I Skipped a Pub Quiz to STUDY!! (Aka: Taking the GRE)

If you have been keeping up with the Erskine blog, then you might have noticed that I suddenly disappeared last week. Hm, you might have thought to yourself, where has she gone? She normally puts up a blog post about every other day. And now it has been almost two weeks!

Rest assured, I did not suddenly fall off the face of the planet or get swarmed by a herd of angry kittens! Instead, was attacked by something even more deadly: the Graduate Record Exam. In case you are still blissfully unaware, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a four and a half long test required as part of the application process for a large percentage of graduate schools in the United States. In other words, it is a super big, important test that I have to do well on if I want to keep going to school.

Here in the UK, no one had ever heard of the GRE. I told my friends in class, at church, and in my hall that I was going to take the GRE and that I had to study. Their response: stare at me blankly and ask what the GRE is. So I tried explaining to them that it is like the SAT for grad school. Still nothing. And I have been standing around all week wondering to myself wondering what kind of strange world do I live in now where no one has ever even HEARD of the SAT or that GRE?? Do these people live under a ROCK?? And then I thought to myself… No standardized testing? Maybe I should live here for good!

Studying for the GRE was at best dull and uninteresting. Normally I like a good study session where I can really feel like I am working hard, but then, normally I am not studying abroad in Scotland! My dad made a deal with me that if I were to study hard for five days in a row and have absolutely no fun he would pay for me to go out to a nice dinner after the test. The problem was is that there are way too many fun things to do in Scotland! I realized I had hit a whole new level of dedication when I skipped a pup quiz to study!

Actually, I lied to you just a lit bit there. Sorry! (My GRE study guide would say that was a peccadillo- just a small sin! 😛 ) There was one part of studying for the GRE that was fun: the GRE vocabulary flashcards. In order to improve my vocabulary for the test, I ordered a box of flashcards containing the top 500 vocabulary words appearing on the GRE. For about a week before the test I carried those notecards with me everywhere. I flipped through them in my bed, I studied them on the way to class, I agonized over their definitions on the elliptical. My challenge was to memorize as many of the words as I could before I took the test.

The fun part of this story is how helpful my Scottish friends were with this goal. Tiffany, my roommate, started quizzing me on the words in our dorm before we went to bed. Then my friend Elisabeth stepped in and dedicated two evenings in a row to painstakingly go over every word and definition with me, carefully stopping to make sure I really understood the words and could use them in context. The last night before the test my friend Naomi came over to help me with the last few words I needed to practice. I will never forget how these sweet girls gave up their time to help me prepare for my test!

Naomi came over the last night before the test to help me review my vocab cards! :)

Naomi came over the last night before the test to help me review my vocab cards! 🙂

The morning of the test I thought I was going to die. Literally, I was sure of death’s eminence. This mainly stemmed from the fact that I had to get up at 5:45 am in the morning! As I am not meant to get out of bed before 9am, this was a real challenge. Tiffany and I took the 6:20 am bus to Edinburgh and arrived just past 8:30. She went to the coffee shop to study for her math test and I went to the test centre to take my test! Although I was also sure I was going to die of stress or, alternatively, fall asleep during the exam, I managed to make it through alive.

After I finished the test I decided that I deserved a reward. I LOVE to reward myself, and generally reward myself for basically everything that I do. So I decided to reward myself for completing the GRE by getting a professional hour-long massage. Let me tell you’ll something right now: that was the BEST HOUR of my ENTIRE life! Anybody who is reading this blog and has never had a professional massage should drop their computer right now and go get one! I am fairly confident that I am addicted, this stuff is better than crack!

And before you make some ridiculous comment about how I don’t know if it is truly better than crack, because I have never tried crack, let me tell you something. Recent research has found that oreos are probably more addictive than crack. I may not have much experience with crack, but I certainly know a thing or two about oreos!

Want to read about how OREOS are less addictive than CRACK?? Here is the article!

 

Planning a Trip to Edinburgh

When Tiffany and I first arrived at St. Andrews, we were shocked that people would refer to it as a small university. To us, St. Andrews seemed simply enormous! Students abound by the thousands, the campus is large enough to require a map, and the town has shops, pubs, and dozens of restaurants. This town appeared to be a booming metropolis in comparison to our small town of Due West!

Fairly quickly we realized what they meant. The town of St. Andrews only has three major streets: North, Market, and South. Within an hour of walking around town we had the town layout memorized fairly accurately. Within a week we basically knew where the major landmarks were (with the term ‘major landmarks’ obviously referring to the Italian restaurants, the shoe stores, and the bridal gown shop.)

So it should not come as a major shock to you that after three weeks of staying in those three main streets, Tiffany and I wanted to travel. (If this is a shock to you: perhaps you should sit down and soak your feet to recover from the shocking news.) We got together with two other girls from Erskine (Caroline and Katherine) and decided to take a day trip to the closest city: Edinburgh.

Tiffany and I were up and ready to explore! :)

Tiffany and I were up and ready to explore! 🙂

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and the second most popular city for tourists to visit in the UK. The city has many features that draw people to it by the hundreds of thousands: it is very old, it has lots of old structures which are wonderful for photography, lots of people live there, and it has a castle! The Edinburgh Castle is one of the most famous castles in all of Scotland and also one of the most photographed. It has been around for almost 1000 years and has also been involved in several wars. As far as I can tell, anybody who is alive ought to enjoy a trip to the Edinburgh Castle.

Let me tell you, though, planning a trip to Edinburgh is not so easy a caveman could do it (and thus could not feature on the popular Gieco caveman commercial series.) This mainly stems from the fact that gas here costs about $10.50 per gallon, on average (at this point maybe you really should put your feet up from the shock!) Because of this, people do not often drive anywhere. Most students here at St. Andrews do not have cars with them, and everyone either walks or rides the bus.

Which makes the bus routes very complicated. If you walk down the streets of Edinburgh you will see almost no cars, the streets full of buses, and the sidewalks crowded with walking people. There appear to be thousands of buses in Edinburgh, run by competing companies on different routes and turning every which way around the city.

See how the side walks are crowded with people?

See how the side walks are crowded with people?

To help you figure out which bus you need to ride the various companies will publish large timetables with long lists of numbers and symbols to let you know which but goes where at what time. Sort of like a mega excel sheet in brochure form, with each company publishing a different brochure for each new bus route. You walk into the bus station and there are almost a hundred different brochures and before you is a display of almost a hundred different little brochures. At this point you feel like you want to ditch the entire thing and go take a nap, but then you remember that you really do want to see the castle so you decide to plough through and hope you are successful.  

In the end the four of us were successful. We found a bus to Edinburgh and got a map of the city. We saw the Edinburgh castle, climbed Arthur’s Seat and Caltoun Hill, and walked the Royal Mile. We finished with a nice dinner and a little shopping in one of the Scotland Shops, and then headed to the bus station for our two hour bus ride to St. Andrews. We pulled into the bus station at 10:30 pm at night, the end of a 14 hour day of travel.

I am fairly confident that I was in bed by 10:35.

(NEXT WEEK ON HOLLY’s BLOG: Even more details on the Edinburgh Castle! Which famous Scottish king’s birthplace did the girls get to see?? And…. Up close and extended photo commentary!)