Ethan - University of Edinburgh

B Arts
Semester 1, 2019
A transformative 6 months that created memories for life.

Academic experience

I completed three courses at Edinburgh which is a full time course load. I did Britain, Ireland and Empire (a history course), Making of the Modern Body (a social history course) and Comparative Politics in a Globalised World (a political science course). 

It was a very different experience from UQ in the manner in which the humanities are taught and assessed. All of my courses had rotating lectures each delivering about 3 lectures on their expertise. I didn't particularly enjoy this as the information and analysis largely was superficial and did not have the depth of study that I have experienced at UQ. However, the content was interesting and reasonably different, particularly the largely quantitative studies within the Comparative Politics course. 

Most of my grade came from exams which allows for plenty of travel through semester but a mad rush to cram during the extensive (1 month long) exam block. Marking largely felt the same to UQ and I faced no serious challenges. 

Enrolment and registration was largely straight forward I just had to be sure to meet the deadlines as the University is under strict government guidelines for foreign students and their matriculation. Unfortunately, entering into certain courses can be impossible. I was only able to do one second year politics course but fortunately, I had plenty of electives and I still studied courses that were interesting.

Personal experience

Exchange has been the best experience of my degree and I cannot recommend it higher. I will truly cherish this experience and the memories I have gained from this semester abroad. I have made fantastic friends from the across the world (particularly other Australians and Americans), who I was able to travel across Europe with. For the six months I was abroad, I travelled to fifteen countries from sweltering Spain in summer, the beautiful highlands of Scotland to the grungy bars of Budapest. 

Exchange provided plenty of opportunities to learn independence, particularly ensuring that I made it to airports on time. It also is a great experience of learning to adapt to new people and living within a new environment.


I lived within University provided accommodation on my exchange semester. At Edinburgh, exchange students have guaranteed accommodation with the university which I highly recommend as short term leases are rare in Edinburgh and the fantastic experience of student housing. 

I lived in Lee House at Pollock Halls which is catered accommodation. I found this to be incredibly easy, albeit a little more expensive, but the experience was vital. My friends from exchange all came from Pollock Halls. We would eat dinner together, talk about our day and plan our evenings or travels together in the dining hall. I would recommend Pollock Halls for its ease and the community that it undeniably created.


I would have spent around $16000-$18000 through the time that I left Australia to when I came home. Accomodation (which included board) was about $7000 and was the biggest expense. 

Food is a little more expensive in Edinburgh and eating out can be pricey. Western Europe is also expensive, along with London and Norway is unrivalled by its prices. Central Europe is very cheap (especially alcohol). 

Edinburgh is a compact city and if the weather is not too bad, then most places are just a short walk away. However, on the occasions that a bus is needed, a ticket costs £1.70 and about £5 for the bus to the airport. 

If airplane tickets are bought well in advance they can be amazingly cheap and take you all over Europe. Additionally, I learnt that booking planes to London may be cheap but are well out of the city and the train in can cost more than the ticket. If you are aware of your dates, the train to London from Edinburgh is £25 and takes you directly into the city but must be booked 2 months in advance.

Professional Development

I definitely gained a lot of experience in managing my personal finance and dealing with bureaucracy, they would be very useful for people who are looking at developing a career overseas. The greatest challenge I faced was balancing all that I wanted to do and needed to do on exchange. I sometimes skipped my Friday classes for a weekend away but then I also sometimes had to stay in to complete my readings.


The highlight of the trip was a weekend trip to London. In 3 days I managed to see a West End show, have a night out in Soho, see all the large sights and have high tea at the Ritz.

Top tips

My top tip, is to just do it! It is an amazing experience and whilst it requires some serious preparation it is undoubtedly worth it.