I didn’t realize how much I had acclimated to living in Sweden—or Scandinavia in general—until I left for the first time. Ironic, isn’t it?
Edinburgh, my Long Study Tour destination, reminded me more of the U.S. than any place I’ve visited in Sweden. The city was lively, the people loud, and the drivers undeterred by pedestrians (we quickly learned to obey crosswalk signals). Nonetheless, I felt like an outsider. Jarring as it was, though, I think that feeling helped me appreciate both Scotland and Sweden all the more.
Throughout our week in Edinburgh, we met with incredible criminal justice organizations, visited a spooky chapel, and hiked an ancient volcano. But when our trip came to a close, I was excited to come home.
Castles and cathedrals
I can’t write about visiting Edinburgh without mentioning its architectural beauty. Nearly every road had a view of the historic Edinburgh Castle, which towered above stunning cathedrals and charming streets.
Only hours after arriving in Scotland, my class got to explore Edinburgh Castle, which was quite an introduction to the city. We visited the Royal Apartments, including the very room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI in 1566. We also saw the Stone of Destiny, used to coronate British monarchs, and St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh built circa 1130.
Day trip to Glasgow
After some time in Edinburgh, we took a bus to Glasgow for two academic visits. Glasgow was more industrialized and modern, but I liked it just as much as Edinburgh.
During our free time, my friend Elizabeth and I made our way to Glasgow Green, the oldest park in the city, where we were met with fields of flowers and cherry blossoms. The warm, sunny weather was an added bonus.
Our second academic visit of the day was with Sustainable Interventions Supporting Change Outside (SISCO), a charitable organization dedicated to supporting the recovery of incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated people affected by addiction. We met with SISCO staff members, who all have lived experience with addiction and/or incarceration, to discuss how they create a safe space for prisoners, address their trauma histories, and help them become self-sufficient. Although SISCO is still a small organization, their work is incredibly impactful and inspiring.
A village, glen, and haunted chapel
My friends and I visited the small village of Roslin, just south of Edinburgh, on Thursday afternoon. Our first stop was Roslin Glen County Park, where we explored the many trails and grasslands.
We also came across the stunning ruins of Roslin Castle, built in the 14th century. While we couldn’t venture too far onto the grounds, the view alone was enough to grasp its profound history.
We then decided to tour Rosslyn Chapel on a whim. For those of you who have read or seen The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel may sound familiar – it’s where the climactic moment between Robert and Sophie takes place. The movie actually filmed the interior shots on-site.
Dating back to the 15th century, the chapel is associated with the Knights Templar, Freemasonry, and even the Holy Grail. Obscure carvings, such as an upside down Lucifer and other pagan symbols, cover the interior walls. Legend has it that the chapel’s master mason was so jealous of the pillar carved by his apprentice that he murdered the teenager with a mallet right then and there.
After our information session, we were allowed to walk around, get a closer look at the carvings, and go down to the crypt. Being inside the chapel was definitely a little creepy, but its beauty was astonishing. Aside from our academic visits, the whole experience in Roslin was my favorite part of the week by far. If you’re ever in Edinburgh, I highly recommend it! There’s also a great café in the visitor center.
Hiking Arthur’s Seat
For our last afternoon, my class walked up Arthur’s Seat, a massive hill and extinct volcano overlooking central Edinburgh. The scenery was incredible – I don’t think my words, or even pictures, can adequately capture it.
At the top, we had panoramic views of Edinburgh that almost didn’t feel real.
The study tour was everything I had anticipated and more. I got to experience a brand new culture, learn from Scottish criminal justice and victim service organizations, and spend time with some of my closest friends.