Last Lunch in Edinburgh at Eteaket

After a long hike to and from Arthur’s Seat, we gathered our things and checked out from the hostel to make our way back to London. In our last hours in the city, we decided to relax at Eteaket: a well-reviewed tea shop in New Town, Edinburgh.

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Check out their Afternoon Tea Menu here

What We Ordered

Although this is a tea shop, Eteaket has an extensive lunch menu with plenty of soups, sandwiches, and salads. I always love an afternoon tea platter, but all of us were so hungry, we went for the more substantial foods on their menu.

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Honey Roasted Ham and Scottish Cheddar Sandwich with a side of Salad

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Soup of the Day with Bread and Butter

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We could not resist some amazing cake!

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Hazelnut Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

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Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Everything was absolutely delish and hit the perfect spot. I could not think of a better way to end our time in Edinburgh! Now time to return to London!

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Hiking to the Peak of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh

When in Edinburgh, you cannot miss Arthur’s Seat looming over the city. On our last day, we knew we had to make the climb. Do prepare some good walking shoes and comfortable clothes! It’s worth the trip!

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Yours truly at the base of Arthur’s Seat

I feel that one of the things everyone must do when visiting a new city is seek out the best views! As the highest peak in Edinburgh, as well as perfectly sunny weather, I think we hit the jackpot (though my photos do not do it justice). We will be walking on trails that makes up part of Holyrood Park. Here is the Guardian’s article on the best way to explore the park.

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Treacle Pudding (again!) at Mum’s Great Comfort Food

Not too long ago, I made a post about grabbing a meal at Mum’s Great Comfort Food. Afterwards, we tried their treacle and date pudding and it was the best dessert we ever had in this wonderful city! We loved it so much, we HAD TO go back and get some more on one of our last nights in Edinburgh!

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This is all you need to find happiness in Edinburgh…

Just to show how great this was, we got TWO treacle and date puddings for the three of us. I never had treacle puddings before coming to Edinburgh and all I can think about was how this was not in my life until now. I still am not sure what is in treacle pudding, but I would not be surprised if there was some fairy dust or just a ton of sugar and butter (or a combination of the two).

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YUM….

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Hot melty sweet goodness…

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Yum X2

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Anjali and Asya

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The plates are licked cleaned! Too good to leave anything to waste!

I could not think of a perfect way to end another perfect day in Edinburgh!

FAQ’s: UCL and the IFSA-Butler London Program

For the last few months, I had quite a few friends, bloggers, and classmates ask me questions about studying abroad. To help y’alls who are thinking about going to London on the IFSA-Butler program, here are my experiences applying and surviving life at University College London (UCL)!

1. When did you find out about the UCL IFSA-Butler program? What is the suggested timeline to apply?

I go to a very small liberal arts college that encourages students to study abroad so I applied at least 6+months ahead of the due date to make sure I at least had my application reviewed before starting my fall term (I applied for spring term). My application was accidentally sent to the European Studies department (instead of Political Science) and as a result, was initially rejected from the UCL program since they only allowed a small number of 4.0 GPA applicants to apply. I found out my rejection around Sept-Oct and immediately reapplied to the correct department. I heard of my acceptance around November. I would definitely look at the minimum requirements before applying to UCL so y’alls don’t make the same mistake I did.

So since UCL is on a rolling admissions basis, I would still recommend applying as soon as you can so if there are any issues, you can at least have some back up schools prepared (London area: Kings College, Mary College (?), Scotland: University of Edinburgh, etc.). If you are applying through IFSA-Butler, just follow their instructions online and they will take care of everything else (one of the great perks of IFSA!).

The later you apply to UCL, the later they will get back to you and I heard some people got their responses as late as December-ish… But most people should hear a confirmation/rejection around Oct-November. Hopefully, you’ll hear back before then but just be patient. Those UCL people get tons of applications!

2. Did you consider your academic experience difficult at UCL?

I found my program/UCL academic experience very easy… until essay time (around February and again at the end of March).

