Laura - University of Edinburgh

B Arts & Dip Languages
Semester 2, 2018
One semester is short but it's also really long - take every opportunity you get.

Academic experience

At the University of Edinburgh I studied three Ancient History courses. I found that Edinburgh had a much wider range of Classics courses than offered at UQ, so I found selecting my subjects really exciting. Because the subjects I chose gave priority to local students over visiting students, I missed out on a few preferences and was still having to choose electives as soon as 3 weeks before classes started. Enrolment is done via MyEd.com, which is basically the equivalent of SiNet at UQ. 

Two of my courses were final year subjects, and were taught in small seminars of about eight people. I found these subjects to have a higher workload than some of the Ancient History courses at UQ, but the delivery of the teaching was really beneficial.

Personal experience

Prior to exchange I was really nervous about not making any friends or feeling like a stranger in the city during my entire stay. Instead I ended up making some of the best friends i've ever had, and truly felt at home in Edinburgh. I mostly became friends with my flatmate and our neighbours, but also hung out heaps with people from my class. As someone who is a self-proclaimed nervous traveller, exchange totally made me more relaxed about being alone in a new city. My friends and I travelled to St. Andrews and the Isle of Skye with the university at the beginning of semester with the university, but later on we made trip by ourselves to places like Ireland where we drove cross-country in a rental car. By the end of my semester I was comfortable booking solo trips two days in advance.

Accommodation

Like most visiting students, I lived in university accommodation (college dorms). I stayed in College Wynd, which is a self-catered block of units on Cowgate (the clubbing/bar street of Edinburgh). This wasn't one of my five accomodation preferences, but I ended up thinking I wouldn't have wanted to live anywhere else. If you want one of the closest accomodations to the uni thats close to heaps of clubs and bars, then I would highly recommend College Wynd, Kincaid's Court or Darroch Court. It does get noisy at night, but it never really bothered me, and the locality to everything in the city completely outweighed the negative aspects (e.g. noise from people going partying). I would really suggest getting self-catered over catered accomodation, as many of the catered accomodations (e.g. Pollock Halls) are much further from the city centre.

Costs

Rent cost me about $3500 AUD, and my accomodation was one of the cheaper options. Per week I spent between £12-20 on groceries. Because Edinburgh is so walkable, I didn't catch any public transport the entire time that I lived there. If you do need to catch a bus, Lothian Bus tickets cost £1.70 for a one way and £4 for a day ticket. To save money I primarily cooked at home, as eating out in Edinburgh isn't that exciting and quite expensive. Cafes and bars are reasonably priced, and drinks with student discounts (which most bars do) cost between £2-£5 so socialising over a few beers with friends was really affordable. After flights and rent, I brought over around $11,000 AUD which was way too much. I took trips to the Highlands, Ireland and Spain and travelled for two months after exchange and still had heaps left over. If you aren't travelling before or after exchange I would only suggest bringing over around $6000 AUD.

Challenge

It sounds lame but a big challenge for me was spending Christmas away from my family. While exchange is super exciting, Christmas time can be a bit depressing as you realise it's over/all your friends begin to go home/it's the middle of winter with minimal daylight hours. I ended up spending Christmas with my friends and it was really nice, but if you do plan on being in Edinburgh over the holidays, I would recommend planning in advance something to do/spend it with to avoid having a really bleak Christmas/New Years especially in a town that is so festive during this period.

Professional Development

During my exchange I managed to get my own radio show at FreshAir.org.uk which was an invaluable experience. Not only did it allow me to feel really integrated in Edinburgh, but it allowed me to meet so many new people and have a creative project that I could work on each week. Learning my way around a recording studio was really helpful, and I can use the experience to potentially apply for future positions at Brisbane stations.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was probably having my own radio show, which was pretty cool. Apart from that, the friends I made while in Edinburgh are friends that I'll have for the rest of my life, and really made my exchange as fun as it was. We still keep in touch regularly, and already have plans to see each other in the future.

Top tips

My biggest tip would be to take time, especially in the first few weeks, to really get to know the city. Put some headphones on and go for a 2-4 hour walk after class. The city is small, so it's really easy to explore, but it's also so worthwhile to feel comfortable navigating the city where you'll be living for 4 months. Also, give everything a go. Put yourself out there and don't shut yourself off or turn people away. You have the ability to make your exchange anything you want, so be open to new experiences. Check out the University's student societies and try out for things. But also don't be scared to do things non-uni related on your own. Edinburgh has endless clubs, venues and events on constantly that suit every interest, so make an effort to go to things alone to meet people. Take advantage of everything being within walking distance and branch out.