General

Exchange: A Reset of Sorts

Hello reader, my name is Greg, and I will be bringing you along on my journey to study in Edinburgh this fall semester. I have been here a few weeks, and there is already so much to tell you, but I would like to start by sharing my thoughts upon arriving here in the UK.

I disembarked my flight from JFK headed to London Heathrow with a single suitcase, an over stuffed backpack, and a ten page itinerary in my hand. The itinerary was for the two week vacation I had planned with my parents, and the single suitcase was for me being a crazy minimalist. Overall, I was excited to finally be here, but the realization that I was going on exchange had not yet set in.

Regent's Canal on London

Regent’s Canal in London en route to Edinburgh

Sky Garden in London

Sky Garden in London en route to Edinburgh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At customs, I noticed exchange students everywhere, many American, chatting amongst each other as they waited to enter the UK. There was a sort of safety in knowing that so many others were starting the same journey that I was. But I have to admit, I also felt a ping of disappointment, realizing just how common it was to study abroad in the UK.

I started chatting to two students in line who were studying in London, exchanging small talk, when they asked me why I was going abroad, and why I chose Edinburgh. I knew I had answered it before, but I still stumbled a bit to find an answer that I actually meant. I felt like I was talking about someone else going on exchange, while I was just here for family vacation.

More vacation photos on the way to Edinburgh: This one from Iona, Scotland

Another vacation photo on the way to Edinburgh: This one from Iona, Scotland

As I made my way through the airport and onto the tube, that question stayed at the back of my mind. I was aware that this question would be repeated to me throughout the trip, and it was a bit embarrassing that I had traveled all this way and didn’t have a clear answer. Why did I want to be here? I had wanted to go on exchange since I had started university, but I couldn’t pin down concretely why. What made my exchange unique to me, my own experience that I could distinguish amongst the thousands of others?

Despite being extremely jet-lagged, I picked up my journal as soon as I arrived at the hotel, and scribbled down a few goals for my exchange. I created a manifesto of sorts, that will act as my personal guide for this semester.

A beautiful street in Edinburgh's "New Town"

Finally in Edinburgh: A beautiful street in the “New Town”

St. Bernard's Well: Statues, like this one of Hygieia, are one of reason why Edinburgh is referred to as the Athens of the North

St. Bernard’s Well: Statues, like this one of Hygieia, are one of reason why Edinburgh is referred to as the Athens of the North

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I won’t share this manifesto entirely, my overall realization was that I wanted my exchange to be a reset. University can feel like such a consequential time, and I noticed that I have spent too much of it thinking about my future as a to do list, or evaluating my past without purpose or consequence. This exchange, I want to forget about the future (at least for a few months), to focus on my present self. I want to learn about where I am, I want to read widely, and I want to follow wherever my interests take me.

Having this manifesto written down has kept my goals in the forefront of my mind. It has been a point of reference to draw myself back to and reflect upon throughout my first few weeks here. So far it has been a success. I had a wonderful vacation, and now, I am on my second week in Edinburgh. I have joined many societies, mainly focused around reading and writing, and have enjoyed my first lectures immensely.

University of Edinburgh: my new home in its true rainy atmosphere

University of Edinburgh: my new home in its true rainy atmosphere

Those are my thoughts for now. I wish everyone back at U of T a lovely start to their semester. Till next time, best wishes, from Edinburgh!