University 2.0: first impressions of a new world

I'm excited.

I'm scared.

I'm filled with anticipation.

My feet are tired, my brain is in overdrive, and my imagination is on fire.

And classes haven't even started yet.

I'm inspired by the city. It's beautiful; wet and green and cobbled. Each and every one of the University buildings I've seen has a character all of its own. I've walked many miles further than necessary, over the past seven days, mostly due to map-related incompetencies. I can't wait to hit the multitude of museums and delve into the vibrant history embedded within these streets.

I'm inspired by the University. Tours of the facilities this week have blown my mind and stripped limitations from my imagination. In my leap from science to art, it suddenly seems okay to break all the rules, okay to experiment, and - though I have not quite come to terms with this idea yet - okay to consider form over function.

I'm inspired by the people. Somewhat unexpectedly (perhaps I didn't do enough background research before I came), University staff involved with my course have histories, projects and research in areas that directly map to my interests and passions, some of which I'd almost forgotten I had. My coursemates are a diverse bunch, with backgrounds in literature, music, film, art and social sciences, and there is not a doubt in my mind that our skills will complement each other perfectly as we collaborate on projects over the year ahead.

I'm inspired by freshers week. I've gone along to meetings and events organised by a ton of different societies, mostly food related. I've met some great people whose names I've already forgotten. I've picked up plenty of free stuff, and I've talked to plenty of strangers in that way that is only really socially acceptable during freshers week.

I'm daunted by age and by time. I've hung out with first years, and felt horrendously old upon realising I'm no longer eighteen. I've been to postgraduate events, and become tiny in a room full of people who are all older, wiser, and have far more idea of why they're here and what they're going to do. Most of them don't, of course, but I feel inexperienced and lost nonetheless. And I am suddenly conscious of every passing second, terrified that a year will not be enough for me to dream of everything I want to accomplish here, let alone accomplish it.

I'm fed up of people asking me what I'm studying. I always have to say it twice, and I have the standard blank-look face emblazoned on my subconscious. I really need to come up with an elevator pitch a Twitter pitch summary of what the course is about. By that, I mean what the course is about for me. Because everybody's interpretation will be entirely different.

So, this semester, in the all new Interdisciplinary Creative Practices...

I have a core course of Postgraduate Research Methods, attendable by all postgraduate students, and in the case of masters students, a chance to kick start a PhD, should we choose to do one in the future.

I have a core module called ICP1, which is a series of seminars lead by representatives from a variety of disciplines, covering a wide landscape of interesting topics.

I'll be part of a collaborative effort for a pretty hefty looking group project, which is as yet undiscussed.

I am now a member of CIRCLE, and will be attending seminars and conferences lead by those smart people.

And I have 20 credits worth of option, which I have elected to fill with the Advanced Natural Language Processing course from the School of Informatics. That's right. I'm doing a course about something I've never studied before, with the word 'advanced' in the title. Deep end alert. (Those Who Know seem to think I'll be able to manage it, so here we go).

Naturally with all of this inspiration floating around, I've started brainstorming for projects. My recent forays into the world of interactive fiction turned out to have been perfectly timed and entirely relevant. Since I'm not particularly talented with regards to the visual or aural arts, the textual ones are likely to be come a primary focus of mine. Team this up with technology, and I'm bursting with ideas. Not to mention overflowing with joy, as I revisit my writing roots and childhood dreams in earnest. And, hopefully, also in a way that is socially relevant. Because if I end up doing research that doesn't in some way impact upon the human condition, I won't quite forgive myself. I am getting the impression that in the art world, everything can be socially relevant. I still view this as a potential slippery slope, and am determined to ensure I don't get too wrapped up in my own little art cloud that I forget about the rest of the world. It's all very well exploring and speculating, and hypothesising and dreaming. But I think it rather important that that lead to action.

And doesn't this relate quite nicely to this week's ICP1 reading? I'm half way through Two Cultures by CP Snow, and I swear that there is a small metaphorical possibility that this guy jumped into the future, into my head, gathered a mess of thoughts from the past three to five years, made them coherent and put them into the context of his own decade, then published the essay. How cheeky. I haven't finished it yet, but it is so far an entertaining and relevant read; I will likely offer further analysis upon completion. And probably after the seminar in which we discuss it.

All in all, I'm pretty damn sure I'm in the right place. This move was a last minute and unexpected (even on my part) decision, and I'm pleased I made it. I'm more aware than ever of the idea that has always lurked in the back of my mind: that I have a scientist's mind, but the soul of an artist. And this interdisciplinary adventure offers me an unrivaled opportunity to explore the potential offered by that combination.

PS. If anyone can come up with ANY reason for me to NEED to use the 3D printer here in the next year, PLEASE get in touch.

🏷 braindump edinburgh icp interdisciplinary creative practices university

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