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10 things you’ll only know if you’re a postgrad at Edinburgh Uni

What is a Pollock girly?


To the uninitiated fresher, Edinburgh can be a sea of nameless faces who all know exactly where they’re going and silently look down on you for getting lost on the way to your seminar and not knowing where to sit in the library.

As a fresher, though, this is allowed – you’re part of a huge group of people notorious for these things, and who are all going through it at the same time. As a postgrad, on the other hand, you are equally clueless and yet still met by most with the expectation that you should know what you’re doing.

Combine this with a number of Edi quirks that you may only notice if you’ve got another uni under your belt to compare it to, this can lead to a very unique set of experiences that only postgrads will understand.

1. You are unversed in library politics

You’ve vaguely heard mentions of the fourth floor being full of “rah” girls, third floor being quiet, etc, but it’s all the same to you. In fact, contrary to everyone else’s complaints/happiness that the library is home to every freshers’ friend, unfortunate Hinge date and enemy they’ve ever met, you walk into a blissful sea of unknown faces.

While this can get lonely at times, the anonymity is also very welcome – whether you finish those 80 pages of reading you need to do or just online shop for three hours, no one you know will be there to judge you.

2. Edinburgh has its own language that makes no sense to the uninitiated

What’s a Pollock girly? Ballie Ballerson? Civs? Hive? Half of the plans you make will involve smiling and pretending you know what someone’s talking about before frantically googling the place you just agreed to meet them at, only to find out they haven’t told you its actual name and you have no idea where to go.

Messaging someone to ask them to explain a seemingly obvious abbreviation or Edinburgh University term is a weekly occurrence, and one which never stops being embarrassing.

Messaging someone to ask them to explain a seemingly obvious abbreviation or Edinburgh University term is a weekly occurrence, and one which never stops being embarrassing.

My first seminar consisted of at least five mentions by my professor of the phrase “when the weather gets worse….” followed by some bleak prediction about our seminar attendance or essay performance.

Everyone you meet will somewhat manically tell you that they wake up at the crack of dawn every day just to soak up the three hours of daylight Edinburgh can get (usually its not even sunny). You’ll be inundated with advice to buy a light alarm clock, a SAD lamp, take up some form of exercise and to fix your sleep schedule. Conversations with third and fourth years who’ve lived through their share of winters here are slightly alarming and fill you with a vague sense of foreboding.

4. You came for the dark academia aesthetic, only to spend half your time in 40 George Square

Let’s be honest, most people who decided to come to Edinburgh for their masters were at least partly influenced by the pictures they saw of the pretty old buildings online, whether that be on Pinterest or Instagram.

You probably arrived on your first day naively expecting to spend their time in windy cobbled streets filled with moody street lamps and dreamy church spires, only to realise that almost every practical task you had to carry out on a daily basis involved going somewhere that didn’t quite fit into the aesthetic. From braving the streets of Newington to attending lectures in Appleton tower, and, let’s be honest, the main library, you quickly realised that living out your dark academia dreams might require a bit more effort than you thought.

5. You’ll feel like a fresher again

Most of us reminisce about being a fresher – what’s not to love about having no responsibilities, going out every other night and constantly meeting new people who want to do exactly the same thing? This doesn’t, however, mean that it’s an experience you necessarily want to relive again three years later.

There are lots of things that are great in the moment, but that deserve to stay firmly in the past once they’re over, and being a fresher is one of them. Arriving in Edi, however, you spend half your time around freshers who, as a jaded postgrad, have just a bit too much spare time for your liking. Many of your days are spent hunting for cafe study spots and un-studenty neighbourhoods while overhearing stories of nights out and first-year flat horror stories in the library.

6. You rarely have awkward run-ins in places you don’t want to

While first years here tend to undergo a migration after Freshers’ from the halls of Pollock to the streets of Marchmont and Newington, leading to unavoidable run-ins with people you don’t want to see while buying loo roll or on your run around the Meadows, this is just a story to you.

Probably so desperate to find somewhere to live that even Leith started seeming like an appealing option (postgrad accommodation team – sort it out), Master’s students end up living in all sorts of places. While this does make it harder to meet people and can mean a few long treks back after nights out, it also means that you can explore, people watch in cafes and late-night food shop to your hearts content without the lingering fear of awkward moments with people that, let’s be honest, you just don’t really want to talk to.

7. You lose the well earned sense of superiority you had as a final year student at uni

While not all of us want to admit it, being a final year student at uni comes with a healthy sense of confidence that is your natural right after months spent getting lost and going the wrong way.

Now, however, you’re back in the trenches of first year inferiority all over again, shamefully clutching onto Google Maps wherever you go and having to ask busy and impatient looking people how to get to your seminars. Never fear, though, it won’t be long until you’re confidently strutting through the streets of your uni campus once more, only occasionally walking into the wrong classroom or taking the wrong path through Meadows and having to do a full 180 in front of lots of silently judgemental fourth years.

8. You have no idea how much work you’re supposed to be doing

You’re inundated with talk of midterms and peer assessments, as well as a hefty reading list each week, but for the first month you have no idea how much time you’re actually supposed to be spending on any of it. One week, you’ll feel like you’ve missed something and wonder if there was an extra item on the reading list you’ve forgotten about, and the next you’ll have three midterms due on the same day and wish you’d spent a bit more time in the library the week before.

PhD students will tell you you have almost no work while undergrads seem to have a somewhat bewildering sense of respect for the amount of studying you do. Nevertheless, you push on, battling through those Turnitin deadlines and 9am seminars.

9. You have so few contact hours that sometimes you feel like you’re doing a degree you’ve set yourself

Don’t get me wrong, I love a day spent reading obscure philosophy in cosy cafes in Old Town but the lack of lectures or daily contact hours (for the humanities student, at least) sometimes makes you feel like your degree is something you made up and are just doing by yourself.

This is especially likely to be the case if you are a main library avoider and do lots of your work in the city and not surrounded by other students – readings start to feel like something you’ve taken upon yourself to do and your degree can even feel a bit imaginary. This is just part of the fun of being a postgrad, though – after all, if you didn’t like spending hours reading about your subject you wouldn’t have chosen to do a masters in the first place.

10. You never stop finding new things to do

While initially somewhat surprised by how small Edinburgh is for a city, you’re surprised by the fact that you still manage to find somewhere new every day.

Edi is full of hidden gems, and you quickly realise that what looks like an ordinary street is actually home to three basement bars, a very cute cafe and lots of small but incredible restaurants. You might spend your first few weeks mapping your way round Edinburgh trying to tick off tourist spots in Dean Village, Stockbridge, New Town and Arthur’s seat, thinking you’ve been everywhere and seen everything there is to see, only to realise that there’s hundreds of places just on your doorstep you haven’t been yet. While this might not be the best news for your weekly reading list or unfinished midterm essay, it does remind you of why you wanted to come here amidst all the work and rain, and makes you glad that you came.