Morgaine - University of Edinburgh

Bachelor of Journalism/Arts
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

I took five courses in Edinburgh due to the fact that a number of them were half semester. I took: DESI08010, Contemporary Cinema, worth 20 credits, as credit for #2 units level 2 F&TV Studies. I took PSYL10033, Psychological Therapies, worth 10 credits, as credit for #2 units level 3 PSYC (A/P). I took PSYL10106, Development of Language, literacy and communication, worth 10 credits, as credit for #2 units level 3 PSYC (Dev.). I took PSYL10105, Human Personality, worth 10 credits, as credit for #2 units level 3 PSYC (Social). I also took PSYL10124, History and Theory of Psychology, worth 10 credits, so I had enough for a full study load. For psychology third year subjects, the difference was there were no tutorials. There were only lectures, and office hours if you required them. While it was very different, the lectures were smaller, and I felt they covered the information so comprehensively you didn't miss the extra tutorials. It focused more on self guided study, which was nice

Personal experience

A lot of people go on exchange to learn independence, and I certainly did, although perhaps not in the way I expected. I thought exchange would teach me how to live in a foreign country without a lot of support, but it was more than that. When travelling, you don't always have friends with you. Not everyone wants to go to the same places you do, or they have other plans, so sometimes you will end up travelling on your own. This taught me not only independence, but vigilance. I now know if I'm going to eating alone, to take a book and some postcards. That way, you have something to do that isn't wasting precious battery on your phone, and you can leave the book on the table if you need to go to the bathroom but can't afford to leave your bag to save your seat. I found that almost anywhere you go, restaurants make extra allowances for a solo traveller. More than once I was hugged out of a restaurant, or received free dessert. Maybe it's because I looked lonely. I'll take it anyway. 
I learned independence and confidence in feeling comfortable going to a bar alone, and joining in on a pool game, or travelling to an indoor waterpark in Germany and seeing all the attractions without anyone to share them with. At times at can be lonely, but at others, exhilarating. 

I now have friends from not only America, Norway, Finland, and more, I now have friends all around the UK who I can visit at any time. I found while the exchange student community was fun and exciting, it was so important to get to know people who lived in Edinburgh. I was so warmly welcomed and by the time I left I felt like a local. 

Accommodation

I lived in Pollock Halls of Residence, about 20 minutes walk from campus. I stayed in Baird House, but every one is about the same, it just depends on who you live with. Breakfast and dinner were included, and on Saturdays and Sundays they had the famed "Pollock Brunch." Instead of starting at around 7am and running till 10:30am, Pollock Brunch ran from 10:30am-2pm, and included lunch and breakfast options, as well as potato scones, which were always running out due to their popularity. Dinner ran 5:30pm till just after 7pm. 
I met a lot of people living in both catered and non-catered accommodation, and my recommendation would be 100% DEFINITELY choose catered. A dining hall is a fantastic place to meet and get to know people - not just exchange students, and living in the corridor format with common rooms is so sociable. My friends living in flats got to know less people, as there are only so many flatmates you can have.
If you're just moving out of home, you may be leaning towards non-catered accommodation so you can "be independent," but you are wasting your time. You will be cooking for yourself for the rest of your life. The time you spend shopping and cooking food would be far better served making friends, seeing your new city, and even fitting in a little bit of studying. All I had to find for myself was lunch, and there were little kitchenettes in every corridor with a fridge, toaster, sink, and microwave. My only recommendation with that is tie your food up in a plastic bag - it makes it less of an appealing target to the dreaded food thief! 

Costs

Rent
If you live at Pollock Halls for one semester in a normal single bed room with shared bathroom it will be about $5000. 

