A second year in Scotland

Kirsten looks ahead to life after Fettes.

By Kirsten Beattie (English, Studies in Women and Gender ’03)

Photo by Jack Mellott.

Kirsten Beattie is in her second year of teaching and mentoring students at Fettes College in Edinburgh, Scotland, as a UK fellow. The UK fellows program is sponsored by the U.Va. Center for Undergraduate Excellence. She has agreed to give the readers of A&S Online a glimpse into her life in Scotland through monthly updates.To read her previous reports, click on “Related Links” at the bottom of this page.

Term ended yesterday, and I think I am becoming sick. Little surprise there. These past few weeks haven’t allowed me time relax, nonetheless become ill. The last five weeks have flown past in frenzy, proving some of the most stressful that I have experienced. Now, had I written this article two days from now, having had a chance to sleep and unwind, it probably would have started with something more along the lines of, “It has been a busy month but one filled with wonderful news and the excitement of good things to come.”

Rewind to mid-February and the email that I received from the journalism graduate program that I had applied to, inviting me to an interview weekend March 4-5. As we had a leave weekend here (which meant Saturday afternoon, Sunday and Monday off), I decided to fly back to the U.S. on the Thursday before and stayed until Monday, also allowing me some time to visit with my sister, who lives in the area.

The two weeks between that email and my departure were filled with preparations. I spent hours poring over the program’s web pages, read and picked through my application line by line, and made and changed my mind countless times over what to pack. As I knew I would see my sister, I also filled a suitcase to move home.

The interview weekend passed as a jetlagged blur yet still was clear enough to convince me that it was where I wanted to be. Meeting other people so passionate about their work and seeing what paths others had chosen was an eye-opening experience. I loved the faculty and students that I met and enjoyed how open and friendly everyone was. The time that I spent with my sister only reinforced how ideal a situation it would be for us to be only two hours apart, as we haven’t lived in the same state for eight years.

The week that passed between my return from the States and notice from the university was a series of hopeful highs and despairing lows. One minute, I felt utterly convinced that I was a good fit for the program and had shown that in my interviews; the next, I berated myself for not presenting myself and my goals clearly enough. It certainly was not a shining episode in The Life of Kirsten Beattie, needless to say. I relived bits of my interviews everyday, succumbed to two bouts of tears (a term’s worth of built-up stress didn’t help matters), and spent hours (literally) hitting the “check mail” button on my Web browser.

The wait proved worth it, and here is the first bit of good news and future prospects that I hinted at earlier. Starting in August, I will attend a graduate program in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It has taken a while for this to sink in, and I still am not able to show the excitement that I know is in me: end of term leaves little time for reflection or celebration.

Good news went on the back burner as pupil reports once again claimed days of my time. I wrote reports on the pupils I teach and coach in classes and games, then proofread every report turned in for my tutees (nine girls with an average of 18 reports each) before writing my own summary reports.

In addition to my normal schedule of classes, games and activities, I became involved in the makeup aspect of our school’s production of “Les Miserables.” A daunting task at first (I hadn’t worked with theatre makeup since high school), it ultimately proved good fun. Every night from 6 o’clock until 7:30 p.m., I would spend at least 45 minutes applying a false beard to our Jean Valjean before turning my attention to other characters in need of false sideburns, blacked-out teeth, dirty faces or rouged cheeks. While I didn’t always look forward to heading over to the drama studio, once I was there, I got caught up in the buzz of backstage activity before a performance.

Another shining moment in the term for me happened last Sunday, when I ran in our school’s 10K Charity run again, as I had done last year. While my finishing time still won’t win any competitions, I managed to knock nine minutes off of my time, thanks to the training that my friend Cate Charles-Edwards had forced upon me. Comparing the two runs showed me, once again, how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished in my time here at Fettes.

And, as I reflected on last year and my plans for the next, I received word from two other U.Va. students who also are looking forward: the two UK Fellows selected to come to Fettes next year. I am thrilled to be in communication with them, to have the chance to tell them all of the things that I wished someone had told me while I was waiting to move to Edinburgh. Of course I don’t want to give too much away (they need to form their own impressions and to experience the satisfaction of making their own start here), but I am happy to share in their excitement to come to Fettes.

A good night’s sleep, some vitamin C and zinc, and a relaxing day tomorrow will be all I need, I am sure, to realise just how much I have to look forward to over the coming months, starting Monday. I will leave for an 18-day tour of Eastern Europe (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Hungary and Poland) with my friend, Kate Nelson-Lee and another friend of hers from university. I cannot wait to be travelling again, to have the freedom and that sense of feeling foreign once again. Perhaps things already are starting to look brighter.