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.
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.
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.
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.
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!