The Stages of Studying Abroad, illustrated by the “Weeping Girls” (Jupiter Art Land)


The Sunny Storm

  1. When I first arrived in Edinburgh, I wanted to be in constant motion. The program orientation makes this desire a reality, the organized activity kept my energy level high helped me resist succumbing to jet lag. Within the first few days in my new home, it was crucial to make friends, surrounding yourself with a support system of like-minded Americans to explore the city with. And that is just what we did. Edinburgh is a wonderful city to walk in. The area around the university is crowded with pedestrians and although some choose to invest in a bike, I feel, so far, that it is not necessary and enjoy taking the most traditional form of travel. While Edinburgh boasts to be one of the most beautiful and unique cities, I could not fully appreciate its glory right away. There was so much to do in so little time, I often found myself walking with my head down, speeding ahead to my next destination or errand. Yet, it still is not enough to look ahead, in front of you.

To truly appreciate and learn about a culture, one must turn their senses to every direction, enjoying not only one’s own activity, but feeling strangers’ energy as well.

During the first week of arrival, you will probably feel that you must go out every night, make connections with people, and make the most of your time in Edinburgh. For the most part, it is important to have fun right away and check out lots of new places and people, but make sure you SLEEP. After orientation, settling into accommodation is very exciting and overwhelming; as it was the first time I was living by myself and with a kitchen. The first few days of moving in, I found myself running around on errands, while still trying to keep up with my new friends and experience every bit of the Edinburgh culture that I could. This would not have been possible however, if I had not taken one night in and slept for a solid 16 hours. Best decision of my life. So be in motion. But also rest.

While “I can sleep when I die” may sound nice in theory, you can’t enjoy your                      surroundings if you are living a waking death.


The Cold Calm

  1. Settling into a new community when not a soul around you knows who you are can be tough. I enjoyed the new friends I made, but couldn’t help feeling like I left my life back at home, to fester and get further and further away. Luckily, this feeling did not last, although I do feel homesick from time to time and do miss my loved ones often. The new university system is also quite an adjustment. I am taking an Honours level English course called Modernism and Empire, a second year literature course called Scottish Lit 2 and an Ethnology course called The Supernatural World. My Honours lit course is by far the most challenging, but as long as I keep up with the reading I am confident I will stay afloat. The Visiting Student office at the university is very helpful when it comes to changing courses. I was originally in an Honours Philosophy course but after reading the first material, decided I was uninterested and made the switch to the enticing Supernatural World (I highly recommend it). At first, I was unsure about switching, as I felt very capable in my philosophical ability and wanted to be challenged, but I realized that I can always sit in a library and gain philosophical knowledge for hours, but after this year I most likely will not be able to explore and enjoy Scotland and Europe.

Studying abroad does not merely signify “studying” as in the classroom, although it is a large part of the reward. Studying the new culture and beautiful area around you is just as important, so be sure to make the time for it.

Figuring out which societies to join and how to do things like setting up a bank account, registering with the doctor, finding your way around, keeping to your budget, making more friends, making your own food, finding time to exercise, keeping ties to home, organizing travel, buying living stuff, decorating your room, bonding with flat mates, picking up your BRP card (full-year students), reading for class, tutorials outside of class, sleeping, and keeping a level of sanity is pretty tough at first. The best way to manage time and stress is to accomplish a little bit every day. Do one annoying task and take a break, give yourself the gift of social time and maybe even some Netflix.

Remembering that this is not a two-week vacation, where you pack everything in at once with exhaustion, but a life you are making for yourself, is key.


