This week nearly 7000 new students will arrive in Edinburgh to begin their degree at one of Britain’s oldest universities. In doing so, they will be following in the footsteps of thousands of others who have gone before them, including Charles Darwin, J.M. Barrie and three former Prime Ministers.
Among the notable alumni who have trodden the path ahead of them is The Student’s founding father, Robert Louis Stevenson, who embarked upon his university adventure in 1867. Originally studying engineering, he switched to law after failing to be inspired by the sciences, graduating more than seven years after his matriculation and undertaking his notorious literary career.
Arriving at university, whether it be for your first semester or your hundredth, there is always a sense of stepping into a new chapter of your life. It is unclear what this chapter holds, other than the fact that it is sure to have so many ups and downs, dips and dives and unforeseen plot twists that even Stevenson would struggle to write something so wondrous.
Over the coming weeks, many freshers will have to come to terms with leaving home and living without their parents for the first time. This causes many challenges, from working out how to cook something other than ready meals to deciphering which setting to use on the washing machine.
These key lessons are just one part of what makes university much more than the frenzy of academia that it is sometimes portrayed to be. While academic excellence is a worthy pursuit, university also offers an opportunity for students to experience new things, make friends from around the globe and adapt to their increased independence.
This independence is part of what has led Freshers’ Week to become synonymous with a drinking festival as many first years break out from their parents’ restrictions by discovering how to navigate their way to the nearest club before they find out where their lecture theatres are.
Yet, as well as testing their alcohol tolerance, university also grants students a chance to undertake activities that they may never have thought of before, whether that be charity work or treading the boards, learning a new instrument or joining a political party.
This week’s edition focuses on the many things that Edinburgh students can enjoy outside of their lectures, offering a companion to get you through the days and weeks ahead with tips on how to make your flat more homely, where best to listen to live music and the range of sports clubs that may appeal to you.
While such advice may be vital for freshers, there is a lot of content for returning students to feast their eyes on as well, highlighting the ever-evolving nature of university life. Among the major changes is the arrival of the new Rector, Ann Henderson, who spoke to my fellow Editor-in-Chief James about her aims and ambitions for the university in the coming year.
There has also been a lot of coverage in the national press about Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s decision to hand out gender pronoun badges during Welcome Week in an attempt to make non-binary and trans students feel more comfortable on campus. This important issue is discussed in depth in both the News and Comment sections of this edition, with the interview with new Vice President Welfare, Kai O’Doherty, who came up with the idea for the policy, of particular interest.
Also make sure to look over the Fringe roundup on pages 21 and 22, picking the best performances from a festival at which The Student reviewed more shows than ever before during four crazy weeks in August that were full of comedy, culture and creativity.
After shining in the sun, Edinburgh was granted two weeks’ rest, but now must brace itself for the vibrant arrival of students, filled with the cocktail of emotions that accompanies the new semester and ready to breathe life into the cobbled streets.
Students who may have spent the long summer holiday travelling the world, experiencing a working environment or simply relaxing on the beach reading a novel, now return to the capital with an expectant energy to pursue their hopes for the year to come.
In the twelve weeks ahead, each student will search for something different from the old city, discovering new experiences at every turn. Some events will be expected, such as the annual heating struggle once the Scottish winter sets in, while others may come as a shock.
Yet, by the time Christmas comes around, they will doubtless return home with a bit of Edinburgh in their heart, inspired by the magic of the gothic city and all that it has to offer.
So, welcome students old and new to another year at this fabulous institution. Embrace your excitement, fear and joy and throw yourself, unafraid, into the challenges ahead, the journey will be one to remember.
Image: Stinglehammer via Wikimedia Commons