In the summer of 2015, I found myself standing on the cobblestone drive of Buccleuch Place at the University of Edinburgh, in Edinburgh, Scotland. As a native Texan, I had never ventured far from home without company.
An irrepressible longing to immerse myself in Scottish culture, in the legends and myths that haunted the chill winds sweeping through the Highlands and the weathered spine of Calton Hill, had finally taken hold of me. I discovered the University of Edinburgh after sifting through photos online, and in the quiet of my college’s library, devised for myself a month-long education of a very different nature. Gazing down at the shadow my figure cut across this foreign ground, I could never have anticipated the knowledge I would soon acquire.
I attended the first day of my course fresh off the plane, stumbling into the window-walled classroom with a hasty introduction. Dr. MaryCatherine Burgess and Dr. Emma Dymock, individuals of unparalleled kindness and intelligence, made impressions of equal wonder upon my frazzled mind. The course, entitled Myth and The Hero’s Journey, explored the fascinating depths of Celtic history and the ancient Wonder Tales. My first lesson began with an overview of Gaelic poetry and a discussion of the life of St. Columba. Intrigued by Dr. Burgess’ initial introduction, I would spend the following 20 days in unwavering awe of the wealth of culture and ancient poetic, visual, and literary treasures the country of Scotland bore.
Each day after Dr. Burgess concluded her lecture, my classmates and I adventured through the city to walk the narrow expanse of the Royal Mile, tour the cannoned grounds of Edinburgh Castle, and sample every Scottish delicacy we came across in the local taverns and cafes. We would often wait in excited whispers at the location of each event the Summer School had scheduled for us in our extracurricular programs. They varied in interests and cultural experience, from a premiere viewing of a star-studded noir film, to a visit to the Scottish Parliament and a breath-taking exploration of the Royal Botanical Gardens, followed by an elegant tea party at the Carlton Hotel. Each activity allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in the exquisite beauty of Edinburgh for a summer we would never forget.
Perhaps my fondest memory from my time as a Summer School student was one of the last classes Dr. Burgess taught as the sun warming George Square Gardens reflected onto the surfaces of our desks in a dwindling June morning. She stood before us, proud and inspired, with a colourful bundle unravelling in her arms and billowing out around her socked feet. It was a cotton blanket depicting a wheel divided into four quarters: one blue, one yellow, one green, and one red. She smiled as we gathered round her, abandoning our shoes in kind.
“Place yourself upon the color that best represents your progress in each of your Hero’s Journeys.”
We looked to each other with silent, melancholy inquiries. Where do we go from here? How can we possibly leave this place? Each other? We closed our eyes to the chirping of ___, grasped hands, and stepped forward off the edge of the world. Having studied the myths of hero’s past; we had seemingly become legends of our own making. Edinburgh would be forever in our hearts.