Lydia - University of Edinburgh

B Science
Semester 1, 2017

Academic Experience

Edinburgh has a full time load of three courses. I studied two equivalent courses that contributed towards my third year biomedical science major: Experimental Pharmacology (BIOM3402/BIME09011) and Molecular Cell Biology (BIOL3006/BILG09001), and I took one first year elective, Foundation Spanish (SPAN1010/ELCH07011).

It was really exciting to go to the University of Edinburgh! It's a really beautiful university. I found that the style of teaching was a little different to UQ and marks were harder to gain in assessment pieces such as lab reports. I also found that the required prerequisites that I completed at UQ may not be exactly equivalent. This was mainly true for Molecular Cell Biology - I think that there was some prior knowledge required, especially to do with planning experimental procedures, that I didn't have. This made the final and the main report a little more difficult for me. This course is also based in the science campus, Kings, which is around a 40 minute walk from the main campus. There is a free university shuttle bus that will take you to campus, but I often walked for my early morning classes as the bus was sometimes full.

The foundation Spanish course was quite similar in the set up of an introductory French course that I took at UQ, however there was much less verbal-based assessment. Applied Pharmacology 3 was also a great course and didn't have a final so was helpful in that way.

Another difference about the University of Edinburgh in comparison to UQ is the lack of lecture recordings. But I have heard that this may be changing in the coming semesters. The semester for me was a lot shorter than at UQ, and offered more time off between the end of classes and the start of exams. The university will also match you with a 'Personal Tutor' who is an academic within the university who can help you with any concerns or decisions you have during your semester abroad.

Personal Experience

I made some really amazing friends while I was in Edinburgh. They were mainly exchange students too as there's a great proportion of the student body that are foreign. We spent most of our time together and went on some great holidays together! Edinburgh is a great base for exploring a lot of Europe, and I had to opportunity to travel to many countries as the flights were often cheap. My favourite trip would have to be the 5 days I spent in Iceland driving around in a camper van with my friend from Edinburgh. It was so beautiful and we were even lucky enough see the northern lights! If you do try to do that though, try to get a camper van with heating (which we didn't do) as it obviously can get very cold. Portugal and Spain were also really fun, as I got to practice my Portuguese and Spanish language skills.

There are also many trips through Scotland, run by a tour group from the university, that will take you up through the highlands and the Isle of Skye, as well as to places like the Harry Potter castle and bridge (from the Chamber of Secrets). I think Scotland has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and so I definitely wouldn't skip on the tours if you have the chance.

There are many clubs that you can join in the university, including one for exchange students which often hosts events for you to get to know other foreign people! I joined the wine society and the vegetarian society that were both really fun. The wine society meant I learnt a lot about tasting wines that I didn't know before, and the vegetarian society held weekly potlucks where my friends and I tried our hand at cooking to the theme and bringing it along.

Exchange teaches you many things, and I think that the experience can teach you to be more confident and learn a lot about yourself, as well as about the world.

Accommodation 

I lived in a self catered university accommodation called Hermit's Croft, where I had a shared flat of 5 students. This was quite a good location for me as it was based close to main campus, and had a supermarket on the way home which was really convenient when I needed to pop in to get something for dinner. There was also an African wrap place called Nile Valley with £3.50 wraps which I loved, so it was often hard to turn away from that on my back from uni (would very much recommend you try it out if you go to Edinburgh!). Almost everything in Edinburgh is walking distance so it's never hard to get anywhere, but Hermit's was one of the accommodations a bit further away from the main city attractions. But it was right next to Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat -the extinct volcano in the city that you can walk up, so I couldn't complain. It was a little closer to the King's campus in terms of walking, but furt! her away from the shuttle bus (at Potterow) if I didn't feel like walking all that way!

University based accommodation is the easiest way to find a place to live, and there is an application hub on the website which you can access after you get your acceptance letter. If you apply early, I think you have a better chance of getting to choose your accommodation. I applied for one accommodation and ended up with an offer for a completely different one.

There are accommodations all around the university, and depending on what you want from it, some can be better for you than others. There are quite a few flat buildings along Cowgate, which is quite a well known street for pubs and parties. Some of my friends who had their windows above this street often found it to be quite loud, especially at night, so if you're looking for somewhere you can study you might like to avoid these. But it's also very close to Princes street (the main shopping street) and Grassmarket (lots of cafes and pubs), and closer to the university shuttle bus than I was. The catered accommodation (Pollock Halls) provides breakfast and dinner for students and is a great social setting with more than 1500 students, but is of course more expensive, and quite a walk away from campus. I'd recommend researching a bit into what you'd like from your accommodation, and where it is, also considering which campus you might be based in (many biology subjects are at King's and so you might like to be closer to the shuttle bus).

Budget 

In general, Edinburgh was a very affordable city. I would say that most things such as rent, food, drinks and clothing were about the same price as Brisbane or even a little less. The tesco meal deals for £3 can keep you going during those late night study sessions. Travelling was in general, quite affordable. easyJet or Ryan Air offered many sales and cheap flights all around Europe so it is always good to keep an eye on that. You can fly from the UK to places like Germany or Ireland for under $20 a lot of the time!

Within the UK, often travelling by train is the cheapest and easiest, but booking in advance is quite important! Especially avoid buying long distance train tickets for the day of - after 12am, the prices will skyrocket. I got a youth railcard for 16-25 year olds that gave me 1/3 off my train tickets. It costs £30, but if you're doing any decent travel within the UK it'll pay itself off in no time.

Professional Development & Employability

The University of Edinburgh really allows you to reach your potential as a student and push yourself in a new and unfamiliar learning environment. Having completed exchange, it shows that I can be flexible and adaptable to something far from what I am used to, and it displays my capability to form connections with new people. A semester abroad widens horizons and allows you to form a new perspective on various cultures and improves self-confidence in many new and unexpected situations.

Highlights 

Travelling, and seeing some of the best things Europe has to offer: standing in a field in Iceland in -10 degrees freezing our butts off staring into the sky because the northern lights were putting on a show; going into every cheese store that we passed and taste-testing every type of gouda that Amsterdam has to offer; seeing Budapest lit up at night from a boat cruise through the river; watching Edinburgh turn pink and yellow in the spring with cherry blossoms and daffodils; roaming the Scottish highlands, learning its history and wanting desperately to kidnap a cute little lamb! Above all, being able to experience all of this with some beautiful friends that I would never have met, had I not come to the University of Edinburgh.

Top Tips

  • Put yourself out there right from the beginning! I met my best friends attending some of the events that are put on for freshers and exchange students in the first week.
  • Don't bring too many clothes. You'll end up buying a heap and have to lug it all home or throw it out!
  • Explore Scotland as much as you can. Edinburgh has so many great things to offer, so definitely don't leave any of it until the end. Spend some time in the meadows with your friends and pet as many dogs as you can. The highlands and Isle of Skye are so so lovely and the International Student Tours will take you up there, so don't miss it.
  • Travel through Europe! The university is quite generous with the holiday times that they give us, and many people refer to the mid semester break as 'Ski Week', so take advantage and see as much as you can!

Edinburgh will soon feel like home. You'll love it.