Throughout the summer I spent copious amounts of time imagining what university would be like: the people, the food, the music, and the culture. I was eager to make new friends and learn new things. I joined Facebook groups, registered for classes, and took recipes from my grandmother, all in preparation for the next five years. Most importantly, however, I prepared myself for the weather. Coming from South India (where the temperature never falls below 20 degrees), I knew dealing with the frigid temperatures Glasgow has to offer was going to be a challenge. I came prepared with jackets and sweaters and coats to make sure that I could avoid getting sick. Needless to say, I caught the freshers’ flu. But I’m fairly sure that had more to do with partying than the weather.
With all this in mind, I stepped out of the airport after a long 13-hour plane journey, looking forward to a beautiful afternoon. Of course, I was welcomed by a strong gust of wind hitting me in the face. I fought with my hair to bring it back down into place before taking another step. As I buttoned up my jacket, I smiled, excited to finally be here.
The rest of Freshers’ Week was nothing short of a whirlwind. I met so many new and interesting people. I moved into my dorm, I had to start cooking for myself, made a bank account and stood in line for hours for a student card. Somehow, amid all these important life changing events, I managed to fit in time to go shopping and to attend parties.
To be fair, I would be lying if I said I remembered everything I did in my first week. I had spent time walking to addresses I can’t remember, I had nice dinners in restaurants I can no longer name, and I met many beautiful and nice people, whose names I can’t recall. I do remember going shopping and finding two men on bagpipes and wearing kilts playing some very cheerful music for the crowd.
Another memorable event was attending my first ceilidh. When I read this word, I was pronouncing it like “say-lead”, and I would go around asking people if they were going to attend. Thank god one of the first few people I met was Scottish and she corrected me. In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced “cay-lee” (I never would have gotten that).
I was sceptical of this weird-sounding group dance event, but I am so glad I attended, because it introduced me to the beauty that is the Scottish culture. I walked in on a band up on stage, practicing these catchy Scottish tunes. I also recognised more guys in kilts, similar to those I saw back when I was shopping. Before I could even take that all in, it was time for the first dance. I was dragged into the centre by a friend. I struggled as I tried to keep up with all the steps. Four to the front and two to the left, multiple turns, skipping, and the specific ways in which you have to hold hands. And just as you get through the dance routine once, and you think you’re done, you just start all over again.
By the time I was on the third dance, I was sweaty, tired, and had tripped a fair few times. However, I wanted to dance more than ever. There were dances where you switched partners and groups, and ones where the entire room was dancing together. It was incredible. Everyone was friendly and I met so many people willing to teach me how to dance. I found out that some of the people had been doing this since primary school!
Despite having attended multiple ceilidhs throughout their youth, these people were just as excited as me and that made it even more amazing. I was just glad that the people who knew what they were doing only knew because they had done it multiple times before. I was also happy to see that regardless of how many times they had done it before, they still forgot steps and tripped over their own feet.
The best part about it was that the dance wasn’t about getting it right or being perfect, but about just enjoying yourself and the music and the people. That’s maybe what I love about it so much. Just the happiness on everyone’s faces as they held hands, twirled, and fell onto the floor.
The night was long and tiring, and I might even have a few bruises; but if someone asks me to attend another ceilidh, I will be there. I think I learned more about Scottish culture, not just through the kilts and the music, but also in the way they are so amicable, hospitable, and friendly. They just want to have a good time and make sure everyone else is having fun, and I genuinely fell in love with that. Most notably, despite having cold and frosty weather, the Scottish people made sure I had a warm and toasty welcome.