While some were celebrating Valentine’s Day in romantic restaurants, I was spending mine in a train station. But I was far from upset about it. Friday afternoon I boarded a train to Scotland, and less than three hours later I was in Edinburgh.

This is part of what initially drew me to the UK — I could travel cross country in less time than it would take me to travel across Texas. It’s wonderful.

Upon arriving in Edinburgh, it was too late to do much exploring so my friends and I headed straight to the hostel. I had never stayed at a hostel before, but I have to admit, I was fairly impressed. Granted, I didn’t have high expectations, but the staff and residents were all really nice and they offered free coffee, which is just about all it takes to keep me happy. 

When we did finally go out to explore the city and meet people, I didn’t expect it to be all that different than Preston, with the exception of the locals having thicker accents, but boy, was I wrong. For starters, Edinburgh has hills. Lots and lots of hills. After being there for just a few hours, I was kicking myself for not bringing my “trainers” with me. 

Secondly, the Scottish are some of the nicest people I’ve met. Really and truly, genuinely nice people. On Saturday, I met a group of university students and after talking to them for less than an hour, one of them invited me to her birthday party in May. I laughed it off, thinking she was just being friendly and that she didn’t really mean it, but the next day she sent me an official invite. 

To my surprise, the accents weren’t all that challenging to understand, but their language in general was very different. What would be considered extremely explicit and crude back in the States is casual slang in Scotland, and took some getting used to.

Anytime I would introduce myself as being from Texas, the Scottish would immediately jump to “Friday Night Lights” and start asking if I knew actors like Kyle Chandler or Connie Britton. While unfortunately I’d have to disappoint them and explain that I didn’t, I was more than happy to talk about American football. Even when my university in Preston celebrated the Super Bowl, none of the English kids really knew what was going on and just used it as an excuse to party. The Scottish, on the other hand, though they have terrible choice in which teams to support, were pretty well-educated on the sport. 

Sunday morning, we explored the beautiful Edinburgh Castle. It was definitely worth the walk up the royal mile to see the view from the top. Luckily, the snowfall from Friday was long gone and the clear day allowed us to see for miles, including the breathtaking view of the sea. It was gorgeous.

I never thought I’d be so excited to return to my sleepy little town of Preston, but Sunday evening when we arrived back on campus, I felt so relieved to be back. It’s funny how after only a month I’ve managed to create a “home away from home” in England. That being said, I’m already planning my next trip to Scotland, where hopefully this time I’ll spot the Loch Ness Monster.