After months of planning, waiting and dreaming, you’ve finally made it to the city, ready to enjoy your time abroad. But you found that you feel a little listless – classes won’t start until another week, you don’t know anyone, you don’t really have any plans. So, here is my advice on what to do in your first week in Edinburgh.
Get to know your flatmates
Whether you’re living in student accommodation or have found your own flat, get to know your flatmates. They might not become your best and closest friends here in Edinburgh – which is okay! -but these are the people who you’re going to live with for the foreseeable future. And in the beginning, they are also going to be your support system, your daily source of human interaction and social life before term starts.
This is especially true during the pandemic as there might be government restrictions in place which restrict the number of people you can meet with or mean that most of your classes are online. Your flatmates might be the only people you can be around in the beginning, so say “Hi” when you see them in the halls, ask what they are here to study and maybe try to engage a bit. Get to know them!
Find out where to shop and make a budget!
At the risk of sounding like everyone’s mum, figure out your budget! This is especially important in the beginning. Chances are that prices are going to be different than what you are used to – either cheaper or more expensive than in your home country. I’m lucky that the UK, in general, is cheaper than my home country … but this also meant that I was severely tempted to buy snacks (that I am severely tempted to buy snacks). So, for me, budgeting is about saving money, yes, but also controlling my spending.
Deciding where to shop might depend on your budget or how far you’re willing to walk. Or how much you miss food from home. One of my flatmates found a Polish shop near our flat because she wanted Polish sour cream and other grocery items from home. I walk to Lidl every week just to get some Rye bread (a Danish staple) for my lunch. So, during your first few days figure out what you want from your shop – should it be close by, or cheap, or be stocked with organic produce, or sell that one thing you just can’t live without.
Luckily, you’ll figure this out quickly enough, as your first few days will likely be spent shopping for the things you need and the things you didn’t know that you needed. Personally, my first few days felt like an endless loop of going to and from shops. I’m only studying abroad for a single semester, and I only had one suitcase with me – not enough to pack pots and pans, spices and soaps, or anything else I needed to survive.
Walk the city – and get a little lost
I’ve never been a map-person so, excluding the occasional check-in with Google Maps, I try to do without. It’s something I’ve always done when I’ve gone travelling. I plan my trip from home – maybe my new place to shop – and then just setting off without the GPS once I’m outside. My trick is to keep a few bigger landmarks in mind, like a park you pass by or a funny-sounding street you have to turn at, to help yourself. But just walking around the city is really the best way to become acquainted with it. On your walks, allow yourself to get a little bit lost. I know that this might sound a be counterintuitive, but I’ve found that I get a better grasp of a city if I sometimes get lost. I might take an unexpected turn or go a different way home from the shop. By doing this I’m forcing myself to no just keep walking the same routes but discover new ones. And if you get real and proper lost, then just whip out that GPS. Or use the trick of landmarks again to find your way home. For example, my student accommodation is right by Arthur’s Seat, so I knew that home always meant walking towards good ol’ Arthur. The first week before classes is really when you have the time to go exploring so make the most of it.
Get a TV-license
Or don’t. But figure out if this is something you want to spend money on, or if you’re okay to live without. It’s something you might forget in the hassle of everything else, I certainly did! And so did my flatmates. Which resulted in all of us receiving the Muggle equivalent of a howler basically telling us to get a TV license or else… So, figure out if you want to watch TV and, if yes, remember to buy it.
You can either pay monthly, quarterly or for the whole year.
Allow yourself to miss your friends and family
This one is less of an activity for you to do but it’s still important. Missing home and all that comes with it is inevitable. That first moment when you are alone after arriving is going to feel weird and you’ll have the urge to just re-pack your bags and go straight home again.
Homesickness doesn’t have an easy fix, so accept that you’re going to miss your family and friends, and the life you had back home. Hell, tell them you miss them, and they’ll surely tell you the same. Call or text or facetime or just send weird memes, just communicate with them. It won’t be the same as seeing them, but it’ll help. Accept that you’ll miss them, talk to them when you can, and don’t forget to enjoy your time abroad.
Get ready for school
Even though classes haven’t officially started when you arrive, it’s still a good idea to make sure that you are prepared. Buy the books you need for you courses, get to know LEARN, figure out how to use the library, start on your course reading, etc. The pandemic might mean that your school year looks different than what you first imagined when you thought about studying abroad and there will most likely be a lot of uncertainty regarding the school year, but preparation means you’ll have one less thing to worry about when classes do start.
Make a to-do list of what you want to experience
My last advice is to make a to-do list of the things you want to see or experience during your time abroad, especially if you are only here for a semester or two. It offers a nice overview over your stay and makes it easier to plan for the things you want to do. If, for example, you know that you want to take a trip to Glasgow, then being able to plan ahead might mean that one, it’ll be cheaper, and two, it’ll be less likely to clash with your studies. Your to-do list can have a wide array of things on it – from “Experience the Highlands” or “Climb Arthur’s Seat” to “Go for a drink at a pub” or “Have a flat dinner”. Write down everything grand or trivial thing you want to experience while you’re here, and then just get started.