A second year in Scotland — June 2005

In her final column, Kirsten Beattie lists the things she’ll miss the most.

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

Photo by Jack Mellott.

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

Lists — my life revolves around lists. Things to do (I average one a day), things to pack for travel, things I want to see or do, things I have seen or have done. The notebook I currently am working out of contains examples of all of these types of lists; some are more immediate concerns, but the bulk of them encompass the next few months of my life, including my move away from this phase of my life in Scotland and into my future life at Chapel Hill.

While I like to think that I am fully living life here and not dwelling on my departure, I do have moments of “Oh, I’m not going miss that” and “I can’t imagine not having this next year.” Things such as seven-day work weeks, the necessity of always carrying something waterproof (even if there’s not a cloud in the sky — I have seen rain fall from blue sky here), and the lack of bagel shops, I know I will safely move on from without regret. (Although I suspect it will take a while for me to wean myself off of my umbrella.)

What will I miss most? In honour of my compulsive list-making personality, I decided to make a list: it is nine items, because I needed that many and yet didn’t want to force a 10th. And yet, you must forgive me if some of the categories seem a bit broad. It’s difficult to fit two years of my life into a list. In no particular order, nine things I will miss most about living in Scotland:

The active lifestyle. Perhaps it isn’t just a British way of life, or perhaps it’s a reflection on the staff at Fettes, but I had never met people so into the outdoors and being active. From cycling, canoeing/kayaking, rock-climbing or abseiling (rappelling) to forming friendly matches in football (soccer), rugby, or cricket, from staying in B&Bs and hill-walking to camping and hiking, the people I have worked with embrace opportunities to be active. Scotland is a beautiful country to explore, and its people have learned to take advantage of it.

The unique culture of travel. While Americans can argue that they travel as much around the states as Brits do around Europe or the world, over here, you can hop on a plane for two hours and arrive in a different culture with different languages and customs.

The endless summer days. Sure, we pay for it with dark, dreary winter days, but the beauty of long summer hours of sun is worth every extra minute of winter darkness. How wonderful it is to go to the cinema or a pub and walk out at 11 or 12 at night and still see daylight, to be able to wake up energised at any hour of the morning because the sun is shining in your window. Even in my second year of it, I still can’t get over how wonderful the summer sun is this far north on the Earth.

The Fettes buzz. Beyond the academic realm of school, the extra-curricular opportunities at this school are boundless, and I will miss how full life can be here. There is always something happening, from House debating competitions to sporting events to art exhibitions, drama performances or choir concerts. I have experienced so many new things through Fettes alone: theatre trips, Burns’ Suppers, coaching three different seasons of sports, working on school or house publications, learning to knit through supervising a knitting activity, running my first two 10K races, kayaking and mountain biking during our Third Form field week. I don’t know that I will ever be in a situation again that lays so many opportunities right at my feet.

Edinburgh. It will always hold a special place in my heart, and it will be one of the hardest things for me to leave behind. I don’t want to contemplate what that last taxi ride to the airport, past those familiar sights, or my final take-off, as we fly past the castle and Arthur’s Seat, will be like. Edinburgh has become home to me. There is nowhere in the U.S. that I will ever live that will allow me to walk to my front yard and see a castle dating back centuries, lording over the surroundings.

Student interaction. From the humour I still find in being called “Miss” to the heady joy of a successful lesson or assignment, I love the student/teacher relationship. Being there solely to help people, whether through teaching, advising or coaching, is a wonderful gift. It calls to mind a “Friends” episode in which Joey and Phoebe argue whether there is such a thing as a selfless good deed, because you do good deeds to feel good about yourself. I may not be the most experienced teacher, but to me, teaching is, and should be, a selfless job — and yet the reward of the satisfaction and glow you get from a positive interaction or experience with a pupil is the reason that you keep trying.

Brogues, kilts and bagpipes. I can be having a dreadful day, feeling grumpy or blue, but the sound of our pupils practicing their pipes and drums will bring me out of it every time and force a real smile. As for the brogue, sometimes my smile comes from the “smile and nod” response to not being able to understand the speaker, but not even the charm of a southern drawl can compare with the burly Scottish brogue in my book. Kilts: you have to love a country that can take a feminine item of apparel and turn it into the most masculine, proud bit of attire in that culture. I will miss those conversations with my male friends on staff about how often (or rarely) they launder their kilts, what they wear (or don’t) under their kilts. Ah, me.

Arniston House. As I’ve made this list, I have cried twice: first, writing about Edinburgh, and now (much more seriously), writing about my house. I love this house. I love the young women in it, the fun spirit, the care and love the girls have for one another. Carolyn has not just been a boss as my housemistress, but she has become a close friend and an immense source of support. I love the girls that I have tutored over the past two years. Each and every one of them is remarkable in her own way, and I feel so blessed to have been able to get to know them well.

And, finally, the people at Fettes, my friends. From people like Carolyn to Judy, our deputy headmaster, and Pippa, my head of department, all of whom have been nothing less than my rocks here, to close friends like Cate Charles-Edwards and Kate Nelson-Lee (who competed to see who could gain the most mentions in my articles), I have found a family here that has stepped in when phone calls home haven’t been enough. The people I will miss are too many to mention here, and I will consider myself very fortunate to meet up with half as many people I love and admire so well when I head back to the States.

Leaving will not be easy, and I know that as the time draws nearer for me to move on from this phase of my life, there will be many tears. All that I can do in the meantime, is try to take advantage of all of these things that I will miss. I am very lucky, I know, to have something so exciting to look forward to when I move back — for certainly UNC will be my next grand adventure.