The Dewy Dawn

  1. Arrival at a balanced state is highly underrated. The first few weeks of study abroad has challenged my emotions more than any other experienced. I have come to realize that feeling lonely or homesick is good, as long as it’s balanced by amazing times with friends. Different types of friends too. Friends you can just relax and work on schoolwork with, friends you can explore new restaurants and bars with, but most importantly, friends that you feel like you can be yourself, or this new and improved person you are becoming, around. It is easy to make friends with people who share similar interests but it may be more rewarding to befriend people you normally wouldn’t seek out, they can teach you things about the world and even yourself. Adjusting to the schoolwork and course style here was tough sure, but it isn’t all that different from being a freshman again and tutors are there to help you, they know you are a visiting student and may have some anxieties or questions. My honours Literature tutorial was extremely intimidating as many of the other students seemed to be more well read in the area we are focused on, coming from the same background. I have realized that worrying you don’t measure up is not going to get you anywhere. As long as I keep up with reading, I will probably benefit much more from being on the less knowledgeable side students than being the top dog.

Get out of your comfort zone. Go to Quidditch practice or that weird sounding club event with people you hardly know. Making you bubble bigger doesn’t necessarily mean it will pop.

Focus on the little things. Small moments of peace or feelings of accomplishment can mean so much for your overall happiness. Staying in on a weekend night and feeling like you didn’t miss out does not mean that you are boring. It means you are growing up and you control your life, and are not controlled by the events around you. Drinking a nice hard cider with a homemade meal that you yourself created is one of the greatest feelings. You aren’t pre-drinking (common phrase here), or rushing through eating something convenient, you are becoming a person. Finding your own homey study or reading spots is also good for the soul. My personal favorite is the Princes Street Gardens, bringing a picnic blanket and reading among children playing around and many others just enjoying a nice day.

You are going to miss your loved ones. You are going to feel heartache when your best friend back home celebrates her 21st birthday and cuts out a picture of your face to hold up in photos. Consequently, you will appreciate your people back home so much more and your relationship with them will probably help you appreciate new friends as well, everything in life is so connected.

As exciting as traveling around Europe sounds, my favorite moments have been when I was doing nothing extraordinary. Sitting atop Arthur’s Seat (a must do in Edinburgh) and enjoying the sunset, dancing like a fool to 50’s music with friends, or watching the locals play catch and converse at the park. If you spend all of your time jetting off from place to place, sure you will experience a glimpse of many cultures, but investing your time and energy in one, diverse culture will open up your eyes wide.

I still have a long way to go and that is the best part. You know that feeling when you’re reading a great story and want to get to the end but don’t want it to be over? It’s kind of like that. Except it is your story. And you will benefit from every single page.

To quote one of my friend’s favorite sayings, declared at any time, from moments of daunting amazement to impressions of disgust,

“This is why we studied abroad guys!!”

Three weeks in..

Hiya! Y’alright? (I just made up the spelling, but anyway that’s the most common greeting you’ll hear here in Scotland)

So I’ve been in my new home town for a little more than three weeks now. Disclaimer: this post is once again going to be 100% positive and not because I’m trying to put on a brave face, but because my life actually is so so so good at the moment. And after all, I promised to be honest with you guys. All the way. So if you’re looking to find out some of the bad sides of living in Edinburgh, I’m not your girl. At least not in this post. Because I honestly can’t name any..

Three weeks is a long time and A LOT has happened. But at the same time it has flown by so fast (which is kind of scary!). I’ll try to do a quick recap of my adventures. So far I have:

*familiarised myself with Edinburgh by walking around as much as possible (and also by getting lost). I’m happy that I barely have to use Google Maps anymore and that when someone says the name of a street or an area, about 60% of the times I can imagine where it is. The city still amazes me (I’m sure that will never change) and I still can’t help but smile every single time I cross North Bridge (my favourite spot in Edi).

*visited Lake District and Glasgow with my friends. While the views, mountains and hiking trails in Lake District (located in the North-West of England) left me breathless, Glasgow unfortunately didn’t make a strong impression. I know that it’s supposed to be more “real, gritty and post-industrial” than the “gentle and snooty” Edinburgh but the moment of comparison was just too real. Since it’s only an hour drive, I’m sure I’ll go there again and maybe next time I’ll try to blend in more with the city’s cool and alternative vibe by visiting an underground club or an art exhibition. Until then I’ll enjoy the safe and comforting cobblestone streets of Edinburgh!

