Lana - University of Edinburgh

B Psychological Science
Semester 2, 2017

Academic Experience

I study third year psychology at UQ but was enrolled in the fourth year psychology honours program in Scotland. This meant I had a dramatically reduced number of hours (6hrs a week) since I wasn’t required to write a thesis. To study a full time load I had to take three courses in two blocks - six in total. I enjoyed being able to study a larger number of shorter courses. Some of my favourites were Paranormal Psychology, Moral Judgement and Behaviour and Intimate Relationships.

The marking and assessment systems are very different to UQ. The university had a relaxed approach to assessment due dates and exam rules. It was a shock to receive grades that were much lower than what I am used to. A first (equivalent to a 7) is 70% and a pass is 40%. Many of the courses have 100% or 80% assessment items which was also stressful. I was surprised to receive the same assignment for two different courses. The lectures are typically not recorded and I had no tutorials. The classes were also significantly smaller than UQ. The semester is 11 weeks long and there is no mid semester break.

It took some adjustment but I ended up enjoying fewer assessment items and found reassurance in talking to other exchange students who were also finding the transition difficult.

Personal Experience

Going on exchange has improved my self confidence, independence and maturity. It gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, experience diverse cultures and explore beautiful countries. Experiencing other ways of life has also made me appreciate Australia.

Accommodation

I would highly recommend the on campus accommodation at Pollock Halls - I stayed in Lee House. I enjoyed the activities organised by the RAs that made it easier to form friendships. However, all the residents are first years so there is a small age gap. The exchange students are typically older. Accommodation at Pollock Halls includes buffet hot breakfast and dinner with a variety of food options that I enjoyed. Lunch is not included but I found a late breakfast and early dinner were enough.

If you can afford it, Chancellor’s Court (catered) and Salisbury Court (self catered) are the most lavish student accommodation I have ever seen and I would recommend staying there.

Budget 

I spent a total of $20,000 which included a Topdeck tour, accommodation at Pollock Halls, travel overseas and around Scotland almost every weekend and all other expenses. Depending on how much travel you plan to do I would expect to spend around $15,000.

The university offers a bike hire service to residents in Pollock Halls for £80 per semester (£50 is bond). I would highly recommend hiring a bike since it minimises the time it takes to travel to uni and the gym (25min walk or 10min cycle). There is no public transport to uni from the halls which makes the journey particularly challenging in the winter months. There is a bike path that extends all the way to uni.

The university gym is spread over three levels, has a large variety of classes and excellent equipment. A membership of £80 for the semester including classes was well worth the money. During welcome week there is a ‘freshers free shop’ where you can take second hand kitchen and household items donated by other students which is a good opportunity to save money. I would recommend Ryanair for cheap flights if you plan to travel on weekends.

It is important to register with a doctor at the beginning of the semester. Doctor appointments and prescription medicines are free in Scotland!

Professional Development & Employability 

I have never travelled overseas alone so the experience and skills I gained have been enormous. I quickly learned that travel never goes according to plan which improved my problem solving skills and ability to think under pressure. Planning trips and meeting deadlines required me to be more organised. My communication skills also improved since I had to communicate (and in some cases argue) with people who spoke minimal English. I also feel that I am able to adapt to new environments more easily.

Highlights

It was amazing to study at such an old university (opened in 1583) with impressive architecture and history. The campus and buildings were beautiful. Other highlights were watching seasons change, experiencing the holiday season in Edinburgh and attending the Christmas market.

Top Tips 

Upon entry to Scotland I learned that a short term study visa is not necessary for a 5 month stay/ semester in Scotland. I was laughed at by border control officers at every subsequent entry to the country. A visa is not cheap – save your money!

Travel light but be aware that a waterproof jacket or raincoat, waterproof shoes, thermal clothes and an umbrella are essential for living in Scotland. If you have the opportunity to go on exchange – DO IT! I was terrified to go but the experience and life skills I gained were worth it. I had the experience of a lifetime.