A Single Traveller’s Guide to starting out in the School of Informatics
Ah! The thrill of embarking on a new adventure! Whether it’s hopping on a plane to a foreign land, or starting out as a new student or staff member at the University of Edinburgh – the excitement and nervousness are almost indistinguishable. During a recent two-week holiday to Croatia, I came to realise that there are more similarities between these journeys than you might think. Here are some of the parallels I drew while travelling alone in an unknown country.
Navigating the unknown
Arriving in a new country is scary. Not knowing how to get from A to B can be really daunting. However, taking a leap of faith and stepping out into the cobbled back streets of Zadar old town, I realised that discovering new places can also be exciting. I started to like the feeling of being lost and discovered some amazing sights: the sea organ; roman ruins; and the best fried sardines EVER! As I explored this unknown city, I realised that this is how it must feel to be a new student or staff member turning up at Appleton Tower or the Informatics Forum for the very first time. Getting lost at university is inevitable; but it is something to embrace, not fear. Trying to find Lecture Hall AT_ M2, an obscure meeting room or a computer lab in a maze-like university campus provides you with opportunities to stumble across hidden gems… like the NASA Valkyrie interactive experience installed at Bayes Centre NASA Valkyrie interactive experience installed at Edinburgh Centre for Robotics in the Bayes Centre, and the mindfulness Labyrinth in the north-west corner of George Square Gardens.
As a single traveller, you’re thrown into situations where you are forced to make friends with complete strangers. The same is true of university life. Attending your first cohort event, lecture or society as a new student is likely to be nerve-wracking. Trying to meet new people and form connections can be difficult and tiring. It’s certainly how I felt at times during my holiday. But be brave – try not to let your nerves get the better of you. Putting yourself ‘out there’ and speaking to people gets easier the more you do it. And it’s also an essential part of being at university. University isn’t just about attending lectures and tutorials: it also about getting to know your peers, academics, and professional services staff to create a lasting support network that is vital to your success and enjoyment as you embark on a new chapter in your academic journey.
Language and Culture
Travelling to a foreign country often means grappling with a new language. Suddenly ‘cold’ becomes ‘baltic’ and ‘sandwich’ becomes ‘piece’. In the School of Informatics, it’s not only human language we need to wrap our heads around – we also need to get to grips with computer language. When I started at the School of Informatics I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by the acronyms and systems: Haskell, Java, Theon, and DICE. I didn’t just feel like foreigner – I felt as if I’d landed on another planet! However, as time has gone on, I have found myself to be at home here and that the School of Informatics is actually “pure dead brilliant”. Academics have taken the time to explain to me with enthusiasm and patience the wonderful research that is taking place, right here, under my nose. What I enjoy so much about being part of a world-leading research community is the rich cultural diversity of staff and students it attracts. Few other Schools can boast the representation of over 100 countries. As someone who loves travelling, this aspect of the school really excites me.
Some of us are new to the School of Informatics and are just starting out on their journeys. Others have been part of the fabric of the school for a long time. However, whether we are embarking on or continuing our travels, what I find reassuring is that the People and Culture Committee has worked hard to create and establish a set of Values that can guide us all. So, no matter what our background, each one of us feels welcomed, respected, and appreciated for the extraordinary and invaluable contribution we make to the Informatics community. No matter what challenges you face, I know that you will find these values in everyone and everywhere you look: Civility, Collaboration, Curiosity, Integrity, and Humility.