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Trip Start Aug 28, 2007
Trip End Jan 02, 2008

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sorry for all the confusion. Like the parliament here, everything is VERY NEW! We just had our first class on Monday. It definitely will be an amazing experience for sure. I guess I will update you a little on what I have been doing just so you can get a little insight into all of the

My flight from Chicago to Amsterdam was very easy. I sat next to this couple from Wisconsin who was going to visit friends in Germany for a 40th Anniversary celebration. They were very kind and got me extremely excited for my upcoming time in Edinburgh. They assured me that I will come back as a changed man. This, of course, will be a very new and exciting experience.
Anyway, my flight from Amsterdam to Edinburgh was just as easy.

However, it was going through the Passport station of customs that caused my first confidence shaking setback of the trip. THEY CANCELED MY VISA!!!  I guess I put Student Dependent (thinking I was still dependent on my parents for tax purposes, but actually it meant that you dependent ON A STUDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY) instead of just Student!  It all worked out though. Because I arrived into the country 2 days before the law changed to where I would need a visa, I made it through with the appropriate stamp.  All is fine now, but when this all was happening, I was a little worried! However at the time, without really knowing what to do I did what anyone arriving in the UK does to calm down, I had a spot of tea. After I drank my tea I had to find my way to the ground transportation to catch a bus to the city center. After paying my 1 to get on, the bus took me to Waverly Station in City Centre. From there, I took my 150+ lbs of luggage up--yes, up--a large hill to "Old Town" where I had very vague directions to where I was staying. When I got to the street where I was supposed to be staying, I realized they hadn't given me the exact directions to any office to check-in. Wow, that was fun trying to find that. With the help of two other people on vacation in Edinburgh we found it. Anyway, I got into my room and slept till about 10 pm and decided to go out for a pint. I Spent 10 on 2 pints of Scottish Ale and some fish and chips and decided to head to bed.

The next day was when I could really check into my flat and meet up with everyone else in my program.  Before I had to meet everyone at 4 pm I decided to go on a self-guided walking excursion around the city.  Armed with a map of Edinburgh and a water bottle I headed out.  I walked toward the castle on the top of the hill, into the Prince's Street Gardens (that were once a loch right under the castle). The loch was drained in the 1800s to allow for buildings so that Edinburgh could begin to grow.  After walking through the Gardens I headed down Prince's Street and up North Bridge (one of  the bridges the connects New Town and Old Town).  Not to bore you to much...a walked all over, and now I am beginning to know the city pretty well--I was even approached several times for directions by people who live in London.  I felt pretty good about that!

Anyway, school is going very well.  The first 5 weeks are devoted purely to classes and then followed by a 10 week internship.  We have three classes: UK Politics, Scottish Politics, and Scottish Culture and Society.  The way our schedules are set up is very nice.  We have class Monday through Wednesday, where we have one class a day for 2 hours in the morning and then we have academic activities in the afternoon (i.e. walking tours of the city narrated by our professors, museum tours, and meetings with MSPs), Thursday is devoted to watching documentaries, and Fridays are free (kind of).  On paper, that might look like we have a lot of free time, but then you throw in the reading assignments--all 200+ pages a night for each class.  It is a lot of reading!  Normally, classes are taught by associate professors when you go to the University of Edinburgh, but because we are a special division of the University we are taught by full professors!  My UK Politics professor is amazing, he is very intelligent and easily accessible.  My Scottish Politics professor actually was one of the committee members who helped bring the Scottish Parliament back to Scotland after the Union of 1707, when the Scottish Parliament was dissolved. Needless to say he is outstanding!  But the professor who teaches my Scottish Culture and Society is the best "character" of the bunch.  He looks (and smells) just like a viking--2 foot long beard and everything.  He knows everything and anything about the city of Edinburgh and should be a great asset as we try to get to the bottom of what  exactly defines one's Scottishness. 

I realized this is becoming a little long and poorly organized so I will tell you a little about the internship and save more stories for later posts.  The internship is going to be an experience of a life time!  As I talked about earlier, the Scottish Parliament was just re-instated in 1997 after almost 300 years of absence after the Union with England in 1707.  On top of that, there was a new election last spring where the Labour Party lost their majority control over the Parliament. We now have a minority government run by the Scottish National Party (SNP) which is strongly devoted to Scotland's independence from England. 
A minority government means that the SNP has the majority of seats in the Parliament,  but not enough to have a majority of the votes it takes to pass any law without building a coalition with other parties.  Not only that, but since Scotland is part of the UK and there is a new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown (from Scotland), there might be an election called in the fall while I am working the the Scottish Parliament--meaning I will get to work on campaigns for Scottish MPs for the Westminster Parliament in London! I have hit the perfect storm of political firsts in Scotland and I am going to be involved in all of it!  Now many of you who have had a political internships before may be thinking, "He will just be a coffee jockey for these MSPs.  He will get shuffled into the mix of 50+ staff members in the central office, and he will never even see the person he is working for!"  WRONG!!!!!!  The MSPs only have one full-time assistant and an intern (being ME) in their office. Therefore, I will not just be getting coffee, but rather I have been told I will be able to help draft reports and press releases for my MSP. Along with other important tasks that only the highest staff members in Obama's or Harkin's office would get to do on a daily basis. GET EXCITED because I am already!

I will leave you with that!  I hope this was a bit more insightful than other posts, I look forward to sharing more with you all later. Enjoy the picutres!


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