One requirement of the Haslam Scholars Program is a cohort study abroad trip following the scholars’ second years. This past summer, the Cohort of 2013 studied in Edinburgh, Scotland, from July 6 until August 6.
The course was divided into two portions. As a group, we studied the Scottish Enlightenment. This portion of the course consisted of both student-led discussions of texts and the more specific approaches to Enlightenment material by local guest lecturers. By the end of the month, we had studied and discussed the lives and works of Hume, Ferguson, Hutton, and many more Enlightenment philosophers. The lives of many of these Enlightenment thinkers are preserved in statues, architecture, and headstones within the city, helping our studies come alive.
Meanwhile, on an individual level, we met with tutors from the renowned University of Edinburgh. These tutors met with us one on one or in pairs to discuss relevant literature within our fields and how it applies to our research at UT.
Aside from the academic portion of the program, we explored much of Edinburgh and its nearby attractions. Group outings—some planned, some more spontaneous—took us across the city, including exploring through St. Giles Cathedral and the Scottish National Gallery, down the Royal Mile, to the top of Arthur’s Seat, and through the formidable Edinburgh Castle. The National Gallery proved to be particularly interesting for me, because an art history professor from the University of Edinburgh took us on a tour of some of his favorite works.
We took two major group field trips—one to the southern Scottish Highlands and one to the town of St. Andrews. Along the way, we stopped to admire the Falkirk Wheel, the Forth Bridge, Loch Katrine, Doune Castle, and Stirling Castle. Our tour guide, Donald, kept us entertained the entire way. Other nonacademic programming included multiple community dinners, where one apartment would cook a meal for the rest of the cohort. The guys’ five-course meal easily took the cake for outstanding quality.
Programming aside, much of the value of the Scotland trip was in the cohort bonding. Living together for a month brought us all closer, especially as we learned to navigate the city and the culture together. Most of us tried haggis and black pudding—infamous Scottish specialties—for the first time. The haggis burger at Maggie Dixon’s proved to be a cohort favorite. Some of us shopped together, some perused museums together, and some hiked together. Interacting as a group came much more easily in Edinburgh than it does during hectic life on campus, and we all got to know each other much better because of it.
With the semester back in full swing at UT, our cohort is aching to go back to life in Scotland. That was our last official course together as a cohort, so we do not see each other as much as we would like. When we do bump into each other on campus or at events, though, Edinburgh memories tend to take center stage.
Patrick McKenzie, Cohort of 2013