*had drinks with the British Ambassador in Estonia who happened to be in Edinburgh for a few days. The whole story is way too long and weird to post but I can tell you that he is an awesome and very down-to-earth guy. I had a great time!

*learned to enjoy the ever so Scottish pub culture! Coming here, I was a bit worried, since I think of myself as more of a club person but there’s something about drinking a pint and actually being able to have a normal conversation with my friends. Oh but, fellow club people, don’t worry! There’s plenty of good clubs here as well. I think I’m going to do a separate post about the nightlife here somewhere in the future for you guys, just because I think it’s such an important part of the whole experience. Especially for young people like us. Stay tuned!

*started schooool!!! Yes, that has been happening for the past two weeks now. The courses I chose are all super interesting and thankfully all my lecturers are either American or English (nothing against the Scots but I still find it quite challenging to understand the local accent and lingo). I handled my timetable in a way that I can have Mondays and Fridays off, yippii! It makes it so much easier to organise weekend trips + I find that for me the “three hardcore days of complete study mode” system works better. I’m more focused and determined to complete all my assignments. But – to each their own!
The main difference in the school system between Estonia and Edinburgh is the fact that there are way less contact hours here. It’s still a little weird to me that a lecture here is only 50 minutes. In Estonia, it’s an hour and a half and usually we have double lectures, so a three-hour lecture is totally normal. Also – all the tutorials and seminars are new to me! For every course, you usually have two 50-minute lectures + one 50-minute tutorial/seminar per week. A tutorial is held in a small classroom with about 5-10 other students and your tutor and it’s a place to discuss your readings, ask questions and present ideas. As a non-native English speaker, it can be challenging to verbalise your ideas, but I’m getting there. Overall, school is really interesting and I truly enjoy every minute of it!

*of course made many many more friends from all around the world and come to an understanding that some of the people I’ve met here are going to be veeeery hard to say goodbye to. (But we’re not thinking about that quite yet, right?)

Guess that’s it for now. I just truly want to emphasise the fact how lucky I am to be here in Edinburgh! Every single aspect of my life here (my accommodation, school, the city, the social life, my group of friends…) is so so good and I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. As always, I’ll leave you guys with some pictures.

Until next time,


The amazing Lake District


My Dutch soulmate Ilona


In the lovely town of Keswick in England

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Old College


The view from North Bridge (my favourite place) at night


The Estonian-Dutch-Italian power trio


In a bar somewhere on Hanover St. Hey, if that was my bar, I would be proud too!




Hello friends,


Mandatory Arthur’s Seat photo

IMG_9981So, I’ve made it.  I can’t believe I have been here for three weeks now. The first week was just a flurry of faces, places, and names that I tried my best to remember.  Update: I have found and approved of the peanut here (although finding tortilla chips has been a different story.)  Also, I read somewhere that avocados would be hard to come by here, but I have eaten avocados all the time.  Obviously, I was very misinformed.

Any who, adjusting to Scotland/big city living has been a bit tougher than I thought.  Don’t get me wrong, I have made loads of friends and the city is unbelievably gorgeous.  Yet, I still find myself feeling homesick at times.  It’s a funny thing though because a walk up Arthur’s Seat or down the Royal Mile takes it all away. This morning, I had a class in King’s Buildings, which are a two mile walk away.  Seriously, TWO MILES for a 50 minute class.  Despite my bitterness, it was a great walk.  That part of the city is very residential, and it was nice to be away from the inner city madness for a bit.  And who doesn’t love looking at cute little houses?


I suppose I should take a second to discuss the culture shock, though there hasn’t been anything too crazy. There are just a few little things that you don’t think of.  For example, telling someone from the UK about your really cool pink pants isn’t really appropriate (pants can be slang for underwear or boxers).  So that was awkward..  I have gotten used to looking right, left, right when crossing the road.  More importantly, I have learned that pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way (learned that the hard way). Also, anybody who knows me knows that my blood is about 50% coffee.  If I don’t have a cup of coffee, I will get physically ill.  It’s sad, I know.  But here, I have been drinking mostly tea, AND I LIKE IT.  Classes are your standard big lectures.  The professors (lecturers) are all very interesting though, I’ve only fallen asleep once. The work load isn’t too crazy, which is nice.  I’ve been managing my library time so I can still go out and explore the city. I am currently in the library procrastinating per usual.  The work will get done though, I promise.  Starting now.

