“We have nice flying weather today but there will be some showers in Edinburgh.” Over one month ago I was sitting on an aeroplane heading for Scotland. I was excited but worried at the same time because I could only guess what would be expecting me. It turned out that there was no need to worry – I fell in love with Edinburgh after just a few weeks. If you are planning to come to Edinburgh, take a look at the following seven points that will definitely help you to settle in quickly.
1. Decorate your room
It sounds trivial, but if you really want to feel at home, especially in a student hall, you should definitely take some time to get rid of these boring, pale walls and bring some individuality into your new home. Buy a Scottish Flag, a pin board for photos and postcards and maybe a calendar with pictures of Scotland. These things are cheap and you will see how your room is getting more and more homey. I also moved the furniture around – it is the small things that make you feel at home. And here comes another tip: Change the light bulb and use a brighter one. You do not want to find yourself in a Scottish winter depression, do you?
2. Make friends
In fact, this is not as simple as it sounds like. To make friends at a new place is, in fact, the task that often frightens students the most. The keyword is: socialising. The university and the Student Association offer a whole bunch of events especially during welcome week but also during the semester that will help you meeting other international students and UK students likewise. There are guided tours through the city, trips, get-togethers, a Tandem program… just to name a few. There is nothing to be afraid of. Just take these opportunities, and you will have met a lot of new and interesting people before you even know it!
3. Get involved
The Student Association (UESA) offers a giant range of societies (more than 260) which will give you the opportunity to do what you love! Do you like sweets? Join ChocSoc! Want to calm down? Join the Yoga-Society. And of course, there are lots of academic societies which offer fun activities and interesting lectures over the semester. By taking part, you will easily get in touch with like-minded people. Also, if you are interested in volunteering or being part of a committee, the societies offer this opportunity. I myself joined the “Tandem” programme as a volunteer and now help to prepare and hold their events which is a lot of fun!
4. Listen to Scottish Music
When I went to the Highlands, the bus driver, a real Scottish woman, spoiled us with a very nice playlist of Scottish (Pop)-Music. I immediately became a fan because it sounds so vibrant and kind of reflects all the things Scotland stands for. Oh, and notice how they pronounce “girl” and “world”. Let the music speak!
5. Go on a trip (or two, or three…)
There are several tour operators in Edinburgh which offer student trips to different places in Scotland and beyond. Are you interested in history? Go to Hadrian’s Wall. Love cities? Go to Glasgow. Want to hike? Go to the Highlands. Guided trips are a good start even if you usually prefer travelling by yourself. You won’t need to worry about anything and can take advantage of great tour guides who know Scotland like the back of their hand. Also, it is a great way to get in touch with other students (especially Germans, as I found out. But that’s okay, I am one myself. And don’t worry, there is always a huge range of nationalities on these trips).
6. Talk to locals
Many people in Scotland speak “Scots” or at least a slight Scottish dialect with a characteristic sound. This kind of language is an important part of Scottish identity and culture. At university, you will rarely find a people who speak like that because it is a formal environment and requires standard English. However, you should try to chat with locals who speak this wonderful dialect. You find them in Pubs and on the streets – just talk to them, Scottish people are very friendly! By doing so, you will get a better understanding of Scotland and its unique culture. You may even get some valuable insider tips. And don’t be afraid of not being able to understand anything. You will get used to the language quickly and maybe even start using it yourself, or at least tap the “r”.
7. Walk up to Arthur’s Seat
…preferably early in the morning. There will be fewer people around. Still, Edinburgh’s “Table Mountain” is always worth a walk and will reward you with stunning views over the city – your city! If the weather is good, you can even see the Highlands in the distance. But as we all know, Scottish weather tends to change dramatically within minutes. I remember my first hike up there, the sky was clear and blue at the beginning. But as soon as I reached the top, the sky clouded over rapidly and I just thought: How lucky am I to have brought that rain jacket… It was an amazing hike, even though I returned to my flat soaking wet.
One month after I climbed Arthur’s Seat for the first time, I have arrived in Edinburgh. Not just physically but also mentally. I’m looking forward to the following eight months.