We have discovered Scotland.
After 30 days in this country, it’s safe to say that our group is, to use a Scottish phrase, a “wee bit” tired. And I don’t just mean sleepy enough to catch up on Z’s on the flight back into the States (which we did), but a sort of weariness that accompanies the end of the best types of trips. A trademark of this May Seminar (one that was designed intentionally by Professors Lindner and Knutson) was that the 12 of us students were responsible for seeing the things that we wanted to see while in Edinburgh and Glasgow. That translated into guidebook scouring, Google maps planning, subway riding, walking, concert going, museum browsing, castle viewing, Frisbee throwing, restaurant testing, pub crawling, walking, taxi cab hailing, mountain climbing, wool scarf shopping, rain braving, heat tolerating, and mostly, a lot of walking.
The secondary trademark that made us take ownership of the trip was the ethnography component. If you’ve not experienced the joys and trials of social scientific research before, the important thing to know is that the process requires a level of persistence that is exhausting. For most, the ethnographic research translated into group selecting, rejection bearing, interview planning, interview transcribing, creepy observing, non-creepy observing, tape recording, phone calling, text messaging, Google maps planning, question asking, data collecting, thesis writing, thesis revising, and again, a lot of walking.
While our blog posts to date have shown excellent snapshots of the cultural observations we’ve made, or shared with you our faithful reader detailed accounts of some of the adventures we’ve had, perhaps you’re curious about that exhausting ethnographic work we’ve been up to. The subcultures chosen by each person represent a diverse cross section of Glasgow, and speak to the individual interests, strengths, and inquiries we all brought with us on this trip. Ethnographer Brianna Johnson observed a tea house operated by a Czech family that happens to enjoy smoking the hookah, and learned that despite the shop’s hidden location, their business is booming. Colleague Jenny Morrow interviewed four different cosmetic consultants in a nearby department store and learned that they are NOT simply girls who play with mascara all day long, but instead sales experts who value customer satisfaction above everything. John Stelter focused on a Catholic community in Glasgow’s city center, while Lauren Tjaden spent time at a community center with outreach programs for children and the elderly, both learning that a sense of “community” is created differently depending on it’s members. And me? I hung out with the cello students at a music conservatoire, and learned that they’ve created a strong sense of identity that stands out from other musicians at the conservatoire.
A few of our classmates became adopted by the groups they chose to study. Matt Gantz, for example, who was sliding down the fire pole and wearing the full firefighting gear by the second week of his time with the Strath-Clyde fire department. He has pictures with the squad to prove it. And Tansy Wells, who was invited to an exlusive, staff-only inventory party at the coffee-shop/bookstore she studied. At her final meeting with them before we left Glasgow, Tansy said she was emotional enough about leaving her new friends that she got choked up.
Scotland challenged us and took good care of us. As a Glaswegian might say, our trip was “pure brilliant.” We have arrived back but I think it’s safe to say that we won’t forget our time in Scotland any time soon.
Though we’re home, we aren’t quite finished with the Scotland experience. Up next? Ethnography writing, with a deadline at the end of June. No rest for the international traveler.
Thanks for reading with us this month.
(Especially you, Mr. Wells. You’re blog-following skills are second to none.)
Blogged by Steph