‘Til next time..


Friends sitting under the castle overlooking Grassmarket

TL;DR Edinburgh is cool.

From one little country to another

Ok so here goes a science student attempting to write a richly worded and descriptive blog post.. My name is Stella and I have come from Dublin to study in Edinburgh! Less than an hours flight from one to the other but amazingly very different from my city at home (apart from a few similarities). As this is my first time living away from home for a long period of time, and I am fortunate enough to be studying in one of the most prestigious universities in the world (I just cannot get over that!), I am committed to getting out of my comfort zone and going straight into the deep end. So stick around if you are interested in how this journey turns out!

My time here so far (almost two weeks) has been pretty cool with some ups and downs, but mostly ups! I have explored the city by foot, which was no doubt a challenge for a girl painfully used to driving back at home, but this has allowed me to get the most out of the beautiful city. I can’t keep myself from smiling while I stroll down the cobbled streets looking through shop windows and enjoying the bit of sun we have left before winter sets in. As a BIG fan of food (and not a good cook) I have really enjoyed walking by all the great restaurants, bars and cafes that Edinburgh has to offer and even giving a few a go! Haggis, neeps and tatties for example is honestly my new favourite food! I urge everyone to try it and appreciate its goodness. However most people just pull a face when I explain its deliciousness, oh well, more for me! The great thing about moving to another city, is the curiosity and eagerness you have to discover all the things it has to offer, and Edinburgh has plenty to offer! I cannot wait to have experienced and seen everything there is here after my nine months.

My accommodation is lovely and my flat mates are nice, with a variety of Scottish, Welsh and Chinese. I love the international vibes in the Uni and Edinburgh in general. I just think it is an incredible opportunity to be surrounded by so many people with different backgrounds and cultures, but at the same time all with the common ground that we are all students who like to have a good time! Within these two weeks I have been taught about Chinese history and they’re relationship with other Asian countries, learned that Wednesday means “little Saturday” in Swedish and that most of California do not experience seasons! I mean I knew it was hot over there but I never thought it had no definite seasons. I like the thought of speaking to someone new and not knowing where in the world they are from until you work out they’re accent (or fail miserably at that and have to ask where they are from).

Another thing is that my brother Killian is also studying in the University of Edinburgh. While he slaves away at his masters, I am approaching the struggles a junior honours student faces. He definitely deserves to be mentioned as he has been really good to me and helping me settle in as he knows what its like to move away from home. You wouldn’t believe it but we were not close at all before we both ended up here. In fact, we were quite the opposite, often not getting along. Thankfully it has brought us together, and I have really enjoyed hanging out with him and a few of his friends and getting to know the city together! We have climbed Arthurs seat which I found breathtakingly beautiful, with the location of it (right in the city) blowing me away. The distant sound of bagpipes being played really topped off the great experience it is climbing the extinct volcano. We have also made it down to the docks and been to the cinema. Doing many things together recently, some would call us best friends! Never thought I’d say that but the city has changed us!

Today I signed up to be a class rep for one of my courses. This is very unlike me as I have always liked university and gone to all my classes, but I have never been very involved in university, usually bailing on society meetings and not even using the free GYM membership we had in my Uni back home. But I think this opportunity will be very fulfilling and beneficial for me so I am looking forward to see how it goes.

Enjoy some photos of my time here and come back to read more soon!

This cool monument on Calton Hill

This cool monument on Calton Hill


Down near the docks

Down near the docks

Feeling like I enrolled in Hogwarts after leaving the welcome ceremony..!

Feeling like I enrolled in Hogwarts after leaving the welcome ceremony..!

Killian and I!

Killian and I!

