think I will ever experience another year quite like it, but I hope I can find a way to keep my life interesting because it sure is more fun that way. I impressed myself with all that I accomplished, and I learned that I am made of tougher stuff than I thought. 

I would like to thank you all for sharing this journey with me, and for being a part of my life.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page." -Saint Augustine


My journey is over.

It was so hard to leave Glasgow. Never in my life had I experienced so much in such a short period of time, and never had I been so happy with the location I lived in. I wasn't ready for this to be over, but I had no choice (or so I thought... I later learned that I could have extended my study abroad to include the spring semester...).

The local was kind enough to drive me to the airport in the wee hours of the morning, which saved me a great deal of trouble and it was nice to have someone see me off. I am so glad that I packed light on my way over, because I was bringing quite a bit back with me - I had to sit on my suitcases to get them to zip up. Even though I was flying the same airline back to the U.S., I did not have to pay the $60 to check my suitcase, which I am sure was 1 pound over the limit of 50. Thanks, UK folks, for being so kind to me on my departure.

After I went through security, I thought I would purchase a nice bottle of whisky with the money I had taken out to pay for my checked bag as a souvenir to share with friends and family when I got home. After tasting two whiskies (the salesperson told me I didn't have to drink the entire sample if I didn't want to, I insisted), I ended up purchasing a bottle of Auchentoshan, which is a single malt, triple distilled whisky. I think this was my first duty-free purchase, and definitely the most I had ever spent on a bottle of liquor (50 GBP = ~$80).

I went to the flight board, waited for my gate to show up, went to the gate and continued the sobbing that had started hours ago. This felt unreal. How could I be leaving already? I tried to keep things in perspective: I went on a study abroad knowing I'd be returning to the U.S. in late December and I had met wonderful people, visited many enchanting places, and had really great times. I can't imagine what the victims of the holocaust experienced when they were forced from their homes by threat of death, only to be shipped off to concentration camps. I can't imagine what refugees experience when they are forced to flee their homes to escape persecution or war. If I felt this miserable leaving a place I had come to love to go back home, I can't fathom what it is like to be forced from home in the direst of circumstances. In my sadness, I was feeling a bit like a spoiled American, but I succumbed to it nonetheless. 

It seemed like only a few minutes passed until the plane was boarding. I found my seat which was next to a young couple that seemed to be ridiculously in love. I was so angry. I pretended to read my book, but I cried the whole flight to London. I only had about an hour layover, so I tried to hurry, but the line at security seemed endless and wasn't moving very fast. I expressed concern to one of the airport employees, but they told me I'd be fine. As soon as I got out of security, I found the flight board, located my flight number and saw, "Gate Closing." Oh, crap. I didn't want to leave, but I didn't want to be stuck either! I awkwardly ran to my gate, with my backpack, carry on, and bottle o' whisky. My gate was just about the furthest it could have been from security. I was panting and sweaty by the time I greeted the attendant at the gate. He directed me to "his friend" to answer a few questions. (I was irrationally panicking inside - "the plane is going to leave without me!!! Just let me on!!!") The questions were related to the reasons for my stay. I was friendly, the "friend" was friendly, and I was finally allowed to board the plane. Unfortunately, I didn't have any time to use the loo before I boarded the plane, so now I had to wait. I was rethinking the cup of tea I had with the local at the first airport...

The guy sitting next to me was creepy and kept his hoodie on over his head for the entire 9 hour flight. I was hoping I was going to be sitting next to someone I could chat with because this was quite a long, lonely travel day. Once the seat belt lights went off, I poked the hoodie guy so I could be let out. I prefer window seats so I can rest my head, but I don't like to disturb my fellow passengers when I have to go to the bathroom. Oh well. I encountered a line at the restroom. And then we hit a little turbulence. One of the flight attendants shot a glance over to me and said, "You know the seat belt light came on, right?" I said, "Yes, I know." For a second, I thought I'd stick it out, but then decided to be a good passenger and went back to my seat, which meant I was in extreme discomfort and would have to poke the creepy guy again when the turbulence subsided. I waited and waited and finally I was able to get back up & use the loo.

