Universityland: Advice from the EUSA President that made History

“Universities can make or break us. Personally, my years at university made me, and they also solidified my anti-establishment leanings. I loved the learning, the friends and the incredible experiences I had growing up in this most magical city.”

Briana Pegado

Briana Pegado made history as the first black woman to be elected as president of Edinburgh University’s Students’ Association (EUSA). She also set up the Edinburgh Student’s Arts Festival (ESAF), which led to her being named as one of Scotland’s 30 women under 30 and one of Scotland’s top ten innovators.

On Briana’s ‘Universityland’ Trax, she retraces her steps through Edinburgh University’s central campus, covering everything from controversial architecture, student protests and the famous murderers Burke and Hare. This time, we’ve reached out to her to ask her for some advice. If you’re a fresher, a foodie, or thinking of running for EUSA presidency, then stay tuned… 

What’s your best advice for fresher’s week?

Fresher’s Ball – Image from EUSA website

“Make sure to smile and chat to people even when you are uncertain. A lot of people are in the same boat as you and are feeling just as nervous. A smile and a hello is a great way to start a conversation. “

“Pace yourself. You won’t miss out if you don’t go to everything and you don’t want fresher’s flu, so make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of naps in if you’re planning to stay out all night.”

Your favourite go-to spots to eat near uni?

“I am a huge fan of Che on Forest Road. They serve the best falafel in the city. They put lemon zest in their falafel and swear there is nowhere else like it. I am a big fan of Nile Valley cafê as well. They make the best wraps. An Africa Wrap with Fuul (these delicious stewed beans) and feta cannot go amiss!”

“Union of Genius is one of the best inventions since sliced bread. A soup café, come on! How has no one thought of that before? The Lebanese Lentil and Lemon Soup is one of my favourites. I am also a huge fan of Saboteur for their Vit Curry with Duck. It has whole lychee fruits in it and it is delicious!”

“There are too many to count but there are my tops suggestions. For some authentic Mexican Food, El Cartel is also worth checking out and Checkpoint for their thrice cooked chips.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking of running for EUSA presidency? 

Briana Pegado

“Pull together a manifesto that has an impact and is easy to communicate. You want to help with transport links to King’s Building, exam timetables or more access to counselling services – then chose those are your main focus.” 

“Assemble a team of people that believe in you to help you out. This will help with lecture shout-outs (they are key and a great way to reach big audiences of people at once), door knocking, and also use social in ways that will grab people’s attention.”

“The most important thing is to be yourself, listen to the people you want to support to come up with ideas to support them, and have fun. It’s going to be a long slog of sleepless nights, late-night discussions and chatting to former Sabbatical Officers/Staff at EUSA. Use every opportunity you can as an opportunity to listen and gather information to make sure you do something that truly benefits the Edinburgh University community.”

To any new or returning students, we hope this advice helps!

If you’re looking for more university-related content, check out our previous Guide to Edinburgh University’s Central Campus blogpost, or Briana’s full ‘Universityland’ Trax, available on Spotify and on our free app

Universityland: A Guide to Edinburgh University’s Central Campus

“Welcome to Universityland: home to an institution that has been influencing the world since 1583. This is the University of Edinburgh.”

Briana Pegado

Join the former president of Edinburgh University’s Students’ Association (EUSA) Briana Pegado on a walk around the University of Edinburgh’s central campus, as she shows you some of the university’s most important buildings. This article is adapted from our ‘University land’ Trax, created by Briana. You can check it out on Spotify, or on our free app

1. Bristo Square

“Bristo Square was always a thoroughfare through to everything good: a little portal out of Universityland into the actual city.”

Briana Pegado

Home to the famous McEwan Hall, EUSA’s Teviot Row House and Potterrow, Bristo Square is the gateway in and out of the rest of the campus. It is also known as the adopted home of Edinburgh’s skateboarding community and has become the inspiration and birthplace of local businesses such as clothing brand Pieute and the Focus skateboard shop. 

As Briana remembers, “when the square was set to be refurbished in 2015 and skateboarders were asked to make themselves sparse, a short-lived protest movement erupted around the square to save its history. Posters, signs and caps reading “Make Bristo Skate Again” were particularly popular. The square has since re-opened, and the new design has not warded skateboarders away. They are just cleverer about what props they bring to make the space board-able.”

2. McEwan Hall

Image by Edinburgh First

“The Hall’s alcoholic origins are rarely questioned today, but given it is the main graduation hall for Edinburgh university – its merry beginnings are highly appropriate for its modern use.”

Briana Pegado

McEwan Hall was presented to the university by famous politician and brewer William McEwan in 1897, costing the equivalent of £14.8 million to build in today’s money!

The building is known for the beautiful frescoes painted in the Italian Renaissance style by William Mainwaring Palin, to be gazed upon by students taking their final exams and on their graduation day (see below).

3. Teviot Row House

Image by Renee MacKenzie

Built in 1899 in the 16th Century Scots’ Palatial style, Teviot Row House is the oldest purpose-built students’ union in the UK. During term time, it is a lively hub of student activity, as there are a multitude of bars and restaurants open for students to enjoy, as well as a wide range of events, talks and socials to attend!

Teviot is also home to Edinburgh University’s Students’ Association (EUSA). As Briana explains, “beyond putting on club nights, running important campaigns for students’ welfare, supporting student-run clubs and societies, running an advice place for students’ support, and hosting student council – the students’ association maintains an important role as a union representing students’ interests to the university, local government, city, Scottish and UK governments.”

4. Potterrow

Image by EUSA

“Potterrow is another students’ association venue, and it is also the new well-being centre, the Chaplaincy and the school of Philosophy.”

Briana Pegado

By day, the domed glass ceiling and cosy interior make Potterrow feel like a large greenhouse, and it’s a great place to steal away to have some lunch or do a bit of studying between lectures. By night, Potterrow is home to the infamous BIG CHEESE! Love it or hate it (and many do both) the Big Cheese is a student night known for its cheesy music, and it is the most well-attended student night in the city. 

5. George Square & George Square Gardens

Originally built as a residential area for Edinburgh’s upper class, George Square today is the beating heart of Edinburgh’s central campus. Once the birthplace or residence of many noble characters including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Walter Scott, the beautiful Georgian homes lining the square are now used as offices for University departments, or to host seminars or classes for students. 

Briana’s favourite part? “The beautiful oasis in the middle of the square – George Square Gardens. Hidden inside is a tiny labyrinth which is a pattern woven into little tiles of concrete, hidden away by bushes.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed this walk around Edinburgh University’s central campus with Edinburgh alumni and former EUSA president Briana Pegado.

If you’re looking for more university-related content, then check out Brianna’s full ‘Universityland’ Trax, available Spotify, and on our free app