Annabel - University of Edinburgh

B Mechanical Engineering/Commerce
Semester 2, 2018
I now know and have the confidence and abilities to do anything I set my mind to. I also have an insatiable appetite for travel and and enduring love of Scotland.

Academic experience

I was able to study courses contributing to both my mechanical engineering and commerce degrees.  This was composed of 4 10 ECTS engineering courses and 1 20 ECTS finance course, which enabled me to take a full subject load.  The university was fantastic for getting me settled as each exchange student had a personal tutor who was a member of the faculty of the school that they were enrolled in (the School of Science and Engineering) and mine was able to give me advice on the best elective subject to take given that I was on exchange and wanted to use my spare time to travel rather than study.  Additionally, all of my courses lecture were recorded so I wasn't worried about the fact that I had back to back lectures on campuses that were a 30-minute walk from each other.

Personal experience

I still am not over the fact that I was able to walk 5 minutes around the corner from my flat and be faced with a huge castle on top of a hill in the centre of the city, it was so surreal.  I was very fortunate to go on several weekend trips to the highlands and around Scotland with the Exchange Student society (IESS) as well as got to participate in several cultural activities, my particular favourite being the ceilidh.  Additionally, I got involved in the Mechanical engineering society and met people who I now consider good friends and was able to help out by acting as social officer for the semester.  Exchange is also a great time to take the VAC part of SWOTVAC literally as I took a week long holiday to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania during my study week as well as took a trip to Ireland during semester (nothing beats a great deal from Ryanair).

Accommodation

I stayed in self catered university accommodation about a minutes walk from the university's George and Bistro Squares and about a minute from the gym.  However, if you are mainly taking science and engineering courses, you should know that those classes are at the Kings Buildings which is about a 30 minute walk from the centre of town, so if you don't like walking, find accommodation closer to that campus.

Costs

Rent was my main expense, and it came in at about $4000 AUD for the semester.  I found the grocery store prices to be relatively comparable to Australia, especially if you bought seasonally and that cooking for myself was far far cheaper than eating out as Edinburgh is quite expensive for both food and drinks, unlike other parts of the UK.  Additionally, the bus network pretty much will get you anywhere you don't feel like walking to and a single ticket is £1.70.

Challenge

My biggest challenge was going from an environment where I knew a lot of people to finding myself in a place where I knew no one.  I overcame this by attending the events run by the exchange student society (IESS) especially during welcome week as it allowed me to meet other like minded exchange students as well as getting involved in the Mechanical Engineering Society where I was able to meet more people doing the same courses as me.

Professional Development

Travelling alone and living in a foreign country have seen my independence, self-assuredness and resilience grow several fold, mainly as a result of having to do everything for myself or having to clearly communicate what I was trying to achieve such that I could get appropriate help.

Highlight

Living in a foreign city was a highlight in and of itself, made even better by the fact that it was a city as beautiful as Edinburgh and I enjoyed being able to get involved in the culture by going to a couple ceilidhs.  In terms of seeing Scotland, the trips I did to the Isle of Skye and to Inverness were incredible ways to to see just how beautiful the country was, and the opportunity to properly experience the leaves change colour in autumn was surreal, it was so picturesque, and I now understand why people love autumn. Additionally, on my last day in Edinburgh I went in search of Highland Coos and I have never been more excited to see cows in my life, they are so fluffy!  Finally, I was able to travel to Norway where I was lucky enough to catch the Northern Lights and I have never been more in awe of nature, I was lost for words.

Top tips

If you are considering an exchange and have the means, do it.  You will not regret it. Also if you are going to Scotland, pack hiking boots; I did not and I really regret it.