A Semester at the University of Edinburgh with IFSA-Butler Scotland January 26, 2017

By (Brandeis University) - abroad from 09/07/2016 to 12/22/2016 with

IFSA: Edinburgh - University of Edinburgh

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Absolutely worthwhile. I met all sorts of people and learned a lot about the world -- and America -- from them. I was also able to learn more about myself, too. It was sort of like living freshman year all over again, which sounds like a nightmare, but it gives you chance to explore something new about yourself, something you didn't realize back home because you got so used to the routine. Starting over again gives you clean slate to work from.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The program itself was absolutely fantastic, but I can't say that the academic rigor of the classes was all that intense, at least compared to my American university.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Fantastic. Completely wonderful. The people on staff in Scotland are some of the kindest people I've met. They're always ready to help with anything and will go out of their way to do so; emails are responded to promptly and detailed. They truly want you to enjoy your experience abroad, so they make the process as uncomplicated as they can, as well as helping with adjustment and any culture shock you might be feeling.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in Warrender Park Crescent and was overall very happy with it. It was about a fifteen minute walk from George Square, where most of the humanities classes are held, and situated right on the Meadows. Looking south, you can see the park and Edinburgh Castle, so it was a very nice location. Most of the flats give you your own room, decently sized- not too small, but not enormous. They are really cold, so be prepared for that; the heaters aren't the best in the world. There's one kitchen to every 4-6 people, supplied with pots and pans, which is nice. It's a big kitchen, too, with plenty of cupboard and counter space. My major complaint was definitely the shower, because the hot water was very limited. I have heard other people say they didn't have a problem with this, but in my flat at least, we were constantly short.

* Food:

I loved the food in Edinburgh. There are all sorts of restaraunts, and ingredients are cheap at Lidl and Sainsburies and the other grocery stores (they are quite a bit smaller than in the US, I will say, but you can usually find what you're looking for somewhere) and the kitchen in my flat was a great place to cook. I did this a lot, so I didn't really spend all that much on food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The University of Edinburgh is a very global campus, which is great and not so great at the same time. I met people from all over the world, but oddly enough, not that many Scots. If you really want to integrate, then be careful not to choose classes actually about Scotland and culture, since those will mostly be international students. I didn't participate much, but societies will be your best bet to meet locals.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I wasn't able to bring a large enough supply of my medication with me, but it was easy enough to get a local doctor to rewrite my prescription from an American doctor (not valid in the UK, obviously). I was able to bring it to a nearby pharmacy and get that filled pretty easily. However, since I was in Scotland for only one semester, I wasn't able to actually register with the GP, so I had to pay out of pocket for my visit to get the prescription rewritten (this is normally covered by NHS, the national health service in the UK), CISI, the insurance company associated with IFSA Butler then later reimburseed me. This was the tricky part; it's very slow to process and when it finally does, it notifies you via snail mail, which is a pain if your paperwork wasn't spotless. Consequently, it took me the entire semester to get reimbursed for a visit to the surgery in September.

* Safety:

I never once felt unsafe in Edinburgh. Just be aware of where the traffic is coming from and it's a super safe place to be.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I really loved the program itself. The people were fantastic and supportive and worked to create a community for the students with excursions and get-togethers, but not too often so you can integrate yourself with the local community, too. Edinburgh, of course, is also incredible. It's an absolutely beautiful city with so much history, the kind we don't have in the US; I had so much fun exploring it.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I spent a little less than $100 a week. Food was pretty cheap, but I did eat out once or twice a week and had a handful of excursions over the course of the semester that added to my costs a fair bit. It really wouldn't be all that hard to be more frugal than I was, though,

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? A little less that $100 a week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Cook. Cook as much as you can. Ingredients are cheap in Scotland and they provide you with pots and pans, so really, there's not reason not to.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The city.
  • The people.
  • The free sweatshirt.
* What could be improved?
  • Still not a fan of the insurance.
  • More information on housing beforehand would have been nice.
  • More info on the classes offered beforehand would have been useful, too.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Good peanut butter is very hard to find in Scotland. Bring a big jar of Jif or Skippy with you.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!