I cannot believe my semester at the University of Edinburgh is coming to an end. It may sound clichéd, but it genuinely feels like I sat down to write about my initial observations as a study abroad student just a few days ago. Back then, I wrote about the city of Edinburgh with an almost wide-eyed wonder; I was in awe of this beautiful city and everything it seemed to offer. 10 weeks later, that feeling hasn’t worn off.
When I first arrived in Edinburgh I struggled with basic things. For example, looking the right way before crossing the street and the constant fear of getting run over by a double decker bus was something I noted as being an unexpected challenge. Now, I know the city well enough to time out when the crosswalk signs are going to change.
I can tell you the best place to get a great cup of coffee or recommend a good spot to have a nice brunch. And perhaps my proudest moment in Scotland so far was when a cashier handed me my change and a “cheers” popped out of my mouth as a reflex. I’ve been lucky enough to get to do some travelling around other parts of Europe while I’ve been here, so the real indicator that I had settled in here was when coming back to Edinburgh started to feel like coming home.
As a visiting student, one of the challenges faced is arriving in a completely new environment with no friends to lean on there. Being four years in, my friends at my university back at home are almost like a second family to me. However, I forgot how quickly you can build really great friendships (especially when you’re as eager to make new friends and try new things as I was).
Living in student accommodation has turned out to be one of the best parts of my study abroad experience. Being 21, I was worried at first about living with freshers – when I first moved in and discovered one of my Scottish flatmates was 17, I had trouble remembering what I was even doing at that age let alone finding things in common with someone that much younger than me. I will say I was not expecting to attend as many 18th birthday parties as I have this semester (or any for that matter). However, I’d say that having friends who are mainly first years has been a definitive part of my study abroad experience. It’s been nice to almost relive my own first semester at university, except this time I have none of the insecurities or doubts I had the first time around. There’s the saying: “It’s the people that make the places”, and that couldn’t be more true in this instance. Plus, it’s certainly an added bonus that if I do come back to visit Edinburgh after I finish my degree, they’ll still be here finishing theirs.
Before you leave for a study abroad semester, people tend to give you lots of advice. Someone said to me: “Studying abroad gives you an excuse to never say no”, and since arriving in Edinburgh I’ve truly taken that sentiment to heart. There are a lot of great things about being a study abroad student, but I would say that having the liberty to just say ‘yes’ is one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being here: climb Arthur’s Seat to watch the sunrise? Why not. Weekend trip to Paris? Sure. Go to Hive in the middle of the week? Yeah, alright. Join a society you’ve never tried before, like The Student? Absolutely. I will miss it here and everything that has made this city very much a home for me this past semester; so with that, I’ll say one last “cheers” to you, Edinburgh.