First Impressions

Ananya Shrestha University of Edinburgh, Scotland


January 20, 2015

It’s still hard to believe it, but I’ve been in Edinburgh for two whole weeks and Week One of “Uni” is done! So much has happened since, I wish I’d written sooner, with fresher memories, or taken more pictures. Well...not really. Like that John Mayer song, I was “hoping I would see the world through both my eyes,” which I did, which I don’t regret at all. And hey, what use is this blog for anyway, right?

So...let’s start from the beginning. The first three days here, we had our Arcadia orientation and it was spectacular. We stayed at a lovely hotel called Jury’s Inn, which is located in possibly the best part of town imaginable for new arrivals, and somehow I’d been managed to be matched with the perfect roommate. Yes, as all orientations, some sessions weren’t as exciting as others, but the food and the company more than made up for it. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Scotland through Cinema’ session led by a University of Edinburgh lecturer and the stereotype debunking presentation by Arcadia’s John Bennett, which was intriguingly titled “Dinnae Fash Yersel” (turns out, “dinnae” is NOT Scottish for “dinner,” silly me).

Hmm. What else? I was impressed by the level of care provided by the Arcadia staff. Not only was everyone super kind and helpful, they had gone through the trouble of retrieving our University cards, accommodation keys, and even bringing over someone from the University’s Visiting Student Office to help us move in with as little trouble as possible.

On the 7th, we all moved into our flats (more on that later) then went through the visiting students’ orientation at the University itself. There was a welcome dinner, lots of informative presentations, student services fair, and the likes. It was basically like freshman year all over a ceilidh. On Friday, I met with my personal tutor, had my course schedule reconfirmed, and then spent the rest of the weekend grocery shopping and unpacking. Monday, classes began.

Now, before any of you close this tab thinking about how boring the rest of this post is going to be, let me tell you this: I’ve made a list again. This time, it’s a little less’s like a list of the things that excited me the best, combined with a list of things that I was struck by the most. Let’s just call it a list of the most significant thoughts/ experiences I’ve had in Edinburgh so far and get it over with, shall we?

  • The city is beautiful. I have no words to express how pretty this place is but it feels like every view is breathtaking, even if the crazy powerful gusts are trying to blow you off to Oz. (Right, wrong country, sorry. Moving on.) I like how the architecture is a feast for your eyes, how there’s a gorgeous view at the end of each gentle slope, how there are people but no crowds, and how you can be casually taking a stroll down to Lidl just to be greeted by the Britain’s Got Talent crew. Oh, the joys of a being in a big city!
  • Classes here are structured in a very different way. Okay, maybe saying “very different” is an exaggeration but I only do so because it is probably the only “culture shock” I’ve experienced so far, and because I don’t usually get culture shocked. I mean, I moved to the U.S. after living in Nepal for 19 years and none of the changes really felt like changes I needed to adapt to. But we’re only allowed to take three courses here, the lectures are usually two hours long, and the professors/ lecturers are very hands-off. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. I mean, a different learning environment is what I came here looking for. But I am acknowledging the fact that it’s a little harder to digest than I had thought it would be for me.
  • That said, my classes are great! I’m taking two honors level Literature courses (Romantic Poets and Their Readers, and Creative Writing Prose) and a film studies module called Contemporary Cinema, and despite my super high expectations, the classes did not disappoint *touch wood*. Yes, I admit, attending a lecture with about a 100 other students was a bit strange...but you don’t really notice it beyond the first few minutes anyway. My first class for Romantic Poets was amazing. I’m pretty sure I was hanging on every word our lecturer had to say, when not attempting to commit the rest of it to writing or memory, and I can’t wait to go to the next one!
  • Studies can get rough. I don’t mean to scare anyone (if you are, please refer back to #3) but the change in the system, coupled with being a newcomer in the second half of the academic year, means that things get extra confusing. For instance, I had a minor freak out on Wednesday, when I found out after attending a class, I wasn’t allowed to be in it. Apparently, for this particular course, all visiting students are put into one separate section and take classes with each other (rather than alongside domestic students) but no one really knew about it. Of course, the issue got resolved by Friday, but it was stressful not knowing what was going on and wondering whether being a visiting student comes at a great disadvantage (the answer is no, by the way).

    Another example is from yesterday, when I got an email about homework that I had no idea we had, or how to do at all. I had to keep reminding myself that this was all new and I would need time to learn how things work, not to mention that I hadn’t been getting emails about it earlier due to some error in the software. But the truth is that I panicked and I felt incredibly stupid, just because I didn’t understand what was happening, which brings me to my last point...
  • It helps to keep in touch. Living in a flat isn’t like living in a dorm full of your old friends and it can be very daunting, especially if you’re a person like me, to feel like you’re missing out by not “socializing” or to feel lonely and upset. This weekend, for instance, I was in my room watching Netflix most of the time. But, thanks to the holy internet, I also messaged my friends back home, Skyped my family, and bawled my eyes out in front of my trusted Oxford buddy. And guess what? That made all the difference.