The lovely view outside kings buildings campus

The lovely view outside kings buildings campus

It hit me. But it’s worth it.

Apologies for setting up my blog late. I’ve been ill.

Freshers’ Flu is the name commonly given to a battery of illnesses contracted by as many as 90% of new students during the first few weeks at a university, in some form; common symptoms include fever, sore throat, severe headache, coughing and general discomfort. The illnesses may or may not include actual flu, and is often simply a bad cold, but is so named simply due to alliteration. This is mostly a British term, and is rarely heard outside the UK and Ireland.

That’s what Wikipedia says. And it’s right. Even though I’ve just caught a bad cold (I’m well again, thank you), I feel like I’ve been treated in an extraordinarily unfair manner. Why? Because I didn’t drink too much, I didn’t spend a lot of nights out or anything (honestly!) – but I was still hit. And most importantly, I’m not even a fresher. I’m an ERASMUS-Student from Heidelberg, Germany. See? It’s unfair.

(Watch it! I can see your stop-complaining-or-I’ll-stop-reading-face.)

And here it comes: It was worth it. 

My piece of advice for today:

If you get the chance to study in Edinburgh, don’t you dare let it slip. Never. That’s an absolute no-no.

Why was it worth it and why would you not let this chance slip? Just scroll down a bit. Have a look at my fellow bloggers’ photos. Read their stories. Take notice of their home countries. I’m pretty sure you’ll quickly get a sense of what Edinburgh is like.

And in case you’re tied up with business at the moment (I really don’t want to use the ugly English term ‘lazy’), I’ll provide a rough list of what I understand by ‘it was worth it’:

Edinburgh is…

  • international (Edinburgh Uni has got about 40 per cent international students).
  • multicultural.
  • open-minded (‘refugees welcome’-banners: I saw them – and it was so much to my genuine delight that I forgot to take a photo).
  • compact (you can basically walk around the whole inner city in ca. 20 minutes).
  • packed with original coffee houses, book shops, live music pubs and bars.
  • second to none in terms of nightlife.
  • safe (it’s ranked the safest city in the UK – go tell your mum, it’s true!).
  • green (Princes Street Gardens, Royal Botanic Garden, The Meadows, you name it).
  • well-connected (both within the city and with the rest of Scotland).

And to make up for the lack of refugees-welcome-banners-photos, I’ll just upload the 274th picture taken on top of Arthur’s Seat.

Here we go.

  My girlfriend and I. From left to right.

That’s it. I’m done for now. Back to Persian 1a.  خدا حافظ

Okay, one last thing: I’ll add more information next time. Promise.

Chapter 1: ABC’s of Edinburgh

“But seas between us braid hae roard sin auld lang syne.” -Robert Burns

“But seas between us broad have roared since times long past.” In this case, that sea would be the Atlantic which separates myself from loved ones who are waiting for me from 3,804.27 miles away. Two weeks ago between some see you laters, many final embraces, and even a Leaving on a Jet Plane serenade, I set off to Edinburgh in order to begin unfolding.

Unfolding. Unfolding a self that has been here all along. Unfolding a culture and a country and a history that I’m connected to. And unfolding a field (English Literature) in order to connect all of these elements together.

I guess this place will suffice for all of that.

I guess this place will suffice for all of that.

For those wondering about the adjustment period, there are three simple things you need to be aware of in Edinburgh. The ABC’s, really.

Atmosphere, Beer, Ceilidhs


Unlike many other cities, Edinburgh’s time runs almost backwards. That is, everything goes by very slowly. Instead of the normal hustle and bustle of a big city or even the busy college student, it operates on a strictly 9-5 basis. Often I found myself trying to compete tasks, such as setting up a bank account and having to go back three or four times to complete it. Or registering for classes two days before they start and even then having the option to do it later. For me, this was the hardest change to make. I’m very much a go go go person, and being here is helping me reevaluate why I feel that is necessary. I’ve learned that students here seem happier because of how their time is managed, so this change will be much needed.


