Something to bear in mind when first arriving at Edinburgh: it is easy to feel small compared to the world around you. Despite coming from London originally (all I can do is apologise for that one!) and thus having an awareness of large cities and the hustle-bustle culture that comes with it, I still couldn’t help but feel intimidated by my surroundings. When you are unfamiliar with a place, no matter its actual size, feeling small and perhaps a little out of your depth comes with the territory. With this uncomfortable feeling, I would encourage you to embrace it and consider it as part of your long-term journey as a student in Edinburgh. It only means that there is a lot more of the place to explore; the joy comes in knowing that you get to make a home out of this city.
There may be one spot (or multiple spots) that you resonate with. I realised that places like Calton Hill or the Castle were places of solace for me. You will know you have found your spot when you feel a sense of ease. Outside of that spot the new experiences of university life may be overwhelming in numerous ways but, in your newfound oasis or sanctuary, it doesn’t feel as heavy. On campus, I would feel these subtle waves of anxiety, yet pretend like I was totally unfazed and confident in my surroundings. I hoped to give off the right impression, though not to the extent that it looked like I cared for what people thought, wanting to assure others and myself that I had already made friends within my first few hours on Scottish soil.
However, please try and find assurance in remembering how far you have come, particularly those of you that come from more challenging backgrounds. For many of you, the entrance into university life may be unprecedented within your family history or it may have taken more than a UCAS application to get you where you are. Worst of all, next to some of your peers, you may feel inadequate, intimidated, or even put off by some of the characters you encounter. Edinburgh is reputable but not always for the right reasons. The elitism and division between people, whether it be to do with race, the North-South divide or education (to list just a few) is alive and well. Therefore, despite my initially optimistic expectations, I realised that these were barriers I would have to cross. I wish I had not taken it so personally when I was not befriended or liked by certain people. I wish that I had learnt to keep my head held up high despite the overwhelming and arguably underserving confidence that came naturally to some of my peers.
I must also appreciate that as a Londoner, there are times where I may have met the preconceptions that others have had of me. Try and be aware of yourself and be sensitive and open-minded to the differences that perhaps exist between people, whilst also noting that finding the balance between patience and establishing boundaries takes a bit of time. However, your people are out there, whether you hit the jackpot and meet them in the first week or it takes a little more manoeuvring – it was not until second year that I realised there were a lot more like-minded and accepting people out there.
On a final note, Freshers’ week, and your university experience overall, is whatever you choose to make of it! As cheesy as it is, comparison is the thief of joy and only you know what works for you. It’s completely normal to test your boundaries and perhaps exhaust yourself running around between different events, but do not to feel obliged to do something just because others are. Your experience is not lacking in anything and even if Freshers’ week doesn’t meet your expectations, that doesn’t make it bad, just different.
Above all, whether you end up cringing, creasing, or crying in your first week at Edinburgh, just remember that the last thing you will be feeling is fresh but, then again, that is all part of the fun!
Image by Jorg Angeli via Unsplash