Sophomore Emily Pachta of Wichita is studying abroad at Newman University’s sister school in Birmingham, England, and continues her latest adventures in blog No. 3.
Follow along with Pachta’s blog posts on the Newman Today news site as she explores the British university also named for St. John Henry Newman, as well as Birmingham and other cities and sites in England and Europe.
Hey guys! Phew, we are almost halfway through this semester. That is so wild to me. It feels like yesterday that I was sprinting to catch a flight to Amsterdam in the middle of the night.
A couple of weeks ago we didn’t have class so I took a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. I had a great time and being my first time traveling alone, I learned a lot that I want to share.
I’ll share some tips, then jump into my adventures in Edinburgh.
- Bring Airpods. Obviously, be safe and aware of your surroundings at all times, but throwing in an Airpod and maybe some Billy Joel and you will feel like you’re in a movie. Other top travel music for me was Noah Kahan, Lizzy McAlpin, The Lumineers and Hozier. (I know, so quirky.)
- Don’t be afraid to ask people to take pictures of you. Yes, it might be awkward, but the best way I found is to ask other solo travelers or couples if they want their picture taken and ask for one in return. Eye for eye, photo for photo. Also just because someone is a young, fashionable person doesn’t mean they will take good photos. In fact, some of the best photos came from middle-aged moms so shout out to them.
- Don’t spend unnecessary money. No one is there to tell you that buying a $10 bag of candy from a candy store is a dumb idea. So I am here to tell you, don’t go into a candy store and fill a bag with 3 pieces of candy, expecting it to be like $3 because it will cost way more than you think. I learned that the hard way but I am a sucker for American candy.
Adventures in Edinburgh
One of my international friends here in Birmingham helped me plan this trip as she went last summer (shout out to Loes, an absolute lifesaver).
The train from Birmingham to Edinburgh was only around four hours and the round trip cost around $50. I stayed in the Royal Mile Backpacker, which is a hostel that I highly recommend. For four nights, it cost around $100 and they have events every day.
My favorites were Wednesday, which was going to a Scottish dancing club where you learn how to Cèilidh (Scottish dance) and Thursday, which was a pub crawl and absolutely the best night of my trip.
It is very clean and the people are so nice but look up hostel life before you go so you know what to expect because it is nothing like a nice hotel room with your own bathroom.
I arrived around 8 p.m. and didn’t feel great from the train ride so I just checked into the hostel and got settled in.
I started the morning by walking to Holyrood Castle (Palace of Holyroodhouse) to take some photos and walk around.
I got hungry so I went to a coffee shop called Black Sheep Coffee and got a bagel and coffee. I thought it was a cute little mom-and-pop shop but apparently, it is a huge chain. Doesn’t matter, it was still good.
Then, I just walked wherever my heart desired. I stopped at cute shops and let window shopping lead me. I ended up at the Scott Monument and again, took loads of pictures (that will be a recurring theme).
After all that, I wanted to hike Arthur’s Seat, which is a hill that offers the best view of the city. So I started up in my jeans and Doc Martens and realized that it was a bit more intense than I thought it would be. It was a constant steep incline but eventually, I made it up there. Tip: If you go here, bring a jacket because it is windy and cold at the top.
I heard an American accent and obviously gravitated towards it and then asked them to take my photo. We talked for a bit about how he had been to Manhattan, Kansas, (which is like 15 minutes from my hometown) and he played against K-State in football. He lost (obviously, go Cats).
After my trek, I was wiped out so I went to the hostel to take a nap. I’m not sure if it was the solo traveler stress or the hike but I wasn’t feeling great the rest of the day so I just stayed in and relaxed and slept.
I ordered a ticket to Edinburgh Castle for later that morning, (don’t be like me and order your ticket the day of; maybe preplan a bit).
Then I went to a cute coffee shop (obviously) and met more Americans (I swear I have like an American radar now). This mother-and-daughter duo was from Seattle and they were touring schools. They asked for my insight because obviously, I look so worldly and well-traveled (that was a joke) and I helped them as much as I could.
The Edinburgh Castle was beautiful and definitely worth the $25 just for the cute pictures, but there are also many museums and history stuff if you’re into that (I am not).
After that, I went to the Scottish National Gallery because it was free and it had some nice artwork. There were a couple of Monets and Monet is literally my absolute favorite artist so I was happy.
I walked up to Calton Hill, which is another viewing point with some historic architecture and I (surprisingly) took lots of pictures.
I went back to the hostel to relax before dinner and had an early dinner at an Italian place, I’m pretty sure they make their own pasta because it was BOMB.
This night was the Cèilidh dancing and I had a blast. You learn the dance beforehand in the hostel, then you all walk to the club to partake in a huge dance. It was also nice to meet other people in the hostel and hear their life stories.
I had to do some school work so I once again went to a cute coffee shop and worked and worked and worked. It was kinda awkward because I was the only one in there for like hours and the barista kept looking at me but #YOLO (you only live once).
I had a Zoom meeting for my Birmingham classes at 1 p.m. so I did that in the hostel to not upset the judgy barista and then got on with my day.
I went to Victoria Street which was J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley for all those Harry Potter fans. (Fun fact: She actually wrote a lot of Harry Potter in Edinburgh). There were a lot of fun shops so I had a great time.
I walked for a bit then went back to the hostel to get ready for the pub crawl. This was the best night. I met people from all over: Australia, Croatia, the Netherlands, South Africa and Massachusetts (had to throw that last one in there because I thought it was funny).
We went to a karaoke bar so I obviously had to sing “Party in the U.S.A.” or else I would not legally be allowed back into the States. (It’s a law, don’t look it up.)
And finally, the night was over.
My train wasn’t until 7 p.m. so I checked my luggage at the hostel reception so I wasn’t walking around with a suitcase all day.
I wasn’t feeling great in the morning (wow, surprising) so I just decided to walk around and check out anything I missed. I saw things I said I would come back to and bought some souvenirs.
I saw a man with two owls and a hawk that you could hold for £5. (I didn’t pay to hold him but I snuck a photo).
Around 5 p.m. I was kinda over it and tired so I went to the train station to wait for my train and got dinner there. I took the train back and got back to Birmingham in my sweats and crewneck around 11 p.m., took the bus back to Newman, and fell asleep.
Connect with Emily
Thank you for another (long) read and I would highly recommend going to Edinburgh. It is beautiful and overall very fun.
Once again if you have any questions definitely reach out at [email protected].
– Emily Pachta
Study abroad opportunities at Newman University
Students are encouraged to participate in Newman University’s overseas study and exchange programs, which contribute to individual and intercultural development.