Straying from my normal post style exactly 1% I’m going to ramble interwoven with some pictures. Continuity errors abound but hey, nobody’s perfect.
I don’t have photos of everything that has happened for you – I’m still waiting to get some from friends who have visited. And also that would be impossible. I don’t even remember half of what I did, to be honest. It’s been a lengthy and unreal whirlwind.
I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for a while (surprise!) and so much has happened since I last threw up a jumble of photos and thoughts. So much that it astounds even me. I sometimes get paranoid that I’m not “living my life fully” or “experiencing everything” — some sort of larger, more anxious version of the FOMO world we are all socially wrapped in — but in reality we can’t do it all, see it all, experience everything.
My flatmate Dakota and I traveled to Dublin and then London. We arrived in Dublin exhausted, and we sat in a café for a good hour or two before catching a movie – much cheaper in Dublin than in Edinburgh and easily the nicest cinema I’ve ever been in. From there, we visited four museums, and had the chance to hang out with my friend Campbell, who is a student at Trinity Dublin and who is in the debating society. We went to a debate on nationalism, which was fascinating, and it was a joy to get to see an old high school classmate.
After that, we made our way to London, where we did a bunch of tourist-y stuff that included 0 museums but a lot of buildings, etc. Then we returned home, completely drained from three 8AM flights, where I napped for about the whole day on sheets I had mercifully washed before we left. This was right in the middle of the semester during a pause in the traditional class structure called “innovative learning week.” They have a bunch of amazing stuff to do on campus during that time, but I personally wanted to get in some travel because I didn’t get to go anywhere over December break. Since then, everything has pretty much been a whirlwind. Classes are ramping up for the end of the semester (I’m in week 11/11 right now), and I was trying to secure an internship back home. On top of all of that, I’m trying to work out some academic details for next year without being able to directly contact my home university’s major department outside of email. That much has been completely exhausting.
Having visitors in Edinburgh has made me realize how beautiful the city is and how proud I am to live here, even for such a short time. I really think it is one of the most unique and charming places in the world – you can be at the beach, on a mountain, in a castle, eating food from all over the world, hearing accents from all over the world, seeing some of the finest art from Roman artefacts left in Scotland to the Dutch masters to contemporary artists, you can go out or go to the opera or ballet or comedy or really anything in the world all in the course of one day. I know, I know, a lot of other cities offer this kind of excitement. Lauren, you say, you live in such a small town of course you feel like it’s so exciting! If you were from New York or Chicago or Paris do you think you’d feel the same way?
Honestly, probably. Edinburgh, as much as it was a little bit of a love at first sight type of deal, has snuck up on me. I don’t mean to wax poetic about it for years, ok? But it has me by the heartstrings right now and that’s all I can say about it.
I was walking back from something or another the other night and on my way back to my flat I did my customary three or four 360 degree spins to try and take everything all in. Edinburgh hasn’t solved all my problems and being in another country has certainly spawned its own crying jags, but I do feel really happy here.
I’m still struggling with not being able to play the piano at all, due to limited practice room space, and of course there are things I would change if I could (time differences? No thanks!), but I still think I’m at one of the happiest places I’ve ever been in my life. Emotionally, not geographically.
Yeah, I’m sure some of that has to do with being older and figuring out whatever it is you figure out as you start to enter young adulthood, but I think that, if anything, this year abroad has been a jump-start to that growth.
I know I haven’t spent much time talking about the academics on this blog, so I’d like to take a moment to do that. I guess if I could say one thing about them it would be: go for the full year! It takes time to adjust! I definitely have a much better handle on the Edinburgh University system now than I did at the beginning. I’m taking English II, Swedish, and I’ve taken two honors sociology courses, Contemporary Feminist Debates and Theories of Power. Especially for my English class, it took me a little while to get to the place where I understood exactly what the course was trying to impart on me.
