One year on from her last trip to Edinburgh, transnational education student Ashinsa has returned. And this time, she is here to graduate!
My return trip
Visiting Edinburgh hardly a year after leaving it last September evoked a strange feeling of familiarity. Strange because I had only visited once before; yet as I passed through its streets, the city made me feel at home.
What brought me to Edinburgh on both visits was the same – Edinburgh Napier University. This visit however, I had come to say goodbye to my time as an undergraduate student. My family and I were visiting from Sri Lanka to attend the summer graduation ceremony on the 4th of July.
While my dad had been to Edinburgh before, my mom and sister had not. I had spoken so highly of its beauty that they were eager to see more of the city that had captured my heart, in the way no other city outside home had before. I believe they understood soon enough!
We walked along the Royal Mile, saw the towering castle and peered through the gates of Holyrood Palace. My love for books made me lead my family to a lovely second-hand bookshop and, just as the last time, I found some treasures there. My parents visited the beautiful seaside town of North Berwick, which was only a short train journey from Edinburgh.
I was determined to do a few things I hadn’t done on my previous visit, so I went for a walk through Dean Village and along the Waters of Leith. It was so picturesque and peaceful, with only the occasional person walking their dog along the canal bank. It was hard to believe that I was still very much in the heart of a city. Gems such as this are why I love Edinburgh– it has so much to offer.
I was also keen to see the Rosslyn Chapel, the bus ride to which was slow but worth it. The chapel was truly a sight to behold! The stone carvings both inside and out were stunning and intricate.
The day before graduation, I went to Sighthill to say hello to the wonderful members of staff whom I had met on my previous visit. Their warm and friendly natures came as a pleasant surprise when I first met them, and I was happy to see them again. Dr Arthur Robinson and Dr Sophie Foley were amazing in guiding me whenever necessary and I will forever be grateful to them.
The special day
The big day arrived in a flurry of cloaks and Saris! I chose to wear traditional attire (a sari) as did my mom and sister. We certainly looked a colourful bunch and turned a few heads while waiting for our taxi. I was both nervous and excited. In Colombo, our graduation is smaller due to fewer numbers of students graduating but being part of a larger and grander ceremony made it feel more real somehow. I was also curious about how my rather long and unusual name would be pronounced on stage and indeed, much to my amusement, it proved to be a tongue twister!
Everything at the ceremony was organized well and I was glad things ran smoothly. It seemed my worries that I would trip or that my sari would unwind were unfound. What added to the happiness of the day was having my family there with me. I could see that they were proud and very happy to see their daughter/sister graduate with a first-class degree. Encouragement and support always came in abundance from my family; I cannot express the gratitude and love I feel for them in words.
The past few years were filled with laughs, inside jokes, hard work, tears, assignments and exams. I made friendships that I know for certain will last a lifetime and I have learnt lessons that I will carry with me forever.
I have discovered so much about myself – I know that I love learning, I know I want to keep learning and I understand how much there is to learn, both in science and life. I know where my weaknesses lie and that as difficult as they are to acknowledge, I can only grow by accepting and working through them. I know that with hard work, determination and focus, I can achieve my goals. Before my honours year, I didn’t feel as though I was ready to hold my own in a lab. A semester of research certainly helped with that. I never lacked people to go to for advice- the faculty were always very helpful in answering my questions about research, jobs and future pathways. The course content offered by Edinburgh Napier is vast, varied and great for giving a curious student a glimpse at all the options.
It also helped me realise that among all the topics, I loved microbiology the most. There is so much left to learn, discover and explore in the field that I know I would like to continue in. I hope to apply for my postgraduate studies in a year or so, but I would like to have some lab experience before I do. The dream job would be working with fungi or parasites, to truly understand them.
I don’t know exactly where this path will take me, but I know it’s not just about the destination, it’s about enjoying the journey as well. I look forward to the future and I try to be optimistic about it. I would like to share my love of science with others, because I believe that everyone is curious about nature and science. I would like to thank Edinburgh Napier University and of course, the wonderful staff and management at Spectrum Institute in Sri Lanka for helping me achieve my goals as an undergraduate. Now onto the next adventure.