Hard Hat Abroad: Update 1

The First Week in Edinburgh- Sept. 21
Guys, get this: I only have one class a day…Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

Since classes started Sept. 18, I have had just about two classes a day at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, half of them two-hour lectures and labs. I finish classes in about three or four hours, and then my flatmates and I (why are apartments called flats? They’re stacked!) will wander around the city for a while. So far, we’ve uncovered a cat café, a Big Lebowski-themed bar, and at least four awesome coffee shops a block from our accommodation (British for dorms with nonexistent wifi). Our flat’s on one end of this sketchy block, dominated by strip clubs, that the locals call the Pubic Triangle. I wish I was kidding.

Grassmarket and Victoria Street, the famous road that inspired Diagon Alley, are maybe three minutes around the corner. The castle’s just above that. The Elephant House and Greyfriars Kirk are just up the road, the other direction from Victoria Street. The National Museum of Scotland is a stone’s throw from the main campus, and all the best cafés and cheap grocery stores you’ll ever find are on Nicholson Street, which runs parallel to the east end of campus.

My journey up here was rough. On my flight from San Francisco to London, I had that wonderful queasy feeling that’s equal parts a sense of adventure and a sense of doom. I thought I’d get stopped at customs, I’d miss a train, I’d lose my luggage, but as fate would have it I got from gate to airport exit in all of about ten minutes. My luggage was the first unloaded onto the claim!

That short bliss ended when I had to figure out how to get from Heathrow to Euston Station in central London. Imagine a very disheveled and confused American, carrying two massive pieces of luggage, trying to navigate stairs and slowing hundreds of angry Londoners in the process. I eventually got to the station, where I proceeded to collapse into the nearest chair where all my luggage collapsed on me too. I even tried to order a London fog (basically an earl grey latte, praise the Canadians) but no one at Starbucks had a clue what that was. The train ride had a nice view of the English countryside, which was mostly fields and trees and hills and sheep. SO many sheep.

I didn’t get the chance to actually be a tourist until this past weekend. I got a four-week pass for the city bus system and discovered the next day that the university has a free shuttle system to King’s Buildings

Some Minor Adjustments-
Sept. 29

Guys, don’t take a Gaelic class for a credit. Take it for fun, keep the language alive (seriously, less than 60,000 people speak it here) but don’t take it for any sort of college credit. Nothing made sense and everything went a million miles an hour and it stressed me out so much I got a cold. I got a cold from living in student housing, but I prefer to blame it on that trainwreck of a class.

My schedule’s also a bit of a trainwreck; there’s no cut-and-dry syllabus, I’ve accidentally missed three lectures (one of them was that Gaelic class so I didn’t mind missing that one), and the engineering campus is a 20-minute bus ride away. But, I did find a few routes that drop me off quite literally next to one of my buildings, and the library has plenty of study spaces. A great student union, too, with its own gym, a few Habañero’s-style food spots (there’s a noodle bar), and a couple of nice green areas to spread out and get what little sun Scotland has to offer. It’s a great campus, and I wish I were closer.

But my flatmates are worth it. Santo (he walked onto the school’s soccer team as a fresher!) has daily debates with Yu Rong, Marta updates us with antics of a particularly aristocratic student in one of her classes (she calls him Hugh Grant), and Callum’s usually off somewhere- we never quite know where. It’s a great mix, and it helps that we’re all from different parts of the world. We’ve decided (well, Marta and I decided) to have a nice going-away ceremony at the end of the semester, where we put photos and messages on each other’s flags.

Compared to Mines, everything’s a bit disorganized. Classes aren’t where and when the webpage says they are, timetables clash, the campuses are sprawling. Those aside, Edinburgh still manages to have great and passionate professors in surprisingly small classes. I had my first soil mechanics lab today, and the professor was content to chat about the recent projects he’d done while we compacted some clay soils. It felt incredibly like Mines in that moment.

I do miss Mines. I miss the intimacy the campus has; that gets lost in a school as large as this. But it opens the door for so much more diversity; not only are all my flatmates from different parts of the world, but the five of us have vastly different college majors. We range from civil engineering, english and film studies, philosophy, sports management, to international relations (seriously, Callum’s in the BEST flat for his major). UoE is refreshing, and a little disorienting, but fascinating to be a part of. I bought a t-shirt, so I’m officially part of the family now.

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