Beginnings in Edinburgh

This is not the way that travel blogs are supposed to begin. I am supposed to land at the airport, and immediately begin taking notes upon the surrounds, the people, the cultural intersections, and my new sense of wonder. (Note: a lot golf clubs on the baggage carousel.) However, this travel blog starts at Week 4(ish) in my new home of Edinburgh, Scotland.

I remember the flight. The (stressful and sad) boarding in Newark, the tiny movies, and the subsequent deplaning in a whole new country. Usually, my traveling involves positive anxiety: slight nausea, but mostly extremely excited. This time, I was just straight terrified. This was not a two-week trip with my best friend drinking wine around Tuscany and disregarding work emails; this was my new life as a graduate student in a foreign country. And I was alone.

Both of my best friends were busy the night I left with their respective significant others that share a name. In typical fashion, I had arrived way too early for my flight and thus spent the two hours prior to boarding reading and freaking out. Much to their dates’ dismay, my two friends received a multitude of texts from me, each message building upon the next in both stress level and letter capitalization until the texts were just all-caps fact about the Magna Carta. (My book was called The Magna Carta, by Dan Jones. Highly recommended for stress reading.) Then the texts were no more. I was in the air, leaving my friends, family, dogs, and US dollars behind.

And now here we are. Four weeks later and I have survived (thus far). I am not alone – surprise surprise – as there are other students pursuing a masters at my university! In fact, there are many of them just in my area of Literature, Languages, and Cultures (LLC, for short,) and so far, they are all nice. My dorm is not scary, though it is small, and I even have my own, smaller bathroom. I have made friends with whom I communicate with fairly regularly and I joined the gym. There are actually other people in my programme (I feared I would be the only one), though only nine, and they are also nice! Basically, Edinburgh is not scary at all. It is beautiful and old and walkable and, yes, slightly chilly.

Sitting now in my nice cushioned chair in Pret A Manger, looking out the window onto North Bridge, ogling cute men in suits, I can genuinely say I’m happy (and not just because of the suits). I quit my nonsensical job, spent a fantastic summer with my friends, family, and dogs, and now I’m studying books. BOOKS.

A person once described my degree to me as “that freaking Harry Potter programme.” Though I believe the comment was originally intended as a slight against the practicality of an MSc in Book History and Material Culture, he could not have used a more accurate or flattering cultural reference. Edinburgh is Hogwarts and books are magic. I even bought a robe. (It’s pink and fuzzy and cozy.)

I’m still terrified, of course. I’m terrified of not getting my reading done, not doing assignments correctly, not coming up with a dissertation topic, writing my dissertation, failing my classes, not graduating, my computer exploding, Donald Trump becoming president and never being able to come home, running out of milk for tea, running out of money, fires, fire doors, and getting hit by a bus while jaywalking. There is more, but these are just the fears that came to me in the last 30 seconds. Right now, with my books and my tea and a whole buttload of coursework, I say I am content with my life. All I need now is some tartan for it to really be complete.


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