It has given me a huge appreciation for the contextualisation of literature in a way that I hadn’t fully grasped before. Most of the work that I do at my home university is mainly focused on taking books as entities that can be deconstructed critically without needing to directly link back the ideas present in the work to historical context. This isn’t worse or better than Edinburgh’s overview of British literature that I’ve been privy to over the past two semesters – well, depending on what critic you ask, I suppose – but it is different. And I’ve come to blend my ideas about literature much more with history and contextual culture than I did before.
Just two small failures to mention in this post – not even, more like works of progress. (Remember my first post? The one that was just me failing to navigate Edinburgh?) One of the things that I have been trying to do recently is more creative work, and you would think that being in a city with such a literary history it would be easy to be inspired to write. However, I have not found this to be the case. I’m trying to take the modern poets I’ve been studying in English II was a little bit of the push I need to get back into the grind of doing creative work and I’m happy to say some of it has really resonated with me, but I still haven’t totally got on the wagon of the effort it takes to sustain a decent creative output.
The other is obviously the suddenly looming: what the eff am I going to do with my life?!?!? Clearly, I do not have to have this figured out by now. I probably will never figure it out, and I’m resistant to the idea that I’m going to work towards any singular thing, because I don’t think I have the drive to do that. But studying abroad has definitely given me some breathing room to experience different things and
look at different ways of approaching things. I’m glad I have had the time and the energy to ruminate a little more over the course of the second semester. In a way, being rudely divorced from my comfort zone has been liberating, and I’m continually grateful that studying in such a different way with so many different people has opened my mind up to different angles.
So no, I haven’t solved that problem and, with the admission that I probably never will, perhaps that can’t be counted as a failure. Still, I had hoped that I would have a little more of an idea of where I wanted to go after my graduation next year and that one is still out for the count. Ah, well.
My sister came to visit (picture at the end) and I had a good time with her, but I was also a little disappointed by how our relationship has shifted. I’m the younger sister, and I’ve spent a fair amount of my life looking up to my older sister, trusting her and knowing she had had more experiences than me. However, now I feel more independent.
I have had experiences she’s never had, and I’ve become a little bit more of a complete person. I guess it was a little naive to expect that my relationship with my family wouldn’t change while being so far away from home, but it definitely has. Not that I am not still reliant on my parents, but I think I definitely need them less now than I did before. Of course, my mom is still my best friend and my dad is still the best advice giver I know and my ride or die sports watching partner, but I feel more like a person who can exist fully and completely without the comfort of knowing social attachment.
For this parting thought, I turn to the infinitely wiser and more eloquent Azar Nafisi, who once wrote, “You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” I am not the same person I was in September, and I know I will only really begin to truly understand
those shifts once I return home. I know my tiny town will feel even smaller and I will have a lot of things to readjust to. I’m beginning to feel the inevitability of my departure in intimate and immediate ways. More than once, now, I’ve languished about the fleeting time I’ve gotten to spend here while trying to fall asleep, memorising the way my room looks in the half-light of the street that filters through the curtains of my room. Looking at my flatmates and wondering how good friends we’ll be when we don’t see each other every day.
It is comforting to know you have another – another day, week, month to get to know a place. Another short while to try. Less pressure to try and salvage the most of out whatever is left. (Stay in Edinburgh for a year if you can!)
I haven’t even scratched the surface of anything I did with my friends or flatmates. I won’t apologize for my introspection and truth be told, as I said at the beginning, I’ve done so much in such a short time that I barely remember the half of it. Oh, and a protip: if you’re in Edinburgh when it’s going on, go to a 6 Nations rugby game, even if you don’t watch the sport. Worth the time, worth the money. Fantastic stuff.
The days are getting longer, beautifully doling out sunlight hours like candy. It’s uplifting and I can’t wait to move into the April and May weather and longer daylight hours. Sorry if you’re stuck somewhere with seemingly infinite winter (Massachusetts, I’m looking at you).