Overall, UCL is perceived as “difficult” to American students since it is operating in a different education system than what we are used to back at home. What I mean by that is a lot of classes only grade you on the work you turn in (exams, essays, projects). That means you receive no credit for showing up to class, participating in discussion, doing your homework, etc. UCL does this because in general, British universities put a lot of emphasis on self-study. They expect you to spend your down time or at least 1+ hour per class in the library researching additional information to the material covered in lecture. Sometimes more.

Many American students make the choice to slack off until the last-minute for which I STRONGLY advise against. I did procrastinate to an extent, but it never got to the point where I felt like I was drowning or anything. Don’t be that person since that kinda sucks when you are miles away from home and friends during those times.

Since I studied Political Science when I was at UCL, I found that the biggest challenge that humanities students face at UCL is writing essays to fit the British format and style. It took some getting used to for me, but it was something that I seemed to manage alright with little guidance. I think you should be able to find that kind of information on the UCL academic department website.

*All coursework is submitted through a plagiarism-checking program online! I hate that site with a burning passion, but it is a necessary evil at UCL.

* One thing I had to get used to was submitting my paperwork in the correct way, which can get very tricky. READ ALL DIRECTIONS before submitting anything.

You are supposed to receive tutors/counselors at UCL so they should help if you have any questions. IFSA-Butler personnel can also help you if necessary. To me, the best people to ask for help/advice are your fellow students and affiliate/foreign students since they are taking the same classes as you and know what is going on.

3. How are the grades converted from UCL to US schools?

For my Political Science courses, I had 2 essays per class, no exams, and my essays made up 50/50 or 40/60 proportion of my grade. I just received my final transcript in the mail from IFSA-Butler and managed to get A’s and B’s, which is a relief!

Link to the Grade Conversion scale from UCL to US

To my knowledge, UCL does not force classes to grade on a curve. Despite this, there still seems to be a curve since it is very rare to receive First Level scores (70-100 or A- to A) while it is more common to receive Second Level scores (50-69 or B- to B+) on assignments. It is not very common to receive Third Level scores, but try to avoid that as best as you can since it is pretty bleh. But don’t be sad if you receive Third Level scores… it happens.

While it sounds weird that First Level scores start at 70 out of 100 possible points, but I assure you it is difficult to get a score higher than a 70. I never heard anyone getting 80 or above on any assignment. Ever.

The way UCL’s grading system was described to me is that you start at a 0 (zero) and work your way to earn your points. In the US, we start at 100 percent and get penalized and rewarded depending on our work. I hope this analogy helps?

4. How manageable is the workload at UCL? Can I still travel and explore the city?

For me, the workload was very manageable. But that depends on you.

The workload is manageable as long as you keep up with it and don’t let it pile up until the very end. The good thing UCL does is that on the first day of class, you should receive a syllabus with ALL of the required reading, assignments, and due dates you’ll need to know. So you can start planning very early on in the semester.

Since I was only graded through essays, I often found myself with a lot of free time on my hands, which I tend to spend exploring the city and going on various adventures (as evident by my blog). I still squeezed time to read and catch up on information taught in lectures, but I did take the time to pick and choose my battles every day.

Ultimately, I could have spent more time stressing about coursework and academics, but I also found it important to be culturally integrated in London.

My advice is to do make sure you take the time to figure out what is important to you and what you want out of studying abroad. Do you like academics? traveling? clubbing? going to the theatre? hiking? sipping afternoon tea? shopping? I felt like I hit everything I wanted to do and achieve while abroad and I hope you do too!

5. What is the academic calendar like at UCL? How to exams work?

Full Length Exams are ONLY held during the Summer Term (April-June)

UCL academic terms are broken into Fall (September – December), Spring (January-March), and Summer (April-June). If you are taking courses in the Spring semester, then you MUST stay in London through the SUMMER term (March-June) until you finish your exams.

Classes are held ONLY during Fall and Spring terms.

There are NO classes offered in Summer term. Just exams. Thus, you spend your free time “studying” (traveling) or catching up on whatever work you need to do.

UCL exams are very similar to the SAT or AP tests in high school where you prepare for weeks/months for a 3+hour sit down exam that can make up 100% of your total grade in the class you took.

I did not have to take any exams, so I think I was pretty lucky. Ultimately, IFSA-Butler recommends you commit to stay in London from Jan-June so depending on your classes, you might be able to leave earlier.