The only time I really stopped crying on either flight was when they put food in front of me. Look at this lunch! I could have made 3 meals out of this! I think I know how airlines could save a little money...

I was grumpy, I was mad and upset, but I still tried to appreciate the view. I thought the clouds looked like a bed of cotton. This was the first time in my life that I did not have airplane anxiety. I think I was too sad to care.

The pilot told us we were flying over Greenland. My thoughts, "So what, I don't care. This is stupid. I can't believe I am going home. I hate this. I want to go back. This isn't fair. I guess I'll take a picture because maybe one day I will regret not taking a picture and then I will have guilt for being so ungrateful."

I'm glad I took pictures.

I got some sleep during the flight. I was so tired. Once we landed, I got my bags (really quickly, I might add - I always feel like my bags are the last ones onto the conveyer belt), I went through customs and some other part where they had to x-ray my bags and ask me if I walked through any areas where there were animals. I said, "Yes, but I threw my boots away before I left." Remember the shite boots? There was no way they were going to take up valuable space in my suitcase to come back with me, as much as I wanted to ship them to Sperry to show them what a crap product they sold me. I tossed them into a dumpster.

I spotted Mom in the waiting area, and she cried right away. I felt bad. "Don't cry, Mom." I think I dehydrated myself with all of the crying I did during the past 12 hours and there was nothing left to come out. Mom told me my hair got longer, and we went off to the car to head home.

This was a surreal feeling. I was just in an entirely different country, and here I am, back in NC, not quite ready to be back yet. Good thing I had a doggy who missed me, waiting for me at home!

Stella - is Jessica home?

Oh my gosh! It's Jessica! I can't believe it!

Sorry for the blur - the flash wasn't on... but you get the idea! Her tail was wagging like crazy and she was sniffing and sniffing - "Is it really you?"

 Hooray, it is you!

 I missed you too, Stella.

 Mom, look - it's Jessica. She's home!

Silly sniffer.

 I even let her lick my mouth. This is not typically acceptable for me.

I think maybe this was the real reason she was happy that I was home... she loves my bed. I was very glad to be sleeping in a plush bed with soft sheets and a down comforter again, too.

So, after the rest of the dogs greeted me, Mom went to check on Dad. He was home early from work and in his bedroom, not feeling so well. Vanessa and Josh had just arrived for my welcome home dinner (Mom made macaroni and cheese - what I had for my bon voyage dinner, yum!). Dad was feeling so unwell that Mom had to take him to the hospital, where he stayed for the next two days with a case of cellulitis. I was feeling rather emotionally jolted - I'm home, Mom is at the hospital with Dad, Vanessa and Josh are here for dinner. This is not exactly how I imagined my first moments back at home; it wasn't exactly a smooth transition.

I had dinner with Vanessa and Josh, and at about 7:30 I didn't feel like I could stay awake a moment longer and I went to bed. I heard Mom get back from the hospital just after midnight. My cousin and her husband were coming for their annual winter visit the next day, and I was looking forward to seeing them even though it felt like everything had been tipped upside down.

I woke up around 4:30am, and decided to start my day and get working on my essay. The day before was the only day I allowed myself to not think about these bloody essays.

My cousin and her husband arrived (at what time, I can't for the life of me remember), and they were excited to share my souvenir with me. (I look really tired in this picture... can't imagine why...) Mom made a delicious stuffed shell dinner and we had a nice time, even though Dad was still in the hospital. It was nice to share stories of my trip with family.

I woke up early again the following morning and finally finished my International Business essay. 2 down, 2 to go, 2 weeks left to finish both.

We always try to go somewhere significant or interesting when my cousin and her husband come to visit, and this year we decided to go to Korner's Folly in Kernersville, NC. It's supposed to be a really architecturally interesting house. The house didn't quite meet my expectations, but it was still enjoyable to be a tourist in my own state, and we all had a good time.

