it really is one step at a time

A few nights ago I returned to my flat from my third trip to Edinburgh. On this final trip, I finally visited the famous Edinburgh Castle, and I’d taken a Harry Potter walking tour, on which I discovered that the street where I’d bought a dress earlier that day was the inspiration for Knockturn Alley. (Apparently it’s changed a lot since the 90’s.)

When I finally made it to my room, I couldn’t sleep. I was bursting with thoughts and desires and prayers and songs, and my memory was full of snippets of conversation, winding stairs and streets, tastes of bread and coffee, and the faces of hundreds of people. Every time I blinked, against the backs of my eyelids were the images of wet green-tinged cobblestone and the intricate skyline of Edinburgh’s Old Town. All of this felt entirely too much to handle, and I sat down with my journal to do a brain dump that ended up being a lengthy reflection on the last three and a half months.

Most of my time in Scotland has been in Glasgow’s West End, and a taxi ride from Queen Street Station back to the uni along Gibson Street is like a massive rewind. I see the shops that were the landmarks on my many walks to the Glasgow School of Art. We turn around the corners I’d stopped on during my solitary rambles to gain my bearings and pass the cafes in which I’ve had many a coffee and long afternoon think.

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I’ve realized, I might not cry when I leave Glasgow – it won’t be that kind of sad in parting. I think a part of me will always haunt Glasgow’s patchwork pavements. Here, I feel as if I’ve shed my shell, let the wind and rain slough it off and the current of the River Kelvin carry it away. I feel like a new person, awoken by days of trekking through Scotland and nourished by fascinating but lonely lectures, hours of reading and writing in cafes, and the many sessions of prayer and learning and laughter in the uni’s Chaplaincy.

But in a way, I shed that shell when I laced up my boots after airport security back in September. I’d straightened my shoulders and pointed myself in the direction of the gate at DIA. At that moment, I could no longer be quiet. I no longer had any crowd to follow. I had to decide what to do and how and why to do it. I proceeded to stride with purpose in the wrong direction. I got lost a few times on my way to the gate. I then got lost at the uni, in the Glasgow Botanical Gardens, in St. Andrews, and in Dublin. I may have lost my way a few (dozen) times, but I found myself.


Alice Major

SCOTLAND – UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW, 2018 FALL

Alice Major is studying at the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland. She is a double major, focusing mostly on music and adding history because history is cool. Study abroad is Alice’s first time out of the country, and she hopes to come home in one piece and with a wicked Scottish accent.

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Christmas Spirit, Baby Jesus, and…Potatoes?

I. Love. Christmas. SO. much. Baking cookies, making paper snowflakes, listening to Christmas music, the whole shebang. However, I worried that being 5,000 miles away from all my normal traditions would take some magic out of the holiday. Alas! This is not the case! Christmas time in the Czech Republic has been an absolute DREAM, and my Christmas spirits are soaring high. Here’s what I’ve learned about how Czechs celebrate this season:

First off, let’s talk about CHRISTMAS MARKETS! If I could bring one thing back from my trip, it would be this concept of Christmas markets. If you’ve ever been to a Christmas bazaar where local companies make goods and sell them, imagine that-but much grander! In nearly every city square you’ll see little wooden booths set up will small

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Christmas Booths sell Christmas Spirit by the Kilogram

companies selling soaps, ornaments, food, tea, you name it. While this may sound fairly similar to a Christmas bazaar, it’s the environment around these markets that make it so special. There’s Christmas music playing all the time, concerts and events in the larger squares, and people hopping booth-to-booth, testing out each different type of mulled wine. In my city, Brno, there’s even a special tram that’s covered in Christmas lights that can take you between each Christmas market! The atmosphere is hard to describe, but after visiting these markets I can confirm that the Christmas spirit may have been invented here.

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The Christmas Tram: AKA the Holly Trolly

Additionally, there’s something similar to a second Christmas that comes early- December 5th to be exact. This is known as St. Mikulas day, where a bishop, followed by an angel and a devil, judge how good a child has been. If the bishop deems the child “good,” then the angel may give them candy or nuts. However, if the child is bad, then they receive a potato or coal and then get taken away by the devil. A little dark for my taste, but I’m sure it provides great incentive for children to be on their best behavior.

Finally, the concept of Christmas is totally different here! Santa doesn’t deliver presents to the good children, but instead leaves that job to baby Jesus! On Christmas Eve, (after a dinner of fresh carp and potato salad) children are told to go into a separate room from the Christmas tree. Once they’ve left, baby Jesus places presents under the tree and then rings a little bell to signify completion. If you thought the logistics of Santa delivering presents to every child was difficult, try explaining how an infant does it!

Of course the holidays aren’t the same when I can’t bake cookies or decorate trees with my family, but learning how Brno, Czech Republic celebrates Christmas has been incredibly fascinating and just as festive-if not more!


Hannah Langford

CZECH REPUBLIC – MASARYK UNIVERSITY, 2018 FALL

Hannah Langford is taking a break from studying Integrated Sciences at DU to study history and culture at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She’s looking forward to exploring the unique geography and outdoor opportunities in the area and the surrounding countries. She’s also looking  forward to eating a lot of chocolate.

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