This post is pretty much unedited and way, way too long. I’m blaming exams. Ready?
If I put Swedish in the title of this it counts for exam revision, right? Totally. Flawless logic. #Svenska4Life
I’ll probably write this post and then one more as I’m leaving [gulp] before my tenure as an undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh is up and I go back to small town America and the liberal arts experience. (Sidenote: that would be a great band name. If you can play the drums or guitar, hit me up. I can sing.) I’m going to briefly cover what I’ve been doing and then get to the meat of it, which is how desperately I am going to miss Edinburgh.
As a fair warning, I’m just going to put it out there that I’ve spent the last two weeks feeling extremely lovesick over this city and this university, so if you want to avoid mushy sap, roll on out before it’s too late. I’m also listening to sad songs by ABBA right now (studying! They’re Swedish it counts!) so that is not helping at all either.
Still with me? Great. Here we go.
I left you at the beginning of April and what’s happened since then can be solidly slotted into three categories: studying (the boring part), traveling (the beautiful part), friends (the lucky part).
The boring part: First I had my last English essay – I wrote on WWI poetry and had a blast. I had a whirlwind fling with Wilfred Owen and spent a lot of time rooting around ephemera of WWI online. In my travels (Ireland, England, [Scotland]), I’ve actually seen more than my fair share of exhibits on WWI and it was amazing to connect all the exhibits and history I was privy to with my literary studies.
Then I had my English exam. I met with some of my friends from my tutorial beforehand and we frantically exchanged texts we’d studied and wished each other luck. It was nice to sit for the exam surrounded by people I had studied with all year, knowing we had all put in horrific amounts of hard work. I felt prepared for the exam and, maybe more importantly, I felt like I really started to get a grasp on the strokes of English literature 1700-present this year.
I also had a final essay for my honors sociology course, Theories of Power. To be honest, it wasn’t my best work and wasn’t my favorite university class. If nothing else, though, the class was worth it because I became much closer with Vera, my friend who was in my Feminist Theories class. A good reminder that sometimes university isn’t just about the class material, but about who you’re interacting with and what perspectives they hold.
Now I’m studying for my Swedish exam – det går inte bra – I can’t focus on it. I enjoy studying languages, Swedish being the opposite of an exception to the rule, but there’s so much else on my mind right now studying is not coming easy. The nice thing about languages is that whatever you don’t learn for this test or that exam will come eventually; if you want to speak the language, things will fall into place. I’m pretty upset that I won’t be able to continue Swedish II next year, but I feel like I’ll find a way to learn it somehow.
The beautiful part: I went to Rome with my friend from high school (Nicole) and Berlin with my parents.
After I left Rome, I posted this status on Facebook and it pretty much sums up how I feel about the experience: “Leaving Rome a little sunburned and a little more enamored with life, which I think is how it should be.”
I took some good pictures, but I’ll stick in some more interesting ones here instead. Creds to Nicole, of course.
If you ever get the chance to go to Rome, do it. Consult your map sparingly and let the Eternal City wind you around it’s majesty. Spend a few hours eating dinner outside and laugh at your own terrible Italian. Fill up your water bottle at every single street drinking fountain and consume enough wine that everything becomes just a little bit better. Don’t worry about being a tourist and taking three hundred pictures. And when you really, really have to pee, pay the €5 admission free to the nearest museum. Use their toilets and then enjoy what is probably an amazing exhibit that you never would’ve visited otherwise.
I am beyond blessed that my parents were able to make the trip out to meet me in Berlin. My dad planned the Ultimate Dad History Tour® and it was amazing. We went to two palaces, one of which housed, unbeknownst to us, a David painting. I am not exaggerating when I say that one of the best moments of my life was standing and staring at that portrait for a long, long time. The Jewish museum is extremely well done and worth a visit, as are all the museums on museum island. I mean, I absolutely loved Berlin and I would tell you all of it was worth it, so I’m maybe not the best person to take advice from on this front.
Berlin is a different beast. It’s is clean, tidy, even, but deceptive. You can get lost moving around from intersection to intersection, following the sun as it hangs late across the sky. You turn from new buildings onto an old square, from bright shop windows to memorials. German is frustrating and beautiful, working impossibly long words through melodic, almost breathy phrases. Buy “ein Kaffee, bitte” and never be sure whether you’re using genders or cases right. It doesn’t matter. Berlin isn’t a city to let you linger on your hangups.
The lucky part: I know I’ve talked a lot about my flat, but let me reiterate: some of the best people I’ve ever met, and my best friends here. They understand me and we work so well as a unit – the perfect marriage of personalities and quirks. If you come to Edinburgh as a student, I can’t guarantee that your flat will be this good, and knowing this I feel so lucky to have been put with these intelligent, questioning, supportive, hilarious women. I know we won’t be super close next year, by virtue of us scattering across Edinburgh and the world, but I will never forget how well we worked as a group and how much I’ve enjoyed getting to know them.