I  did really like the old-timey appliances and furniture.

I fancy this cupboard.

Narrow doorways? Yes, indeed!

The view from the window looks like a framed painting.

The house was decorated for Christmas when we went. We all would have preferred to see it in an undecorated state. The decorations were a little kitschy. 

The attic is used as a theater.

 I wear a size 5; my feet are tiny. These were some narrow steps!

After our tour of the house, we made a couple of stops then headed home. Dad got back from the hospital in time for dinner and he was feeling much better. Our guests left the next day. I am always sad to see them go. I then got back into a serious rush to get my essays done.

Up next: Christmas, the next semester, and the last chapter.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Glasgow: The Last Days

I'm going to miss this place so much. Rain and all. :'(

Grim post title, right? It's definitely a reflection of how I felt at the time. 

There will be pictures in this entry... you just have to get through these next few days (paragraphs) with me, and I'll show you my last "tour" around Glasgow.

On Wednesday I had to say goodbye to my closest study abroad friend. She was headed back to Ireland to spend Christmas break with her family and friends. It was so sad to say goodbye, but I'm so glad that we met and were able to have such fun and wonderful times together. 

I continued to work on my essays that day. I had submitted two major projects the previous Friday: a group paper for my International Business class about investing in the hospitality industry in Mexico (I edited this paper and ran, yes, ran down to the business building to turn it in before the 12:00 deadline. I got there with 10 minutes to spare. This is not normally how I like to operate), and my alternative assessment (essay in lieu of the exam) for my dreadful Organisational Analysis and Strategy class (it pained me to write this essay; 2,000 or so words and the topic was something along the lines of why the stakeholders of an organization should be considered when implementing organizational change. It was pure torture and not a topic I had the least bit interest in). I was now working on my alternative assessment for my International Business class. I had to write an essay analyzing the Scottish Development International: Invest in Scotland website and compare it to what the Mexican government offers international investors in terms of support and incentives (so it tied in with my group project as well). Yes, this is exactly what I want to be doing during my last days in Scotland...stuck in my dungeon of a room, glued to my computer doing research... (Do you detect sarcasm?...)

Thankfully, I had a little reprieve that night after writing about 1,000 words on my essay. My French friend and I went to have dinner at the Christmas Market in St. Enoch Square. She was leaving soon as well, and this was the last time I would see her before she left for France for winter break. We had a nice conversation, enjoyed our dinner, then walked back to campus. Another goodbye. 

On Thursday, I went to continue working on my essay, and I discovered that not only did my work from the day before not save to the document I had on my desktop, but it didn't save to the flashdrive that I used as a backup either. I felt like I was going to throw up. All the work I did was gone. Something was wrong with my laptop and I had SO much work to do. I went to the IT help desk at the school's library. They couldn't quite figure out what was wrong ("We've never seen anything like this before" is what I was told) and they wanted to keep my computer overnight. School was out for break, so the staff was a skeleton crew, the school would essentially be closed the following week for Christmas, and I was in a full-blown panic. I cried. I had no emotional strength to deal with this. They told me to see someone in the business department to let them know I might have to ask for extensions on my essays (I had 3 essays left that I had to do, school at UNCG started January 14th, so even if I was granted extensions, it wouldn't have made a difference - I HAD to have the work done before the 14th.) They also suggested that I get a special card that permits me to use computer labs after hours.

I went to the Business department and tried really hard to explain my situation through my sobs and gasps for breath. They informed me that the computer labs would be closed the following week just like the rest of the school. More panic. How am I going to get this work done??? They also suggested that I email my lecturers to inform them of my situation and request an extension. I went back to my hall, slightly hysterical, and composed rational emails to my lecturers explaining my circumstances. I couldn't even think about rewriting everything that I had done the day before. I was mentally exhausted and had to get ready for dinner and make myself look like I wasn't a crazy mess.

