I’m writing again from the kitchen of my flat because it has a few more windows than my bedroom and the natural light — along with a cup of aggressively mediocre instant coffee — is the only thing keeping me awake at this point. This week was my first week of class at the University of Edinburgh and though I survived, I’m exhausted.
The first lesson I learned my junior year — or “third year” as they say here — was that syllabus day is apparently nonexistent in Scotland. I had reading to complete before my first Early Modern Tragedy seminar, and after very brief introductions, the class launched right into an intense discussion of tragedy through the eyes of literary critic Terry Eagleton.
What is the difference, we asked, between the tragic and the very sad? How does the term “tragic” place value on negative experiences? Does tragedy have to consist of sudden violence or can it also describe a sad life that slowly wears away at a character? I can already tell Early Modern Tragedy is going to be one of those English courses where I leave with my head spinning — thankfully, Trinity has prepared me well for that.
Speaking of tragedy, I’ve dealt with several disasters this week.
Of course I’ve been sleep-deprived due to a combination of bad time management and lots of homework.
Also, my decision to buy a reusable coffee mug backfired when leftover chocolate from my mocha spilled all over the inside of my backpack. I’m still not certain where stain remover is sold in this country, so my backpack has been out of commission for days.
In addition, a terrible wind storm hit Scotland on the same day I decided to study at a library all the way across town. I didn’t notice the wind much on the way to the library, but on the way home it almost knocked me off my feet several times. By the time I returned to my flat, I looked so comically red-faced, messy-haired and moderately distraught that I took a selfie to share with future generations.
This selfie prompted one of my friends to draw me, another friend to suggest that the selfie should be an album cover, and my mom to laugh for maybe 10 straight minutes. Yup, my sister sent me a video.
Homesickness also hits hard sometimes. I miss my family; I miss Trinity and all the people there. I go on Facebook and see an event that looks cool, but just as I’m about to mark myself interested, I remember that I can’t exactly hop in an Uber and get to the McNay. I scroll through Instagram and see my friends making memories without me. I read the Trinitonian and realize my absence isn’t stopping the Pulse section — to which I previously devoted significant portions of my soul — from doing some excellent reporting.
This week I’ve been getting used to the absurd beauty of everything around me. At last, I’m unsurprised by the cobblestone streets, the pretty buildings, the bright green grass in the park on my way back from campus. I’ve come to expect each cafe or coffee shop I enter to have a quaint and cozy atmosphere. I’m accustomed to Scottish students’ stylish peacoats and Oxford shoes. The various accents still enchant me, but I expect even that will wear off with time.
And I know my way around, mostly; I don’t really get lost, even on longer walks. Edinburgh has ceased feeling like a vacation spot. It’s joined Michigan and Houston and San Antonio on the list of places I consider home.
There are grand things ahead here. Recently, I switched into a course for which all homework will involve listening to, reading about and writing about music — you could say I’m a bit excited. I’ve been doing a few things with the student newspaper here in Edinburgh, including but not limited to playing musical bingo. This weekend, I’m visiting the city of Stirling, Scotland, with my American friends. Oh, and in November, I might have plans to attend a certain concert with a certain fellow opinion writer.
Studying abroad is not always glamorous, but I love the people around me, I’m looking forward to my coursework and I’m excited for adventures to come.