Have more questions? Feel free to message me and you might just get them answered in the next FAQ!

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Dinner at Howies Restaurant by Calton Hill

After a long day exploring Edinburgh, we decided to duck into Howies Restaurant for a nice sit-down dinner of Scottish cuisine. It was one of the most reviewed TripAdvisor restaurants in Edinburgh so to us, it was worth a try. We wanted to sample as many dishes as possible, so we mainly ordered a variety of appetizers.

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What We Ordered

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Traditional Cullen Skink: smoked fish, leeks, potatoes & cream chowder served with Howies freshly made focaccia bread

The Traditional Cullen Skink was surprisingly good! From the description, we were not really sure what to expect but the waitress assured us that it was indeed delicious. We are glad we took her advice and think this is comparable, if not a better version of what we consider a New England Clam Chowder (Blasphemy! I know.).

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Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties with Thyme Jus: haggis, turnips/carrots, and mashed potatoes

We couldn’t leave Scotland without trying haggis. Haggis has the reputation for being sketch since it is made with the internal organs of various livestock, but I assure you, it is delicious! There are so many spices that it really makes it great with toast. The Neeps and Tatties just make it all the better!

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Calamari. Regardless where you are, you can’t go wrong with ordering delicious calamari. Don’t judge.

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Pasta of the Day: macaroni in a salmon cream sauce topped with greens

While this does not seem very traditional, locally fished salmon is always an amazing catch!

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Hot Toddy: traditional hot scotch with spices, lemon, and honey

To cap off our dinner, we asked the waitress to bring us a traditional Scottish drink that was not straight scotch. She brought me a Hot Toddy, which I did not realize was a common drink served during cold days. I was not a huge fan of the Hot Toddy since I am a weak sauce against scotch, but it they added more lemon and honey, I might have been able to take it.

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Asya and Anjali

Overall, I think we all enjoyed the opportunity to sample a lot of traditional and local foods at Howies! It was definitely out of the comfort zone for some of us, but they were all delicious!

Lunch at Oink in Grassmarket

After sight-seeing around Edinburgh Castle, we headed over to Grassmarket to try a roasted pulled pork sandwich at Oink. This is one of the top-rated affordable eats in the city so this is definitely a must-try for student tourists!

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Every morning, Oink roasts an entire pig and once the meat is gone, they close up shop for the rest of the day!

What We Ordered

The way to order at Oink is very simple:

  • Choose one of three sizes (The Piglet, The Oink, and The Grunter) on a white or brown roll
  • Pick a sauce: sage & onion, applesauce, cheese, chili relish
  • And ask for toppings: haggis, crackling pork skin
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This is a “piglet” pulled pork sandwich on a white roll with sage & onion sauce. It was delicious!

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I think this pulled pork sandwich is exactly what we were looking for in Edinburgh. After eating at a lot of sit-in restaurants, sometimes it is very refreshing to finally find a cheap and good dive to just casually enjoy a meal.

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Asya and Anjali at lunch

Paying with Scottish Currency (Scottish Pound)

Money

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An Epic Afternoon at Edinburgh Castle

When in Edinburgh, one MUST visit Edinburgh Castle. Perched at the highest peak of this small town, it looks like a postcard picture from a quintessential medieval village. On the way to the top, I passed by a man dressed as William Wallace portrayed by Mel Gibson in Braveheart (1995). To me, it was incredibly eerie since Scotland recently voted against Independence.

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Yours Truly

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Note: If you hover just long enough, you can catch a 15-minute free tour from the base of the castle.

To the right: Apparently this is the oldest existing church in Scotland

To the right: Apparently this is the oldest existing church in Scotland

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War Memorial dedicated to all Scots who fought wars at home and overseas.

The Exhibits in the Castle

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Unicorns: The official animals of Scotland

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Check out the Story of The Stone of Destiny! It was by far the most fascinating and entertaining story I heard in my entire time in Europe!

Views of Edinburgh from the Castle

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While the exhibits may seem very cheesy and poorly curated, I absolutely enjoyed my time visiting Edinburgh Castle. The views were incredible and now that I have seen the city, I can recognize most landmarks from the top! As a tourist, I would highly recommend visiting!