A Few Surprises

Choosing a place to study abroad can be tricky. Maybe there is somewhere you have always wanted to go. Maybe there is somewhere you have visited before and want to spend more time exploring. Maybe you have never traveled internationally and don’t care where you go. Regardless of where you end up, your time abroad will be an incredible, eye-opening experience. Not only will you learn things about a new place and meet new people, but you will be amazed by how much you learn about yourself.

No matter how much you prepare for living in a new place, you will inevitably run into things that you had not expected. I thought I would mention a few things that surprised me about living in Edinburgh.

  1. THE WIND. When I told people I was going to study abroad in Scotland, they would always mention the weather and how wet it is over here (keep in mind that I come from sunny California). I don’t mind the rain or the gloom, but no one prepared me for the wind. Living in California, I never understood all the hoopla about people envying our weather. I mean it is hot. All. The. Time. And I’m not a fan of heat. I never knew I was such a weather brat, but coming here I’ve learned how much weather can dictate your day. The wind has gotten up to 30mph and is extremely difficult to walk against. Add a bit of rain and it’s impossible to stay dry. And then your eyes get all dried out so they start tearing up like crazy while your hair is soaking wet and all knotted. Now this may not be news to anyone who is from a place with actual seasons, but if you are from somewhere that’s anything like LA, you’ve been officially warned.
  2. Where are all the Scots?? I have been here for almost 5 months now and of all the people I have met, a very small percentage have been Scottish. I don’t know if it’s because I’m American that maybe I notice other Americans more, but I swear that 70% of the people I have met have been American. And when we get to talking, they seem to have experienced the same thing. 4 out of 7 of my professors have also been American and only 1 is Scottish. Edinburgh is a really diverse city, something I didn’t really realize when I came over here. I remember hearing that a really huge percentage of Edinburgh’s population are international people, so I guess maybe that explains things a bit… But if you find out where all the Scottish people are hiding, let me know.
  3. If you need credits to transfer back to your home university while abroad, try your best to get all of your classes sorted BEFORE you come. Or at least have a detailed game plan. Because of a number of complicated reasons, I need pretty much all of my classes to transfer back to my home university. I did all of my homework before hand and thought that I had all of my classes sorted, but once second semester rolled around, I realized I had forgotten to account for some credits. It was a very stressful week of trying to communicate with my personal tutor here while also trying to get classes approved by multiple people back at home who are 8 hours behind. Just save yourself the trouble and triple check that your academic plan is solid before you get here.

It is nice to be aware of everything that’s heading your way, but it’s impossible to be 100% prepared. But don’t worry. Seriously. Trust me when I say that you are definitely not the only one in that boat. And people are generally really eager to help out if you ask. Discovering new things you hadn’t expected is half the fun of studying abroad, so embrace it and enjoy.

Alex

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