Really, part of what I wanted to do studying abroad was get to know people that had had radically different experiences from mine and I was surrounded by people who grew up in countries I know nothing about, who speak languages I can’t begin to understand, and hold epistemological positions I had never considered before. Friends from my English lecture and tutorial, my sociology classes, other study abroad students, UK nationals, people I spoke with once or a hundred times – I owe them a lot. Debt of gratitude right here.
Nicole also made it out to Edinburgh. We mostly did tourist-y things, because that’s what Nicole is into (no complaints), and we also went to the Stockbridge market and did part of Leith Walk, which I live very close to. If you are ever in Edinburgh and are near Stockbridge/Leith and fancy a run or a walk, go to Leith Walk and the off-shooting paths. Free, beautiful, nature under the city. And you end up in some pretty spectacular parks and right around the Royal Botanic Gardens.
It was relaxing to have an old friend come and experience a taste of what I’ve been lucky enough to experience this whole year. Nicole and I have been friends for long enough that we pretty much know all of each other’s crap and there’s not much better than hanging out with someone you need absolutely no pretence with. I mean, come on. She’s seen me as the insecure, bizarre, hostile teenager that I started high school as. You can only go up from there, trust me.
Pic creds to Nicole again, except for the trees – that was me.
And now we’ve arrived. My dumb love letter to Edinburgh – the city and the university.
Let’s start with the university, shall we?
I was nervous coming here. The classes were huge, the campus was overwhelming. And I was in an honors class with graduate students. Somehow, some way, I began to feel comfortable – at home, even – in large lecture halls. I know when the coffee carts are closed and where the good study spots in 50 George Square are. (Best couches on campus, btw.)
Sometimes, I would pull my body into old college and sit on the benches, letting the damp cold nip through my fingertips as I reveled at how quiet the city could become when you were only a few metres from the street. That small patch of winter grass and the perpetually fast clock accompanied me on many days when I needed somewhere to think a little.
Sure, I did not enjoy the electronic essay submission. And walking 6 flights of stairs in the Crystal Macmillan building was not the time of my life. But my lecturers were passionate and engaged. My classmates were diverse and always scrambling to learn something new. Obviously, I had a bit of trouble adopting Edinburgh’s system for studying, but once I immersed myself in it, I found that I liked being able to explore nooks and crannies of subjects on my own.
(This isn’t to say I don’t have great professors or classmates at my home university – I do. I want to make that clear. It’s different here, and I love it, but I won’t compare to say one is better.They are both amazing and worthwhile in different ways.)
Forgive me. It’s time to talk about the city.
I wasn’t kidding when I said “Jag Älskar Dig.” (Translation: I love you.) Really, I have never been in love. I’m young and ambitious and busy and I never quite got the whole falling-in-love bit. I can do that later, I figured. Sometime in the future I will fall in love. (Remind me of this blog post in 10 years so we can all have a laugh.)
It’s hard to live in a place you love knowing that you are about to rip yourself away from it. I can’t sleep at night. My heart speeds up when I think about leaving, in a sickening way. It beats into my terrible mattress and I have to toss and turn until I can forget that the plane waiting to take me back to the states is somewhere out there in the world, journey already planned, tickets already booked.
I have a hard time looking out my window without feeling that sad/nostalgia/love/hope/deflation twinge in my chest. If Edinburgh were a person, I’d put them as number 1 speed dial in my phone. I’d set them as a Skype contact and follow them on every social media platform. I would ask what’s going on every day and respond with cute stickers.
I’m in deep. I’m over my head. I feel like I could spend the rest of my life here and never be bored or tired or restless. I want to stare into Edinburgh’s stupid beautiful face for the rest of my young life as far as I can foresee it. All the slick cobble stones, the mercurial weather, the laborious tram, the overwhelming crush of Princes St on the weekend, the time difference that keeps me up until 3 AM to watch NHL games… I have come to love those things even as they annoy me.
If this isn’t love, then I don’t want it.
But I do have to leave, and that is going to be much harder than I had anticipated. There was a point in December where I felt legitimately homesick and didn’t want to stay in Edinburgh for the rest of the year. Which is weird, considering where I live in the USA is just … fine. It’s boring and small and, other than the fact that my parents are there, I don’t care about it one way or the other. I moved around a lot as a kid, so I’ve never had a place that I stayed in long enough to really know it; I know Edinburgh better than some places I’ve lived in for longer. It’s the first place that’s ever really been mine, separate from my family or my schools. I chose it. I could have studied abroad in almost any city in the world and I didn’t end up here by accident. And even though it’s going to hurt a lot to leave, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So there you have it. My sappy, poorly written and poorly thought out love letter to Edinburgh. Fuelled by stress and instant coffee and an 8Tracks breakup playlist.
Thanks for sticking with me through this 2400 word (!!!!!!!) digression. I have to go back to Swedish and feeling sick to my stomach about that waiting plane.