SUISS Feedback from Šárka Dvořáková

Dear SCSF,

I am delighted to say that my two weeks at SUISS were definitely one of the most inspiring academic experiences of my life. I was fairly new to Scottish Literature as a subject, and of course not even now do I consider myself anything more than a beginner, but I definitely gained some insight into what “Scottish Literature” means, and through it I will be able to read other works produced by Scotland’s writers and artists. My most favorite topics were Scottish theater, Alasdair Gray, and Muriel Spark. I had a chance to see part of the Muriel Spark archive inside the National Library of Scotland, including her school notebooks and celebrity correspondence. And last but not least of all literary pleasures was the reading by James Robertson which included having my copy of his excellent The Testament of Gideon Mack signed.

Having previously studied in the United States, I knew I would feel very much at home in a culturally diverse environment, but the “team” I found at SUISS exceeded my expectations. The social aspect of the course was no less important than the academic one because even during learning, the process was always teamwork. We were a group of only sixteen and we managed to get to know each other quite well. We were students, teachers, translators and enthusiast of all ages, hailing from six continents. We discussed national identities as frequently as we did literature, and it seemed impossible to run out of conversation topics. I have, without even realizing, learned about Chinese writing, Spanish cuisine and Bollywood dancing next to all the other fascinating facts about Scottish literature, music, and traditions. I did many things I would not do without the support of these wonderful people, these included staying out after midnight because the conversation was simply too good to be abandoned, and climbing the humongous Arthur’s Seat to its very top after I felt like giving up halfway through. I do not doubt some of these friendships will last beyond our stay at school.

Fortunately, all these memorable moments could happen in a place as beautiful as Edinburgh, in the midst of everything Scottish. The most Scottish experience of all was of course the final dancing party, or ceilidh. (I never had so much fun dancing with complete strangers!) Even though I did not manage to squeeze any Highland tours into my tight schedule, I made two half-day trips on weekends, one to Portobello Beach, the other to Rosslyn Chapel, and after simply dwelling in Edinburgh and walking its streets, I fancy myself in love with the city, its little cafés, cooked streets, numerous libraries and countless secondhand book stores, as well as with Scotland as a whole. It even managed to creep into my otherwise prevalently American English as I could very early on be heard responding favorably with “aye” and jovially greeting bus drivers with a “cheers.”

I will be taking home much more than a handful of contacts, some lecture notes and an autographed book; what I appreciated most about SUISS was the chance to be part of something unique and diverse, cutting across religions, cultures, and languages, united by the love of literature we all shared. I am infinitely grateful for being awarded the SCSF scholarship without which I would not have any of these precious memories.

With gratitude,

Šárka Dvořáková