I've been living in Scotland for nearly three months and it has been one of the most formative times of my life. I assumed that because people spoke English the difference would be minimal, but I couldn't have been more mistaken. Also, my experience has been markedly different from my wife's which you've been reading about. Beyond adjusting to the haphazardly implemented metric system and dealing with strange accents, I've been immersed in the world of top-flight British academics. So, my top 10 is really two top 5's: the personal lessons and academic lessons I've learned since arriving in Scotland.
PERSONAL TOP 5 REALIZATIONS
5. I'm a solid Ceilidh dancer: I attended my first Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee) at the St Mary's College ball and found out that I'm perfectly suited for spin, stomp, yell, and clap with strangers. I'm quite aware that this might seem nerdy to those in North America, but don't judge.
4. John McKee is the best handyman is St Andrews: My neighbor John is somewhat of a local legend. The taxi driver who took us from the train station to St Andrews when we first arrived knew instantly who our next door neighbor was because of his yellow Skoda pick up truck (it looks like a small El Camino). Beyond his local mythological status, John has made us feel welcome in the town he grew up in and has even let me work alongside him from time to time. Although, all he lets me do is sand the wall skirting (I'm not much of a skilled laborer). If you need anything fixed in St Andrews give John a holler: John the Handyman
3. Indian food in the UK is unreal: Maisha!! Indian restaurant on College Street is my go to spot. I had it three times when Andrea was back in the states last month. There is nothing more comforting on a 40 degree day, when it's dark at 3pm and feels like dusk at noon, than a fresh naan bread and chicken tikka masala. The pompadon sauce is beyond delicious on top of anything. If you ever visit St Andrews, I will take you to Maisha. If you already live here, you're on your own.
2. Tv's and cars are non-essential: I have not watched a live TV show for 1/3 of a year. Although I did miss the World Series, I'm able to actually give the time to my studies and relationships. It's been good for my grades and marriage. I've also learned to live without a car. I walk to my office at St Mary's quad every day and the town is small enough that I can get to the other end in 20 minutes. I've really appreciated living in a smaller sphere.
1. I thoroughly enjoy having groceries delivered: The only real market in St Andrews is a good four mile round trip walk. So, I'm proud to say that Andrea and I have Tesco deliver our groceries. We go online once a week and select our items and the next a day a delivery guy drops them right on my kitchen counter. Living the dream.
Academically, the adjustment has been much more drastic for me. If you are planning to study in the UK, LISTEN UP! Here is what I've learned about postgraduate academics in the UK:
TOP 5 ACADEMIC REALIZATIONS:
5. Know your languages: I had taken two years of Greek before I came and thought that I was ready to do a serious study of Jewish apocalyptic literature. The first question my prospective advisor asked me was languages I controlled. When I said only Greek, he calmly, with a straight face, told me that I would probably need to learn Hebrew, Aramaic, French, German, Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Latin and possibly Old Church Slavonic. Then he told me just to worry about French, German, and Hebrew this year. How comforting! If you're going to do serious postgrad studies, at least know what languages you'll be expected to be aware of.
4. Self-motivation is key: There is no hand-holding in the UK system. There are no daily assignments, quizzes, or book write-ups. The onus is on the student to work independently. Some American students I've talked to are frustrated by this, but the tuition I have to pay is motivation enough to spend at least a full 40/week hitting the books. If you lack motivation, you will not make it.
3. Have fun: While spending serious time in the office and learning the librarian's first name (Linda) is important, I've found it helpful to take some time off and enjoy living abroad. Occasionally, I sleep in and watch a few episodes of Mad Men and I definitely spend time playing games with friends on the weekends. It's important to remember that studying isn't everything.
2. Be prepared to think differently: The more I've studied, the more I've realized that my dogmatic stances on the largely evangelical doctrines are short sighted. Since being in St Andrews I've been challenged to think about the Bible and the 1st century in a different way. I've skimmed through the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Septuagint, and revisited sections of the New Testament that I had long since assumed I had "figured out." I've realized that the world of 1st century Judaism that Christianity was born out of, was diverse and conflicted on many levels. It is no wonder that even the New Testament writers approach the death and resurrection of Jesus from different perspectives. Be prepared to enter into uncomfortable and challenging conversations.
1. Take risks: If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to undertake postgraduate study, you ought to make the most of it. Go out of your way to interact with other students and professors who you might not normally interact with. Hear from as many different voices as you can handle. Submit papers to conferences, try to read Jean-Paul Sartre in French, and have the courage to do give everything you have to the academic task you're undertaking. Dan Parker, my high school cross-country coach, once told me that I was afraid of failure, that I didn't give it my all because I was afraid I wouldn't be good enough. He was right. Postgraduate study is a perfect opportunity to see what you are really capable of. Challenge yourself and make the most of the experience.
I would really appreciate some interaction with this post on a personal or academic level...so LEAVE A COMMENT!!!!