Harriet - University of Edinburgh

B Commerce/Economics
Semester 2, 2018
My semester exchange was the best four months of my life and I would go back to Edinburgh in a heartbeat.

Academic experience

I studied Business Economics, Investment Securities and Markets and History of Medicine, which gave me credit towards an Economics Elective, Commerce Finance Major and a General Elective at UQ. I also got credit for another Commerce Finance Major subject at UQ because I was undertaking a full-time load in Edinburgh, however this is 3 subjects, therefore did not directly correlate with a full-time load at UQ. 
Two out of my three subjects did not involve tutorials, which was a strange experience for me because UQ has tutorials for everything in my experience. The University of Edinburgh put great emphasis on external readings before class instead of tutorials. This was a challenge for me as I studied majority math subjects and was used to having tutorials to consolidate my knowledge. I had to start doing practice questions on my own and then seeking out the lecturer at consult if I had any issues, which made the academic system very self-driven. On the other hand, due to the lack of tutorials I had very few contact hours, 8 a week, which left a lot of time for exploring the city and travelling.
The enrollment system at the University of Edinburgh is quite different as you are not able to pick you lecture or tutorial, if you have them, you are automatically allocated into them. As a result some classes can clash with others, meaning you can only do one and have to change the other. This was a challenge at the start because each new subject had to get approved by UQ and the courses were often full by the time university started and changes needed to occur. My tip for this would to submit multiple subjects for approval of UQ and then submit your application into Edinburgh early so that there is plenty of time to reorganise subjects if there are any issues.

Personal experience

I gained so much from my exchange experience. I made a fantastic group of friends from all across the world both on exchange and permanent students. Due to the limited contact hours I was able to travel a lot. During my semester I did weekend trips to Munich for Oktoberfest, London, Dublin, Brussels, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. I also did trips exploring Scotland, such as St Andrews, Glasgow, Sterling, the highlands and Isle of Skye.

Accommodation

I lived in on campus catered accommodation called Pollock Halls. This was a group of 9 dorm houses, each with around 200 students in them. Breakfast and dinner was provided in a dining hall each day. I was very happy with my accommodation, as I really appreciated the catered meals and I also loved the social element of meeting so many people at meal times. The university guarantees housing for exchange students if you apply before the deadline and were very helpful with any questions I had before arriving in Edinburgh.

Costs

My accommodation cost $5000AUD (£2500) for the semester. This included the meal payment. Whilst this was expensive to pay upfront (there are options to do payment all in one or 4 different payments over the semester) I did not spend any money on groceries for me to cook. It also meant that I did not have to spend money on stocking a kitchen with cooking implements. Whilst I was away I spent a total of $6000 on everything excluding flights and university accommodation, so this covered travel and leisure activities. I budgeted for quite a bit of weekend travel, which is something some other exchange students did not have as a priority, therefore the exchange could be done for much less. Overall, I think a budget of $2000 at the most for purely Edinburgh expenditure will be sufficient for the 4 month exchange.

Challenge

It was a challenge being in a foreign country without my usual support network, particularly at the beginning when I was just meeting people and everything was new. However, I quickly grew to feel at home in Edinburgh and met some incredible people who helped with the transition. I also befriended a lot of fellow exchange students, which was nice because they understood what I was going through and we could support each other.

Professional Development

I learnt a lot about independence in my exchange semester, as I was living away from home and totally self-reliant to make sure I kept on top of academics and as well as organizing my life. Also travelling around Europe and the UK on the weekend taught me independence and good planning and organization. All these skills are so valuable in everyday life in Brisbane, particularly as I begin to going into the professional workforce. I also gained confidence in talking to new people who are very different from me and might appear not to have anything in common. This is also so valuable for life, as you will constantly be meeting new people and the ability to talk and communicate confidently is fantastic.

Highlight

One of the highlights for me was the independence I gained overseas. I live at home for university in Brisbane, so getting the opportunity to live on campus in a college environment was incredible and something I absolutely loved. I also really loved being in the UK and having such cheap and easy access to Europe, which made travel so easy and achievable. Also the people I met were a huge highlight and made my exchange semester the incredible time that it was.

Top tips

My top tip would just to get as involved a possible, which is what everyone says but the semester goes so incredibly quickly that you want to make the most of it while you are there. Also, I’m not sure about other universities, but Edinburgh had this fantastic society called International Exchange Students Society and they organise trips around Scotland each weekend. It is such a fantastic way to see Scotland and meet other exchange students. They also run Scottish events such as Ceilidh dances, which is the traditional Scottish dance and is so much fun.