Liana - University of Edinburgh

Bachelor of Advanced Science
Semester 1, 2018
Embrace the experience; be sure to challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone!

Academic experience

I have been passionate about studying astrophysics so I applied to the University of Edinburgh because their Physics and Astronomy degree had peaked my interest. In my first week, I met with my assigned personal tutor, who is responsible for finalizing enrollments. I took five courses from the Physics and Astronomy degree and one math course as an elective.  As a full time student, it was required of me to take 60 units, which was equivalent to the 8 units (four courses) at UQ. I found that most of the physics and math courses were worth 10 credits, thus resulting in six courses. 

It is important to remember that one course at Edinburgh is not equivalent to the taking one course at UQ. It is likely because the structure of the courses in Edinburgh were very different in terms of assessment. Most of my courses had 100% exams. Although this was daunting at first, I had plenty of time to study and focus on tutorial sheets and readings. I found this to be less stressful and enjoyable, even with six courses! The astrophysics courses I took: Cosmology, Galaxies and General Relativity were all honors level (there was no third year equivalent) so I was grateful for the extra time I had to study. The tutorials were very helpful; the classes were small (ranging from 10-30 students) so the lecturers would provide feedback to students individually. I gained a lot from having lecturers look over my work and discuss it with me.

Personal experience

Exchange was predominantly a growing experience. It was my first time living alone and although the first few days were tough, I did enjoy having a dorm room to myself. Living on my own terms definitely made me more disciplined. My days were very structured, in terms of when I went classes, study, meals etc. I found that as lectures were not as interactive as they are at UQ, most students would keep to themselves so I would tend to study or work on assessment independently. Thankfully, before exams I had one or two friends to study with. It was easy to find people to hang out with at my student accommodation. Most students liked to hang out in the common rooms or at the student accommodation restaurant.

Accommodation

The university has three separate campuses scattered around Edinburgh. I lived at Pollock Halls, a student accommodation, which was 20 minutes away from the Science and Engineering campus by bus (30 minutes by walking). There was also a shopping centre on the way to campus, approximately 10 minutes from Pollock. It also took approximately 20 minutes to travel to the city centre. This was in the opposite direction, where the main campus (Social Sciences and Arts) was situated. The accommodation that I stayed in, ‘Chancellor’s Court’ had an excellent view of Arthur’s Seat. Most students prefer to stay at Pollock if they want catering. The restaurant at Pollock provides breakfast and dinner everyday. I found this to be convenient for me, as I would not have time to make my own meals during the busy semester. I personally think that student accommodation is easier to organize than independent housing. I was able to apply for it through my student account. 

Costs

I stayed in a single room with an en-suite. Rent was around £4500 for the whole semester; this included catering. I emphasize that this can vary significantly depending on what type of accommodation you are looking for and how many semesters you are staying. The university’s accommodation website provides all essential details.  My major expenses were for my phone plan and bus card. I would spend £15 for my phone plan every month and around £45 to top up my   student bus card every four weeks. I found public transport much cheaper in Edinburgh. The bus card allowed me unlimited travel 24/7 in the period of four weeks. The ‘Lothian Buses’ website provides further information and alternative time periods to choose from.

Professional Development

I have found the confidence to work independently and diligently.  I believe that communication is crucial in science and it is a skill that I am more comfortable in now. I was able to meet many lecturers who are passionate about their work. I hope to keep them in my network if I pursue a career in research and academia.

Highlight

Edinburgh is an exquisite city so there were many highlights for me. Before the semester started, I took a day trip to Loch Ness. It was breathtaking to see blankets of snow covering the hinterland (one of the rare moments I did appreciate the harsh Winter in Scotland). Spring is also beautiful in Edinburgh, with 15-16 hours of daylight starting in late April. I took advantage of the clear blue skies to visit Arthur's Seat, only a 5-10 minute walk from Pollock Halls. The walk to the top is very steep but definitely worth it to see the amazing view. The Royal Observatory, next to the Science and Engineering campus, also had spectacular views. Three of my courses had lectures there so I found myself hiking up the steep slope everyday. Getting to the top can be exhausting and challenging, especially after snowfall. Again, it was definitely worth it at the end!

Top tips

Make sure there are no clashes in your timetable. Clashes in lectures of two separate courses will also cause clashes in their exams (i.e. they will be held at the same time). I would recommend communicating with your personal tutor if you are having difficulties arranging courses and they can offer their advice or recommendations. Be sure to check with your academic advisor and faculty at UQ if you are making drastic changes. Most of my exams were held in the main campus, which I was not very familiar with. In fact, the campus was not just one place but rather multiple buildings spread over the city centre. I made sure to study my exam timetable and find all the venues before my exam. At the end of the semester, there was two weeks of holiday/ revision time and then four weeks of exam block. This was a very long period of time so I would recommend traveling and sightseeing before or in between exams. During the holiday I travelled via train to Cardiff and Manchester. It was an enjoyable experience and definitely the adventure I needed before I settled to study for exams.  

If you prefer a quiet living space, student accommodation may not be ideal. The dorm room parties, especially at Chancellor’s Court, can get out of control very quickly and be very distracting. Mondays are widely known to be clubbing nights (unfortunate for the students who had 9am lectures Tuesday morning). I would recommend buying earplugs; they may not fully block out the noise but can make it more tolerable. The dorm wardens and security are always available if there are any issues. But if you would like to immerse yourself in these social settings, then student accommodation is perfect for you.