The Next Chapter…

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 my19429-63 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.IMG_5516

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.

IMG_5505Second 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 kiIMG_5469tchen 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.

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7 Responses to The Next Chapter…

  1. Mandy says:

    Love it. Can’t wait to hear all about it sometime!!

  2. Mick says:

    Weare all so proud of you John! And, we look forward to your return. Your father shared your thesis and I found it interesting and over my head at the same time. See you soon!

  3. Bob Sell says:

    John, Even though we never had the pleasure of watching over you as we did your sister when she was young we have followed your life with notes and pictures from mom and dad. What a great thing to accomplish, So does this mean you are putting mom and dad in the car and coming to Mt Horeb WI. for our Brew Fest on the 2nd week-end in Sept? Hugs and blessings to you all. Bob & Bev Sell

  4. Sharon Morien says:

    Hi John – Your Mom sent me this blog. How fun and interesting! Can’t wait to have you back on home soil and to hear all about your adventures! Please, please come and visit us. 😉
    Love, Sharon

  5. Don Mleziva says:

    We are so happy for you, John — and very very proud!! You worked your buns off, and it has paid off BIG!! We are so looking forward to your return and are ready to share in all of your future success. Biggest dividend , of course, will be the end of the ever having to buy booze again. With much love and gratitude. Dad

  6. MJ says:

    Hey John, A very big congratulations on your achievements! You should be very proud of yourself!! My hope is that with all of your new knowledge, perhaps you can turn me into a beer lover too!! I’m still putting ice in my Miller Lite!! Anyway, glad you are on the home stretch, and we will have you back soon! You were missed by many!! Lots of love, MJ ( and Bob)

  7. Maggie Hopkins says:


    Your log has been engaging, entertaining and educational. Welcome home. I look forward to seeing you and hearing about your next chapter. Maggie

    Sent from my iPad

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