Memoirs of an Exchange Student - part 2: I ♥ Scotland

I can’t believe it’s already almost been a month. I arrived in Edinburgh on a fine Monday evening in the beginning of September. I spent the first week living in a hostel and mainly looking around in amazement (and shopping for necessities). The beautiful city of Edinburgh has made me clumsy in a way I never was in Helsinki, mostly due to the fact that I have started to look around me when I’m walking rather than looking at my feet. The other reason has to do with the fact that the old town of Edinburgh (where the university and all the important action is) was built in a time way before cars and these guys seriously still don’t (know how to?) asphalt the streets. As a result, I’m stumbling through every day and I’ve almost managed to ruin all my shoes. Damn those cobbles... Everything is so different here. Currency (I don’t have to convert the prices in my head anymore, yay!), accents (on a scale from 1 to 10, some people I’ve met have been 8, as in very hard to understand, and most people are somewhere around 4, so that I still have to concentrate in order to understand them), people from all over the world (I don’t think I’ve ever met this many people from so many different places! Edinburgh University is full of Americans and Asians, btw.), the culture, everything. Especially the student culture here is quite different from what we have at home. Edinburgh University relies on students doing a lot of reading on the own (the fact that the Main Library is open until 2.30am daily does kind of hint to that direction). Most courses have three 50-minute mass lectures every week and on top of that a tutorial every week or every second week. (A tutorial being a compulsory smaller group discussion thingy usually led by a different lecturer than the one giving the mass lectures.) Because most courses are worth 10 credits, students are encouraged to not have more than three courses per semester. My weekly schedule of nine 50-minute lectures and one tutorial per week isn’t all that bad (less than it probably would be back in Helsinki). It actually leaves me a lot of time to enjoy my time abroad and to socialise (mostly at the International Student Centre with other international students) and to have hobbies (I decided not to stop horseback riding even though I’m abroad and I also joined a choir) and such.

The extra-curricular student culture is very active and vibrant in Edinburgh. There are hundreds of societies that more or less actively organise events for the students. Out of the huge range of societies, I chose Edinburgh University Equestrian Club, Edinburgh University Harry Potter Society, Linguistics and English Language Society, and Female Voice Choir. The jury is still out on the Water of Life whiskey appreciation society... Meanwhile, I am perfectly happy to enjoy cheap Guinness (from £2 to £4, compared to the 6-7€ back in Finland). Speaking of which, the university’s equivalent to HYY, Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA), actually has a whole building of fully licensed bars as well as a couple more around campus. Those bars have no age-limits, but they give out wristbands for those of us who are allowed to drink legally. This is particularly convenient for the freshmen, because people start university straight from high school, which means that some of them have not yet turned 18. One of my flatmates (I live with three other girls in University Accommodation, about ten minutes from where my lectures are and three minutes from the Centre for Sport and Exercise, which is nice) is actually in this situation and it makes me feel so old. I’m used to being the youngest everywhere, but here I’ve so far been one of the oldies. I actually met a 24-year-old English girl doing her doctorate the other day and I instantly started panicking about what I’m going to with my life. I sure as hell won’t be doing my doctorate at 24, that’s for sure.

So, apart from the age crisis, and trying to adjust to the independent studying, and struggling to understand what people are saying, and still having a lot to learn (which is why all my courses have something to do with Scotland, hehe) and the fact that I’ve only been to a handful of places around here (went to see Loch Lomond a week ago and going to Stirling in a couple of days from writing this), I know this is the right place for me and I really love it here. Everything is good in the United Kingdom. Even the sun is shining! At least for now.

The writer is a third-year English philology student with a minor in British and Irish studies. She will be spending the year 2011-12 as an exchange student at University of Edinburgh in Scotland. During her stay there she hopes to get better acquainted with the Scottish culture and learn to at least imitate the Scottish accent as well as make the most of the extraordinary scenery the country has to offer.

Poetry: The House of My English

BTSB Sports: Interview with Englannin Maajoukkue