Siyu - University of Edinburgh

B Engineering
Semester 2, 2017

Academic Experience

I took 3 courses from the School of Informatics: 

  • Computer Security (3rd Year)
  • Vision and Robotics (3rd Year)
  • Processing Formal and Natural Languages (2nd Year)

And 1 course from the School of Mathematics:

  • Financial Maths (3rd Year).

The workload at Edinburgh was definitely the most challenging and academically demanding compared to what I had at UQ. 

The main difference is that the assignments at Edinburgh do not count towards your final grade as much as the ones here at UQ, even though you still need to spend a good amount of time on those assignments, and the final exam is usually 70-75% of the final grade. The tutorials are also a bit different from the ones I had at UQ, take the Processing Formal and Natural Languages (INFR08008) course as example, in the tutorials, you will need to complete the tutorial sheets beforehand and the tutors will be asking everyone questions in turn during the sessions.

For me the most challenging part is to balance my academic workload and still enjoying my time abroad. I would highly recommend using your free electives during exchange and do some courses that aren’t very demanding, so that you can really enjoy your time overseas.

Personal Experience

I’ve made some really good friends during exchange and it was really incredible to meet people from diverse backgrounds. Even though the winter weather in Scotland can very depressing (be prepared for that if you are going during winter), but I still get to enjoy my days there because of my friends. We travelled all over Scotland and some cities in England, and I had the opportunity to see medieval castles, epic mountains, waterfalls, and sea cliffs while travelling through the Scottish Highlands, and so many amazing artworks in museum and galleries. Going on exchange has made me constantly push myself out of my comfort zone and I have gained many valuable life skills such as problem solving, communication, adapting to new environments etc.

Accommodation

I opted for the catered student accommodation at Pollock Halls, it was a 20-minute walk away from the central campus (I usually walk to uni) and there are also a couple of bus stops within 5-minute walk away which is very convenient. College life was a great experience, and I made most of my friends there. They organise events every week (especially during orientation week, we even had alpaca petting sessions!!) and it’s a great way to meet people as well.

There is a large dining hall and you get two meals every day (breakfast and dinner or brunch during weekends), dinner is usually quite nice but they always serve the same stuff for breakfast. I think when it comes to choosing where to live, you should consider what you want or need from the accommodation, for me, I really want to meet more friends and worry less about cooking everyday so living in the catered accommodation would be the best option.

Budget 

I had a budget of about AUD$10,000, including accommodation, flights, travelling and living costs. The most expensive part would be the catered accommodation which is around AUD$5,200 (I was there for the first semester and I think the second semester would cost more because it’s longer than the first, it is around £6,500-7,000 for the entire year).

Travelling around Scotland (and some spots in England) is quite easy and cheap as the International Student Centre organise day trips every week and most of the trips cost around £20 (which include transportation and entry fees), I went to almost every single trip and they were all super interesting. If you are planning on travelling to other cities in the UK, it would be wise to get a railcard for discounted train fares, and plan early so that you can book in advance to save money. Transportation is quite expensive in the UK, in Edinburgh I spent most of my time walking, and a bus ride cost about £1.60, you can get a monthly bus pass if you ride the buses a lot.

Food is quite cheap, I usually can get lunch at uni for about £5-8, and dining out in a nice restaurant for about £15-20. Alcohol is also cheap, shots are around £2-2.50, and nightclub tickets are usually less than £5.

Professional Development & Employability

Going on an exchange allowed me to experience what it is like to live and learn in another country and enabled me to explore new areas/courses in my degree that isn’t offered here at UQ. These experiences have really encouraged me with my future academic studies plans and future career decisions.
While travelling around, I became more independent, gained self-sufficiency and learnt how to think on my feet. I have also enhanced my awareness of different cultures and customs, my self-confidence, time and finance management skills.

Highlights 

It’s quite hard to choose one highlight from this amazing experience, but I would say the trip to Isle of Skye is probably the most memorable trip, it was a weekend trip organised by the International Student Centre. The entire island was so incredibly beautiful and fascinating that it captivated me from the moment I saw it, stunning greenish landscapes, epic mountains, curvature of the cliffs, jagged earth that drops to the sea, piercing pinnacles and striking rock formations combined with the dramatic Skye’s notorious mists, I feel like I’m in some magical land. It is a place you have to visit in person, photos really don’t do justice.

Top Tips 

  1. Do it! You will never regret it.
  2. Be prepared for the weather.
  3. Travel! Take every chance you can and explore as many places as you can, bring a camera with you! I highly recommend going Isle of Skye.
  4. Plan ahead. Plan and research your courses, accommodations, places you want to go etc.
  5. Be open to new experiences, don’t be afraid!