Getting out of the country, out of the places in which I feel the most comfortable, could not have been a better decision for me this semester.
To a certain extent, life at home, at Hampshire was beginning to feel somewhat like a rut in which I couldn't get out of; what was I doing? Where was I going? What was my purpose? What is there to do?
While I still do not know the answers to those questions per se, I have found that this new environment and array of new experiences has provided a fresher, larger outlook on life, larger than what I have acquired while at Hampshire.
Although my courses are not small, discussion-based courses, their subject matters are engaging and thought-provoking. The people whom I have met here have also offered new thoughts and ways of viewing life processes and being. The beautiful setting of a city with cobblestone and old architecture combined with open, fresh green spaces provides a sense of reassurance that new places around the world can be places of comfort in their own special ways. There are different ways of finding well-being, inner-stability, and happiness in a variety of situations, and the exploration of such processes has been something immensely enjoyable and eye-opening in this different setting.
Missing home is, of course, somewhat frequent, although I have found a variety of comforts here to fill the voids and explore new possibilities. One of the hardest parts has been being away from the Women's soccer team at Hampshire, and missing out on a seemingly wonderful season they are having. I miss my ladies, I miss putting on cleats, and, of course, terribly long bus rides within which to do homework. It is true that I do miss all of my family, as well; both at home and at Hampshire, and keeping in contact with everyone through short e-mails or exchanges has been a good thing. Luckily, between searching for the best coffeeshop, cheapest good food, most expansive charity shop, best view of the city, or the most beautiful place to catch direct sun, there is always something to do here (of course).
The people, also, have been a great part of the new experience here. My basketball team (the 1st team for the university) is comprised of nearly all Scots and I'm sure they laugh constantly on the inside at my ridiculous attempts to understand them most of the time. The coach and I already have a mutual understanding of the fact that he will have to repeat much of what he says as his accent is by far the thickest I have encountered thus far. Many of the women are on the Scottish National team, so they have a nice community among themselves, but are all very friendly and welcoming. The team is quite fun and it's exhilarating to be playing with others at a high level; it reminds me of the reasons why I love the sport.
I have also joined the Ultimate Frisbee team (Ro Sham Bo).While I still cannot put on a pair of cleats and be on the grass (basketball shoes have more support, as does a flat surface), they have been wonderfully welcoming of my wanting to come learn more about the sport and work on my handling (throwing the disc). I can now officially throw a backhand decently well, and I'm working on my IOs, which is a term I didn't even know until coming here. And strategy! A set up for indoor playing (3-2 or 2-2-1, getting intense)! Craziness. It has been amusing and interesting to learn so much more about the sport (which, here, is much more organized, interestingly enough. They have a very large amount of participation, so it does make sense). Everyone on the team is impressively friendly and welcoming and the group has provided a great way to meet people. Although there are many Americans (both full course students and many exchange), there is a good mix of nationalities. The funniest part has been meeting some people with mutual friends back home; it has reinforced how small of a world we do, in fact, live in. (Best one yet: I now have a friend here who visited a friend of theirs at Hamp during my first year who lived a door away from me in our hall. And they, of course, also know someone on Red Scare. Doesn't get much smaller than that sometimes).
The Jewish Society (J-soc) has been a great place to meet Americans....but also some wonderfully friendly Brits! The Scottish Jewish population has an interesting (read: small) amount of people in it, but has been a very welcoming community thus far. As I try to stray from the other visiting American students at J-soc events, I've made some good connections with a core group of regular Edinburgh students, and have learned a fair amount about Judaism in GB. They're also very cool and chill people, somewhat reminiscent of Kolot (Jewish A cappella group) back home. Great times to be had yet!
Sightseeing has happened, although to a lesser extent than I maybe would have liked. However, I am not in the least upset about this; I have realized that I am really immersing myself in the life of a University of Edinburgh student and less so the life of being a tourist/visitor. Though this has its benefits and drawbacks, I am very thankful I have been able to start to live the university life here and feel the experience of this new place to it's fullest. I do hope to be able to take a highlands trip at some point in time, and maybe visit a loch or an island or two. I am going to try my hardest, but it is definitely difficult between wanting to hang out with new friends or simply having too much schoolwork to do. Unlike many visiting students, I do not believe my courses are pass/fail, so the effort to be put into them is somewhat different than many others. But, that is quite alright, and I'm excited to live up to the challenge! Whether or not I will succeed....is yet to be determined. Trusting the process, trusting the process.
I know I have been away from this blog for quite some time. I do apologize to those who had been reading it as I was posting rather frequently. The daily life as a university student here in Edinburgh definitely took a toll on me within the first month. Between an over-packed freshers week, new societies and socials, and finishing readings, it has been slightly difficult to find time to report back on my findings in this city.
Currently, I'm in the middle of reading a book for my class on East Central Africa. As I am trying to finish it today (with 120 pages left to read), I am sitting in a coffeeshop which has become a second home over the course of the weekend; phenomenal music choices, a gritty atmosphere, and the best (and most expensive) coffee I have ever tasted. I am not much of a coffee connoisseur, but their coffee is by far the most intricate and tasty coffee around. Fantastic place: http://www.brewlabcoffee.co.uk/
As I have now squandered away precious time in which I was supposed to be getting through a good chunk of my book, I should probably sign off.
I will hopefully take a much-needed break sometime in the near future and upload pictures, give another thoughtful update, or just say hi. It's still hard for me to believe that people actually want to read this blog, so I tend to not prioritize writing in it. Today, the epiphany of the beauty and goodness of life as whole and all of its possibilities warranted the documentation of those thoughts as I find them essential to lived experiences and the search for personal truth and wellness.
Smiles to all back home!