Transport
Edinburgh is an incredibly walkable city. The University was less than 20 minutes walk away, while the Old Town and Princes Street were about half an hour. You learn to walk fast in the biting cold and wind, but if you can stand it and you've got the time, you'll rarely need to catch a bus. Bus passes per month are £40 (about $65-$70) for as many trips as you want. 
Unless your classes are going to be at Kings College, you won't need a bus pass. Kings College is further away than the main university, so you will make up your £40 if you have to go there a few times a week. A single bus ticket is £1.60 ($2.80 approx.), and you have to have exact change - they will not give you money back. 
Edinburgh does have ubers, but many people use cabs. If there is any kind of surge pricing on uber, cabs are cheaper, and if you are planning on a night out it's best to book a cab ahead of time, because they book up. Also, the bigger cabs cost no extra - but don't try and get in the front seat - they don't like that!

Food and entertainment
In terms of expenses, many things are about the same as Australia, although some are cheaper. You can get a full microwave meal for £2.50, ($4.50 approx.), and a meal deal of a sandwich, crisps, and a drink, for £3 ($5). Microwave meals will be your best friend. They do everything from curries, to noodles, to pasta. 
Drinks are cheaper, especially on student nights and in the supermarkets, and there are open carry laws in Edinburgh, so you can sit in the Meadows - the MASSIVE local green park frequented by students, with a Tesco's disposable barbecue and a beer, and no one will have any issue. In fact, it's very common when the sun comes out to see the Meadows thick with smoke from barbecues of everyone enjoying the nice weather. These barbecue and drink laws don't exist outside of Edinburgh though, so be careful. 
Most clubs have an entry fee of £5 ($8.50), but pubs are free entry, and a lovely place to catch up with friends. 
Edinburgh has an incredible culture and nightlife. Join at least one society - I joined the snowsports society, and go to their events. You will have many opportunities to go to a ball. They are about £40 each, and most include dinner, a few free drinks, and every one includes a ceilidh. A ceilidh is a traditional Scottish dance, where they teach you the dance, then start playing the music while you desperately try and keep up. No one knows what they're doing except the Scottish, so it's a real mess and a lot of fun. Find yourself a Scottish partner and you might be lucky that you don't have your toes stepped on. If you do nothing else Scottish during your time in Edinburgh, go to a ceilidh (and early on so you can appreciate how great they are and go to more). 
Join the international buddies as soon as you can - you'll get assigned a group and people go on trips with them. It's a good way to make friends and see more of Scotland. 

Professional Development

Exchange has taught me how to prioritise. There are so many things that will require your attention while you are over there. Uni, work commitments, friends, travel; they are a juggling act. I learnt how decide what was most important to me, and organise so I could achieve it. Sometimes it was my grades, or my job, and sometimes it was fun, and travel. Having these organisational skills will be valuable and transferrable to any workplace.

Highlight

While travelling in my weekends and at the end of my exchange made a real impact on my life, it was the little things that I remember most. We had the first nice weather that we'd had in weeks, so we bought a disposable barbecue, some sausages, some potatoes, and some wine, and lay out in the sun in the meadows for hours chatting and listening to music. The whole city just lifts in nice weather. There is culture and history around every corner, with little plaques on the side of buildings telling you more about the beautiful city. 
My long weekends away and holidays were beautiful too. I went to Poland, Northern Ireland, The Cairngorms (Scottish mountains), Italy, France, Malta, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Spain, Budapest, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and England. There isn't a lot of places you can't go if you book at the right time with the right flights. Most flights were return and cost me under $75 Australian, sometimes less. Malta was my favourite. It is an undiscovered tourist gem, with sandstone that could be right out of UQ.

Top tips

  • Take every opportunity, but be organised. This may seem obvious, but often you find yourself spending too long on Facebook, or dawdling on an assignment. Become a 'yes' man. Commit to too many things, and find a way to make the time. If someone says "come to Italy" you want to have your assignment finished so you have the ability to make last minute plans. 
  • Sign up for NHS early. In your first week, go to the doctor and fill in a form to apply for a clinic. It takes 24 hours for registration to go through. I went in week two, and they had no places for me. I spent 2 months trying to find a clinic that was still taking patients. If you are sick, you do not have this time. 
  • Get a sim card that works overseas. No point going travelling every weekend with a phone that only works in wifi. With Three, you can pay £25 a month for unlimited data that works in almost every country. It's a little pricey, but if you're travelling a lot, it's worth it.