Edinburgh Master’s Program 2018: Let the Academics Commence

I write from (future posts won’t be nearly as varied for a while, so here’s the last dramatic opening line until further notice) a student cafe right next to Edinburgh University’s pompous sports complex. Since last I wrote, I have managed to navigate three frenzied weeks of postgraduate classes, basketball practices and games, a cornucopia of social activities, and the seemingly never-ending laundry list of tasks to complete when you move to another country and start school (and do real-human things like move into a dwelling rather than existing as a perpetual vagabond).

As usual, I’ve lived much more content in the last three weeks than I could possibly do justice to communicating in a single catch-up post. But I’ll bring everyone up to speed and then, hopefully going forward, I can get back to sharing more blog-y things like stories and thoughts rather than this newsletter format I’ve been regressing to for the past (…ages).

The facets of my current life in a nice, neat, type-A package:

School

After my visa snafu in which I found myself in Scotland, had to return to the States to get my student visa, and then flew back to Scotland, I was able to join my program of study starting in its second official week. Turning up late didn’t end up throwing me for as large a loop as it might have, and I was thankful to be able to jump right in with only slight bumps and confusion during those first couple days. I can’t believe it but we are finishing our fourth week already.

One of my class buildings (They’re not all this beautiful, but really — wow)

I had forgotten how much I like school. It’s a bit embarrassing how much I enjoy writing papers, feel energized by intellectual discussion, and relish the academic environment. My song may sound a bit different by the end, but here at the onset I am extremely excited at the prospect of soaking up school again this year.

Basketball

I am playing for two teams within the multi-tier women’s basketball program here at the University. Basketball is structured quite differently here in the UK. I’m still trying to get a handle on its intricacies, but essentially, the program has three basic arms.

  • A professional team, made up almost entirely of university students (and I’m not sure whether any receive any kind of salary), sits at the top and is made up of the best players in the program. Pro league regulations allow only two American players on the team roster. Two talented American players, one having just finished her undergraduate playing career at Princeton, fill those spaces.
  • The University arm, divided by skill level into three teams (essentially a varsity, JV, and recreational team), plays other universities throughout the UK. The top-level team is made up of all the university students on the pro team. I play for the intermediate team.
  • Finally, the “National League” team is made up partly of university students and also incorporates a few national Scotland Under-18 players (high-school aged girls who have played for Scotland in international competition) who contribute to the team and use it to augment their club team involvement in order to gain higher-level experience and improve. I also play for this team.
Yes, I took a uniform selfie before a game…

Jumping back into a life involving 3+ practices a week, games once or twice a week, and other team activities including lifting sessions and get-togethers has been a lot, but incredibly fun. I’m immensely enjoying reentry into athletic microcosms, observing and learning from new coaches and coaching styles, and staying active. I’m also tired and have a creaky old body, so prayers that I’d stay together without ample amounts of duct tape/rehab/surgery would be appreciated. But thus far, it’s been a fantastic reentry into athlete-hood.

Life

God provided living quarters in the form of a sunny little flat (an apartment in UK-speak) with three flatmates: a young couple from Colombia (mr. doing a postgraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence and mrs. studying for a financial accreditation akin to a CPA and working this year while her husband is in school) and a PhD math student from Greece. We are an incredibly eclectic group, but quite vibrant, accommodating, neat, and agreeable. It’s been a great experience thus far. The apartment isn’t a forever home with its cheap accoutrements and lackluster furnishings, but it’s clean and warm and more than a blessing.

Our little family unit in all its glory around our first official “Flat dinner”

For transportation, God also provided a great classified-ad find (I know some of you will appreciate my predictable regression to the UK version of Craigslist) in the form of a bike. The procurement and outfitting of the bike is a great story in itself which I may write out soon. It’s a massive-frame, retro-fitted (friction gear shifters and everything — I didn’t know what that meant either until the guys helping me clean it up at the bike shop later fawned over it) champ of a bicycle that gets me where I need to go and lets me work off a little energy. The mobility is fantastic. Rain is currently just Scotland’s way of testing your mettle. We’ll see what winter brings and whether I need to utilize the buses again sometimes at its worst, but I anticipate biking a few miles a day for the foreseeable future.

The Red Beast (Coined by a friend who helped fix him)

I’ve jumped into involvement with a couple churches — an Omaha-descended church plant that meets Sunday evenings and is geared towards students, and a Vineyard plant that meets every other Sunday morning and has a couple life groups that meet during the week. A slew of new friend seedlings fill my week and I’m enjoying building communities in lots of circles at once. I’m interested to see, once this version of life begins to cool and harden into its final form, where I settle and establish longer-term relationships. For now, I spend a lot of time with a lot of different people from school, basketball, those various church groups, a Christians in Sport athlete Bible study that meets Wednesday mornings, my friends at the hostel where I stayed during my first week in Scotland, and random friends I meet on the street (or in bike shops).

I’m off to eat Thai food with a couple uni friends in a moment — until next time,

-LS

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