That night, I went to dinner with the local. If I remember correctly, we ate at Dakhin. I got to break open my first Christmas cracker, a wrapped cardboard tube that makes a kind of "pop" sound when pulled apart (by two people). There was a paper crown inside. I was told it should be worn throughout the dinner; I humored this for a few minutes, but just couldn't take myself seriously with it on, so down to the table top it went. Dinner was great - I really like Indian food.
On Friday morning, I went to see a counselor at school. You see, I was sad. I wasn't ready to leave, and I was afraid that I would be very sad for a very long time when I got home. I had made such a wonderful life for myself in three short months, had an incredible group of friends, was so happy with the location I was in especially with being able to walk to everywhere, I had a great social life, I was involved in activities, and it was just one hundred percent different than my life in NC where I live in a remote area, commute a total of 2 hours to school five days a week, and don't have much fun at all. I wasn't ready to go back to that. I didn't know what the session would accomplish, but I just wanted to talk to someone. The session was kind of funny; the counselor didn't ask many questions and there were moments of awkward silence when she was just looking at me. I guess this was a prompt for me to speak? I don't know. But she basically told me that yes, I would be sad when I got home, but to make sure that I did all that I wanted to do before I left. This was the best advice. She knew that I had essays to work on and deadlines to meet, and she understood that I am a perfectionist when it comes to schoolwork, and that presents challenges for one who is trying to get work done, but I felt like she gave me permission to make the most of my last days in Glasgow. 

After the session, I went to the library to use the school's computers to begrudgingly rewrite the bulk of my essay. I really, really wanted to finish this essay before I flew home so I only had 2 essays to worry about. My original goal was to have them all finished by the time I left, but they each took me about a week to complete, so that wasn't going to happen. I think this actually turned out to be a good thing, and you'll understand why a bit later. 

That afternoon, I went to the IT desk to see how things were going with my laptop. The IT guy really wasn't sure what was wrong, but told me just to use Google docs to save everything online. Duh. I can't believe I didn't think of that before. Here I was, freaking out because I couldn't save anything to my computer and totally forgot about Google docs. I felt like a bit of an idiot. Thankfully, once I got my laptop back, one of my good friends from NJ walked me through how to fix my computer. It turns out it had a "worm" and everything went back to normal once that was corrected. 

On Saturday, I took my last "tour" in Scotland. I visited the places that were right in my backyard; the places I could see from my window (which was in the center section of this building - the portion above the archway, on the 4th floor, and the window on the left. The common area with the kitchen/dining/living area is where the two windows are in the center). This building is Chancellor's Hall, the "poshest" hall on campus, or so I was told. I would hate to know what the other halls were like. Drunk students liked to hang out under the archway all hours of the night, and their voices would echo so loudly it would wake me up from a sound sleep. They often felt the need to scream instead of speak in normal voices.

This is Barony Hall which is on the Strathclyde campus. Graduation ceremonies are held here, as are some exams. I never ventured inside, and I regret that because I have seen pictures since I left and the interior is absolutely gorgeous.

There was scaffolding around the steeple of this building and on the steeple of Glasgow Cathedral from the time I arrived up until this point, which you may have seen in the pictures I took of the view from my window. I couldn't believe they were done with the work on both buildings' steeples just in time for me to see it finished before I left.  

I was ever so grateful for these maps all around campus because it helped me tremendously during those first days when I was trying to locate my classes. 

This is a picture of my hall approaching from near Barony Hall. I rarely came up this street on my way back; it just really wasn't on the way, but as you will see, it was preferable to my other option (the stairs). On a side note, it rains so frequently that paper/leaves/litter disintegrate very fast (I'm looking at the blob in the foreground). The city also does a really good job with keeping the roads and sidewalks clean.

A statue of David Livingstone, known for his exploration in Africa among other things, with the Glasgow Cathedral in the background. One of the buildings on campus is named after him, so I associate his name with a creepy building that has pain-in-the-butt elevators, and rooms that smell like a dirty locker room. I hope if a building is ever named after me it will be a nice, well kept building. 

I think I chose the rainiest day of my stay to do this little tour. It's not what I was hoping for; I was drenched within minutes, and it was the first and only time that the contents inside my water-resistant backpack got wet. I learned not to leave things that I really want to do until the last minute.

