As I begin to wrap up my experience of living abroad for a year, I thought it would be appropriate to pause for a moment to reflect upon where I started and where I am headed.
It seems almost surreal that just over one year ago I landed in Edinburgh, excited and nervous about jumping off into the unknown to follow my dreams. Sitting in my room on-campus unpacking my suitcases I remember feeling very alone, and for that first week before classes began, it started to feel like a year was going to be a very long time. However, soon enough I began meeting people from my course and before I knew it, time began to fly by.
The first days of classes were both exhilarating and intimidating. It was evident very early on that the course work was going to be rigorous and that some of the material (i.e. thermodynamics) was something I was going to have to work very hard at to understand. In terms of studying, I’ve never had to work harder in any courses I’ve taken, but in the end it paid off and I feel like I’ve learned a great deal.
First semester wrapped up with the most nerve-wracking final exams I have ever experienced; not because I didn’t feel prepared, but rather that 70% of our final grade came down to three 2-hour written essays. The whole experience was really intense. In the end I did really well and having successfully finished my first semester gave me a boost of confidence.
The end of the first semester also gave me the opportunity to void my housing contract and move off campus into the city. I jumped at the opportunity, although things got a bit dicey when the flat I thought I was going to move into fell through. In the end, my friend James and I found an amazing place right in the heart of Edinburgh. Deciding to move into the city was one of the best decisions I made all year. Living downtown helped me feel more connected to Edinburgh as my home and also gave me the opportunity to get two jobs: working in Barney’s Brewery as an Assistant Brewer and as the Head Brewer at The Hanging Bat. Both experiences were invaluable in terms of helping me gain practical knowledge and build my resume.
Second semester seemed to absolutely fly by. It was during second semester that I was introduced to the science and art of distillation for the first time. Interestingly, I came into this program believing that I would focus on brewing as a career, but as I finished up my Master’s project (I examined how varying fermentation temperatures and yeast strains in the wash effected the congener profiles of new make bourbon) I find myself most excited about going home and starting my own distillery in the next couple years.
As I sit in my kitchen looking out the window into our back courtyard, I feel the same excited nervousness I felt when I first arrived here. There is so much I am looking forward to doing and can’t wait to get started. On September 7th, one year to the day when I arrived at Heriot-Watt, I will leave Edinburgh with a MSc in Brewing & Distilling, ready to begin the next chapter in this great adventure.