IMG_4095Yes, alcohol. I was expecting a drinking culture to exist, but this was even a shocker to me. I come from a school with a prominent drinking culture, so I had an idea of how that would translate to a country with one as well. But here, drinking is the basis for many social events, even within the school. It isn’t even the alcohol consumption that is shocking, it’s that people tend to watch out for each other much more than back home. The community, with or without alcohol, in Edinburgh far outperforms any city I’ve been to. People seek out the kindness of others and ensure that each person feels welcomed. This attitude has contributed to the positive adjustment to my new home.


Possibly my favorite events that I have been to in Edinburgh are the ceilidhs. Ceilidhs are traditional Scottish set dances that involve spinning, running into people, jumping, and everything else in between. They are high energy, exhausting, but so much more fun than any type of dance I’ve been to. Everyone learns the dances and participates. It is a great way to connect traditional Scottish music and culture to everyday people.

And they end beautifully.

After the last dance called Strip the Willow (I’ll find a video another day), everyone gathers in a huge circle and joins hands to sing Aud Lang Syne. In the circle, everyone is connected and sharing the special moment. And even at the end when you charge to the center of the circle in and out, no one lets go. You hold onto your new and old friends, strangers, and neighbors until the end. So far ceilidhs are where I have felt most at home in Scotland because they embody the essence of a community.


So to answer Robert Burn’s question,

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne! 

Definitely not. Friends and family at home will not be forgotten in my time here these next 9 months. And the new ones I’m about to make will continue to be around for aud lang syne.

On My Decision to Study Abroad (Predeparture)

A Tale of the Soul


“It was the best of times,

It was the worst of times.”


The summer before departing to Scotland for nine months has been the most exciting yet challenging part of my life, a prelude to my adventure! Packing in working as much as I can to earn money for the year, spending tons of time with loved ones and trying to research and read as much as I can about Scotland has been a busy three months.

Saving my earnings this summer has been particularly difficult, as there are so many opportunities to spend money in the summertime, but I have been doing pretty well. I urge anyone considering studying abroad to apply for scholarships ASAP, they are crucial if you want to avoid some financial stress. I didn’t make the decision to study at the University of Edinburgh until late in the game so I missed out on a few deadlines. I did however know I was going to study abroad somewhere and started saving money last summer, which I recommend as costs can be daunting.

Leaving my home school to go abroad for the entire academic year is going to be amazing, but also comes with some heartache. Sometimes I feel as though I am putting my life on hold and I have to remind myself that the world keeps turning back at home, and that my current relationships may change over the course of the year. I do believe that my choice was right for me and I look forward to making new relationships and allowing current ones to mature or run their course.

When it comes to packing and preparing for Scottish culture, there is only so much one can do. You can read travel books and personal stories all you want, and I am surely glad I have, for they have helped paint a picture of what I am headed for. I try to keep in mind that no one person’s story is going to be exactly like my own and to not worry too much about what others have had fears about or people’s negative experiences. I focus on the positive feedback so I will be confident and have a positive experience yourself.


“It was the age of wisdom,

It was age of foolishness.”


At age twenty, I feel as though I would be in the “age of foolishness” spectrum of life. I embrace this foolishness. Some people probably think it’s foolish to take out twice as much money in loans to afford studying abroad. Some would say it is foolish to leave my supportive home college, amazing friends and a long term relationship behind. Some would feel it is foolish to enroll in honours level English Lit and Philosophy courses with students that have been studying longer and possibly harder than I have.

I however, feel that this is the most important time in my life to make some risky choices in order to gain wisdom and perspective about my own life purpose and the diverse world. I know that I will make some foolish choices and mistakes along the way, but it will all be part of the experience and this is the time to live and learn.


“We had everything before us,

We had nothing before us.”


The most exciting part of this preparation stage is the tabula rasa, the blank slate that I am about to fill with new courses, new friends, a new home and hopefully, a new and improved me. I am looking forward to taking advantage of this opportunity to get involved in University of Edinburgh life and learn what Scottish culture has to offer.   


It is the time to transcend time.