Day Three and Time to Catch Up

So. I thought I would post every day here, but by the time I got back to my hotel room last night I was so wiped out that I just couldn’t bring myself to make sense. I guess I thought I was over my jet lag — hey, what’s 5 hours, anyway? But I really needed to get a good night’s sleep last night, and boy did I. So now I’ll try to catch you up on the last two days.

Peter Higgins on stage at TEDx University of EdinburghOn Tuesday, I attended the TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh conference. The theme of the conference was “It starts with passion …” and the speakers were a wide variety of ages and interests. but all had great stories to tell. One of the most engaging was Pete Higgins, pictured here. He spoke about his passion about the environment and sustainability, and the importance of getting beyond the rhetoric about it all. I liked the quote he displayed from Sir Patrick Geddes, pictured here, but I also liked the modern version that Higgins gave us: #ByLeavesWeLive.  Don’t be overwhelmed, but remember that we need trees when you take that extra paper towel. When you leave the tap running. When you leave the lights burning and no one is home.  We’ve become so far removed from nature that it can be hard to remember, but from nature we all came, and from nature we will all return.

Imagine: he was just one of 9 speakers! You can see why I was so tired when I got back to my room — a lot to process!  The conference ran all day, from 10 am til 5 pm. It was student organized, and they did a fantastic job. It was held in a massive old church, and was a packed house of mostly students. Other speakers talked about their moment of discovery for their own passion: a graphic designer; a 21-year old explorer (really!);  a man who fell into a project to help women in remote areas access to health care; a writer who  started an organization that helps girls become the first in their families to finish secondary education; and an engaging young woman just starting out as a youth mentor.

I’m not  sure when the videos will be up on their site, but you should check out the TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh website.


One thing you must know about Edinburgh is that it is very easy to get around either by bus or by walking. Walking can be a challenge at first because many of the streets change their names as you’re walking along, so you might be on S. Clerk Street and then you look up and see you are now walking on Nicholson street, which turns into South Bridge followed by … North Bridge. But after  few days of walking to the same general areas, and my handy little laminated “Streetwise Edinburgh” map, I can get to most places as long as I can keep my bearings. The castle over there, Arthur’s Seat over there. Also, I bought a weekly bus pass and there are tons of buses that run up the road from my hotel to the downtown area. Oh — here’s my hotel:

massonhouseMaybe it doesn’t look like much from the outside — not when compared to the castles and grand buildings of this city. But it’s former student housing, after all,  that has been converted into a hotel and owned by the University. I’m here for two weeks and it appealed to me because it includes breakfast in the price, it has a restaurant here if I want to stay in for dinner, and it has a little kitchenette down the hall with a fridge and a microwave, so if I really just want to tuck in to my room, I can. The room is small, but if you’ve traveled to Europe you know that’s not unusual. The bed is very comfortable, I have a desk to sit at, wifi, and it has been pretty quiet at night. Also, it is right on Dalkeith Road, which has tons of buses so it’s very convenient. If you’re considering visiting Edinburgh, I highly recommend checking out Edinburgh First, which has several properties. If you come in the summer,  you can also stay in actual student housing — don’t laugh! I did that once in Dublin and stayed at Trinity College right in the heart of things — very cheaply.

Back to today … I started the day by visiting the U.S. Consulate. No, this is not my standard traveling agenda, but there’s a backstory. My cousin lives up the street from the Consulate, and he met the woman who is the current Principal Officer at a “meet the neighbors” event. Well, she was very interested to know that his grandfather (my great uncle), was the U.S. Consul in Edinburgh for many years, including throughout World War II.  So they have stayed in contact, and she told him to please let any friends or family visiting here to stop by for a visit — so I did!

She was extremely nice, and was very interested to learn about my grant from UMD and what we are doing in advancing the accessibility of our teaching. I gave her one of our 3D printed Testudo’s, but could not take a picture because it turns out I couldn’t even take my phone into the building. I had to leave my phone, charger, and laptop with the guard after going through the metal detector. So you will just have to know that a tiny Testudo now lives behind this door:


After that, I hoofed it over to George Square, for a talk on Equality and Diversity in the workplace given by a young man who works for Transport For London (TFL) and has started a program called OutBound. It is essentially a networking and support system that he developed for both staff  of TFL as well as the riding public. It was very interesting to talk to the other attendees about a variety of topics such as having established policies in place so that employees — and their managers — know where to turn for answers. Or, at the very least, who to ask for help if there is no clear policy or answer. I think every large organization struggles with this kind of problem, andI don’t know that the current climate of politics will bring any positive change in the near future. But it was wonderful to talk with so many other people all the way over here, working towards the same goals of inclusivity and diversity.

Well, tomorrow is another day, and I still have my expenses spreadsheet to fill in for the day. Tomorrow looks to be a long but interesting day: I will be spending it with members of the Late Antique and Medieval Postgraduate Society, exploring interactions between popular culture and heritage! More to come!


The lightest Terps are getting ready for a big trip!

3D models of the UMD mascot, TestudoThanks to the folks at the 3D Printing Lab at UMD, I’ve got a whole bunch of lightweight and adorable mini Testudos (the UMD mascot) ready to give to my hosts at the University of Edinburgh who have been incredibly accommodating. They’ve sent me a wonderfully full and interesting schedule for my visit and  I’m gathering a few more tokens of gratitude that are very “Maryland” (Old Bay anyone?) After a year of planning, it’s hard to believe it’s almost time to go. (And what a year it has been — busy times in both of our countries and around the world should make for some pretty interesting conversations!)

Thanks for following along, my posts should come a little more frequently in the coming days. I’ll post my schedule for the first week soon. Spoiler alert: It includes attending a TEDx Talk!