Wow – time really flies, doesn’t it? I can’t believe it’s been a month already since I arrived in Edinburgh. I came here, bright-eyed, and very sure that I’d manage just fine. After all, I’d already lived in Edinburgh for a month, so I knew my way around town. Well, I was in for a surprise. First of all, the room I booked myself on AirBnB was not how I imagined it to be at all. The neighbourhood is not the best, the bed is rather uncomfortable, and the walls seem to be made out of paper. And after merely two days in a surprisingly sunny and warm Edinburgh, I caught a cold. So, it’s safe to say that I didn’t have the best of starts to this adventure. That’s just it, though: this entire experience is an adventure, and as is often the case with those, there are ups and there are downs. Luckily, things turned out better than they started, but I’ve definitely learned a few things along the way. So, if you’re new to Edinburgh or are planning to come here in the future, here are my top tips for getting yourself sorted:
- Decide early on if you want to walk to uni or take the bus.
Don’t let yourself be intimidated by all the hills; Edinburgh is a very walkable city. And since the city and all of its surroundings are just stunning, you won’t mind a 45-minute walk to the university, trust me. But if you feel like you don’t have the time each day to walk that far, or if you simply don’t want to, you can get yourself a Ridacard from Lothian Buses. Those are available on a monthly or weekly basis and if you plan to take the bus at least once a day, you should definitely get yourself one of those and save some money. However, if you feel like walking and only want to take the bus when it’s raining, for example, you can very easily pay with your contactless credit card. You simply place your card on the light blue pad next to the ticket machine on the bus and the fare will automatically be deducted. And the best thing is: the fare is capped at four pounds, so if you need to take the bus more than once per day, you’ll never pay more than a day ticket costs!
2. Bring a Scarf
Yes, I know, you’ve probably packed a really thick woollen scarf for winter, but I don’t mean one of those. The weather in Edinburgh can be a bit unpredictable and as soon as the sun comes out, it gets quite warm. Especially if you’ve been walking up all those hills! But don’t let yourself be fooled by the nice blue skies and the warming sun – it is usually pretty windy in Edinburgh. So, a lighter scarf will really help protect yourself against those ocean breezes and not be too warm. Otherwise, you may end up with the infamous freshers’ week cold not at the end of it, but right at the start. Like me. Don’t be like me, wear a scarf!
3. The Visiting Students Office is your best friend.
It is very likely that you’ll feel a bit overwhelmed when you first come to the University of Edinburgh. Your course choices might not be finalised yet, you might need to take a language examination, and, if you’ve come on a scholarship, you’ll likely need to get a whole lot of paperwork signed. Don’t be shy to ask for help when you’re unsure of what you need to do or where to go! The Visiting Students Office is there to help you and if they happen to not know the correct answer, they know who does.
4. Use the Institute for Academic Development
If, like me, you come from a country that is totally unfamiliar with the whole English style of essay writing, check out the Institute for Academic Development. They offer a large variety of courses to help you improve your study skills. You can sign up to those for free via their Website. Two courses I can wholeheartedly recommend are ‘Getting Started with Essay Writing’ and ‘Reading and Writing Critically’. They really helped me to familiarise myself with what is expected from you when writing an essay and how to approach essay prompts etc. The skills you learn there will not only help you during your semester abroad, but you’ll also benefit from them for the rest of your life!
5. Don’t be disappointed if things aren’t the way you imagined them to be (or at least not for long).
This is the most important thing I’ve learned so far. For almost a year I’ve been planning and dreaming what my semester in Edinburgh will be like and I thought I had everything sorted and ready to go. But, as you’ve read at the beginning, that didn’t really work out. The first few nights in my room were very difficult for me. I wasn’t feeling well because of my cold, I wasn’t sleeping well because of the tremendously uncomfortable bed, and the first wave of homesickness hit me. For the first three nights, I was crying on every call home because I was so disappointed – and I didn’t want to admit it. I’ve dreamt about this opportunity for a long time and I had a really hard time accepting that things weren’t as I hoped they would be. But that’s okay! I managed to work around all of those obstacles and now, I feel better and happier than ever before. So, if you feel a bit sad or disappointed, that’s okay. Let it all out, accept it, and then, you’re going to pick yourself up again. There is next to nothing that you cannot work around or improve in some way. And after you’ve done that, it will finally hit you: you are, in fact, living your dream! You’ve made it to Edinburgh and you’re going to have the best time of your life! Don’t let anything prevent you from enjoying your studies to the fullest.