This is the Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Cathedral Square. I did not have time to stop in here, unfortunately.

The placard on the building. The museum opened in 1993.

This is the view of campus from Cathedral Square.

Glasgow Cathedral. 
It is a dark building to begin with, and on this day, with the rain and cloudy skies, it appeared exceptionally dark.

On to the Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery situated on a hill near the Glasgow Cathedral. I remember looking at a map of Glasgow before my trip and thinking that campus was awfully close to a cemetery and how creepy that would be. It turned out not to be so; the cemetery is quite elegant for what it is, and I liked seeing the statues and monuments on the hill from my window.

The fancy gates to the Necropolis.

Graves and tombstones are on paths that wind around the hill. I chose just a few pictures as highlights of the Necropolis. I would have liked to have had time to read more of the tombstones, but I had to hurry through. From what I gathered, the peak of burials here was in the mid-1800s, with a number of notable people buried here. It would have been interesting to take a guided tour of the cemetery.

A view of the Glasgow Cathedral and Royal Infirmary from the Necropolis.

I don't think I could have chosen a more ominous and dreary day to visit a cemetery...

I see raindrops on my camera lens! It was unavoidable. My residence hall can be see in the background of this picture, between the mausoleum and the monument to the right.

This is the Royal Infirmary, which was opened in 1794. I could see this quite well from my window. I had to go here to sign up for a doctor when I first started school. It is a tremendously huge building, as you can see from the picture I took on the hill of the Necropolis.

It's hard to see, but the timeline at the Glasgow Cathedral begins in 612 AD, when Saint Kentigern of Mungo (or Saint Mungo) dies and is thought to be buried here. He is said to be the founder of the city of Glasgow. The cathedral was built in 1136.


Just as I entered the cathedral, an Australian family was starting a tour and I was invited by the guide to join in. Good timing! The interior of the cathedral was more exquisite than I could have imagined. I couldn't believe that I lived so close to something so beautiful and so rich in history (and that it took me so long to see it!).

I only took a few pictures of the interior, unfortunately. I wasn't sure if pictures were allowed during the tour, so I just snapped a few shots once the tour was over.

This looks like a movie set! It is so pretty. It probably would have been quite an experience to attend a service here.

A portion of the cathedral with the Necropolis in the background.

A hotel. I remember passing by this on the hop-on-hop-off bus back in September. It seems like such a long time ago now!

Another view of the hotel with the Necropolis in the background.

Exterior views of the cathedral. The details don't come out well because the building is so dark.

This is Provand's Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow. It was built in 1471, as you can see from the image below. I still can't believe that I was living so close to medieval buildings.

The house was so quaint inside I could picture myself living in it.18th century furniture? Yes, please!

I especially liked the sitting areas in front of the windows. It is hard to tell from this picture, but there are two stone benches in front of the window. The St. Mungo Museum of Religion and Art can be seen through the window. That building was designed to reflect the style of this house.

Remember how I said in the previous post that if the University of Glasgow was a like a butterfly, then Strathclyde was like a caterpillar? Well, here is the caterpillar. This is the Strathclyde business school building. I thought I would be having all of my classes in this building, but it seems to just house offices. 

Another view of the business school building. 

My awful Organisational Analysis and Strategy class was held in this building. It took me less than five minutes to walk here from my hall. 

My International Business and Human Resource classes were held in this building, which was about a 6-7 minute walk from my hall. 6 minutes + 44 minutes + $10 a day in gas + $311 for annual parking pass = my commute to UNCG. 

In case you have forgotten what the University of Glasgow looks like...
I am sure you can appreciate my analogy.

I am walking into the city centre along this road, the aptly named Cathedral Street (I was splashed so badly by a bus while I was walking along...), but straight ahead and to the left is the student union building, and to the right is the gym for Strathclyde students where I had archery practice. They can't really be seen from this picture, but I will post a better picture of the union building.

