20 December 2019
Three flights and 5,248 miles after, here I am. I come from Panama, a relatively small country that links the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, also known as the "crossroads of the world". It is a country with modern skyscrapers, beaches, 1,000+ islands, tropical rainforests, 1,800 butterfly species, banana plantations, warm and humid days, and traffic.
As you can already tell, it is quite different from where I am now.
There I was by the pool on a hot sunny day back home when I received the following email: "A change has been made to your application to study at the University of Edinburgh." I recall it as if it was yesterday—how my heart was beating faster than usual while opening the 'Applicant Hub'. Little did I know, I was reading my unconditional acceptance letter, while simultaneously having a hard time believing that my passport to success was about to become a reality.
Rainboots, rain jacket(s) and I was ready to go.
My transition to student life in Edinburgh started off with 'Welcome Week', a period of time dedicated to helping incoming students get to know their way around this wonderful city we now call home. It was a week packed with events that introduced me to other students. I recall meeting my first friends while waiting in line for a 'Gin Masterclass' postgraduate event. An Improv Workshop, Arthur's Seat climb, fencing, archery, vegetarian walking tour, ceilidh, kickboxing, and military team building are only some of the many activities and events I took part in during Welcome Week.
It only took a few days for me to realise that I was going to be surrounded by a diverse community of interesting, bright, aspirational, and ambitious students. "What an enriching learning experience I will have here", I thought.
Now that one semester has flown by, I can assert that I am beyond grateful for having been able to pursue higher studies in such a prestigious university. I will not forget those who helped me get here. I keep them in my thoughts all day, every day. It does not matter that I have been miles away from home, because I am positive that my life as a student at the University of Edinburgh has, and will continue to be, a fulfilling and hard-to-beat learning experience. I am looking forward to 2020; a great year ahead, full of surprises and transformation. I will keep on taking intellectual challenges, getting out of my comfort zone, and most importantly, capitalising on personal, academic, and professional opportunities.
I'd like to avoid thinking that next year will fly by too, but I'm sure that before I know it I'll be saying goodbye to a warm and friendly city that's surrounded by greenery and castles. I will be reminiscing and looking back at the streets of Edinburgh with a sense of nostalgia; streets that have given the world intellectual giants. I know however that I will thank myself for taking the challenge of moving miles away from home to achieve a milestone in my life—this passport to success—and will keep it in my memories for years to come.
Rita De Obarrio is a student at the University of Edinburgh Business School.