My Danish friend told me a while back that The Lighthouse in the city centre was a really neat place to go, that the top of the lighthouse offered great views of the city. This was a place I really wanted to see, so off I went. The building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and there is an exhibit of models of his works on one of the floors. There was also a really cool exhibit that displayed aerial photographs of significant places in Scotland. To my surprise, I had visited a number of them! Seeing those photographs made me feel like I did so much during my time there, and had really packed as much as I could into 3 1/2 months. I have to offer another thanks to Student Tours Scotland for making that possible.

Finally, I found the "lighthouse." I started the ascent of the spiral staircase. Note: I did not look up before I started climbing. I took the picture above after I came back down. Had I looked up first, I would not have managed the climb.

I was climbing, and climbing, and climbing, looking just at the steps in front of me as I went along. After a while, I thought, "How many more steps are there?" And then I looked up. I instantly felt weak, my knees began to shake and my breath trembled in out of my lungs. I still had a long way to go; I was only about halfway up. For an instant, I thought I should go back down. Then I got upset with myself, thinking I'd come all this way, I had to keep going to see the view. I grabbed onto the railing to my right and to my left and continued to climb up the stairs as if I were cross-country skiing, partly pulling myself up with each step I took. Thankfully, there was no one else on the stairs. I was glad I was alone, because I felt like a fool.

When I made it to the top, I saw that there was access to step outside onto a landing to enjoy the view. I did not take advantage of this. I just peaked out the windows, thought, "Oh yes, nice view," put my camera in my left hand, put my arm out over the railing, turned my head in the opposite direction and took a few blind pictures. I could not bear to look down, but I knew that once I was down I wanted to know how high up I had been. I was crouched down as it was, which was not deliberate; it was just what my body was doing to cope. I couldn't even bear to turn my back completely to the staircase so I could take pictures of the view, and that is a shame.

This was the best picture out of the three that I took. For me, this was terrifying. For normal people, it's probably really cool. I told myself to just focus on the steps directly in front of me and that I'd be down in no time. I think the viewing platform is 6 stories up, and that the stairs only take up 4 stories. In my mind, I felt like I was climbing 20 stories high. I need to emphasize again that physically, I have no problem doing all of this climbing. My problem is completely mental.

I worked up quite an appetite, so I headed out to grab some lunch. I went to the Royal Exchange Square, where the Gallery of Modern Art is located, and ate at Cafe Rouge and had the Aubergine Gratin and Earl Grey tea. I was soaking wet and felt a bit like a disheveled tourist, but lunch was relaxing and gave me a chance to sort through the many pictures I had taken through my journey.

After lunch, I went souvenir/Christmas present shopping. This was the last thing I had to complete on my "must do" list. I bought Scotland and Glasgow t-shirts for my parents, sister, and her boyfriend, and two for myself (I think the salespeople thought I was nuts because I spent a half an hour trying to figure out who would wear what size and which colors to get), two calendars of Scotland, one for each household, a couple of key chains, and bandanas for the dogs. Afterwards, I took a few more pictures of the city centre on my way home. The above picture is the east side of George Square.

A close-up of the same view.

The square in all of it Christmas glory in the afternoon. I don't know what it is about this corner, but I seem to take all pictures of George Square from this spot every time.

 A building on my walk back to campus on George Street.

This is a much better view of the student union building that I mentioned earlier. It has the bulls-eye on the sign. It has 8 stories, all of which are dedicated to the students. There is a floor with a bar, there is a cafe, a restaurant, a floor of pool tables, and much more. This is also where I attended a ceilidh earlier in the semester.

The view from the student union building looking toward George Street. 

It is hard to capture the grade of this hill in a picture, but it is seriously steep. To the left is the Livingstone Tower building that I mentioned earlier in this post. I had tutorials for my Organisational Analysis and Strategy class in this building. I don't care how fit you are, by the time you get to the top of this hill, you will be winded. I do appreciate that the hills and stairs I had to climb were great exercise. I hate that I spend so much time in my car now.

This is a view of Chancellor's Hall (left of center) from George Street. This was the way I most frequently got back to my hall from the food stores and the city centre. You can see the first set of stairs at the back of the parking lot.

At the top of the first flight of stairs, to the left, is the Graham Hills building. I had my tutorials for my International Business class and Human Resources class, as well as my yoga classes in this building. You might not believe it from this picture, but the inside of this building is actually a labyrinth. Seriously. This building was the closest to my hall, (about a 3 minute walk) and I allowed fifteen minutes each time I had to come here to find the room I needed to go to, even if I had been to the room two or three times before. The signs that tell you where the rooms are point you in the wrong direction. Fun. It is the most confusing building I have ever been in in my life.

My camera battery died, so the pictures of the steps continue below. But first, Christmas dinner! (I spent Sunday, Monday, and part of Christmas day working away on my International Business Essay. I still hadn't completed it).

On Christmas, my Canadian flatmate hosted Christmas dinner. I was so excited to share one of my family's traditional holiday dishes with everyone: candied sweet potatoes. They were a hit! I was also really happy to share Christmas with friends of all different ethnicities and religions.

 We hosted friends from Ukraine, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey and China! Dinner was so good, with everyone contributing a dish or two.

And the U.S., of course :)

We played dirty Santa for our gift exchange. It was so much fun to see the gifts that everyone chose. I had purchased a souvenir pen and a picture book of Scotland as my gift to give.

I think Anzhelika really liked the gift she got! We were also working on a Christmas puzzle. It was a fun part of the gathering.

The When in Rome book was such a great gift! We had fun reading the advice it gave for when traveling in each of our respective countries.

The gift I chose was a mug with drawings of London sites on it. It was perfect, especially since I wasn't able to get down to London. I use it all of the time for tea.

I was able to Skype with my family on Christmas, so I didn't feel too distant from them. I had a terrible time trying to decide what date to book my return flight when I was purchasing my plane tickets. Although I was sorry I wasn't home on Christmas day, I don't regret my choice to leave Scotland after Christmas. I don't think I will ever have a Christmas experience like the one I had in Glasgow.

After dessert, I had to go back to my room to start packing. My journey had come to an end.

On my last day in Glasgow, I woke up to a beautiful sunrise. Scotland couldn't have seen me off any better. I was going to miss this view.

I ventured out to continue documenting the stairs to my hall. So, these are the stairs that come after the first set in the rear of the parking lot. These were very narrow, the steps seemed tall, and they were not really wide enough for someone to come down while someone else was going up.

They were followed by another set of narrow, tall steps.

Oh yes, there are more! I didn't feel guilty running down to the Co-operative food store to get sweet treats, knowing that I had to climb all of these stairs back.

Up, up, up! I am such a dork that I would usually run up the stairs to maximize the cardio benefits. Most students walked slowly up the steps and I would get peeved when I got stuck behind one because they were interrupting my exercise routine.

Almost there!

Getting closer!

The last set! Kind of...

I made it! This is the entrance to my hall. There were four blocks and I was in block D. Once inside the building, I had 6 more flights of stairs to climb to get to my floor. My legs were so strong by the time I left Glasgow!!! There was an elevator in the building, but I tried not to use it because I liked the exercise. When I got sick in November, I relied on the elevator a bit more.

 Another view of the hall entrance, under the archway.

This path leads to other halls, the library, laundry facilities, and classroom buildings.

I didn't have any classes in this building, but it was the closest building to my hall that held classes, just on the other side of the hall. I did attend a mandatory meeting for international students here during my first week.

This is the opposite side of Chancellor's Hall, decorated with a dog chasing a cat chasing a bird being chased by a hawk. :)

I spent the remainder of my last day in Scotland packing and working on my essay, which I still did not complete. It really just needed a good edit once I was home, so I didn't have that much left to do before I started the last two essays. This was a really sad day for me as no part of me was ready to go back to the U.S.

I hope you enjoyed this entry. My next post will cover my journey home and my transition back.

Goodbye, Glasgow! xx