I felt like my best self here and was changed for the better May 29, 2023

By (English: Creative Writing, Middlebury College) - abroad from 09/19/2022 to 05/26/2023 with

University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This experience truly was life changing for me. I had a rough sophomore year because of physical health issues, and within a week of being there, I was the happiest I have ever been. I became much more outgoing and social, and I had much more excitement. I also loved being in a city after spending my first two years in a small college. It was extremely worthwhile for me and it realigned my priorities in life and my optimism for my future. I learned from this experience: 1. how to be friends with anyone, regardless of perceived social status 2. that social cues can be entirely different based on the country a study abroad student is coming from 3. travel is the best form of education for me (I travelled to 12 countries in my year in Edinburgh) 4. Lifelong friends don't have to always be in the same country as you 5. Sometimes all it takes is a nice cafe to sit in for hours to get some creative work done 6. what people in Europe truly think about America, and that I could see myself moving to a country in Europe in the future 7. how to socialize while knowing no one 8. removed from my everyday life, it helped me realize my real priorities 9. I am much more creative with my writing and sewing when I am in a city full of life and stories

Review Photos

University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

In comparison to my liberal arts college, The University of Edinburgh has a different approach, in which one must be more self-motivated to learn and not rely on being able to reach their professors easily. It is less of a personal experience and more of an independently academic one. For instance, class sizes are much larger, and professors are not easily available where they make it clear they have somewhere to be and cannot stop and talk with you academically, even if they also seem interested in the subject. As well, tests and essays are graded anonymously, so you as a student are not taken into account when grading, which can be difficult for people whose first language is not English. However, I did like the variety of courses offered, since Middlebury does not have many creative writing courses left that I am interested in. I also liked the exposure to subjects that are not taught at Middlebury, like Fashion Design, although I was not able to enroll or attend any classes. I would have liked if I could at least attend class without a grade, but I never received a response from the professor teaching the beginning course. I think one of the great potentials of study abroad is taking courses that a small school does not typically offer, and I would have liked that exposure. However, there were other resources open to students including fantastic makerspaces. I nearly joined a metalworking side course, but became distracted by other hobbies and friends. If your focus is to get as much out of the university as possible, there are plenty of ways to explore your areas of interest outside of your Major.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

They were very kind to me, and when I missed classes, instead of being angry, they sent me a caring email inquiring on my well-being and a gentle warning that I could not miss more classes. They also are very responsive; when I was stuck in another country because of public transport strikes, my advisor was very kind and understanding and told me to take the easiest and cheapest flight back and that she would communicate with my professors. I had the sense that she genuinely cared about my wellbeing and academic success based on that.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in Holland House, which is one of the nicer houses in Pollock. The only downside was that everyone I lived near were freshmen, so all the study abroad third years were scattered around and could not easily find each other if we had not made our own groupchat from the facebook exchange group. But my housing was the best dorm situation I've ever had, with my own small bathroom and shower and plenty of plugs so that I could do work in my room. The dining hall was alright, where the staff were incredibly friendly, and I'm not one to easily complain about food that I did not make, but it did get very repetitive where I don't see myself willingly eating cod ever again. But, overall it was good. It was not the safest, as our keys could open the main door and also our own doors, and maitenance could walk in at any time; in another residence, there was an issue where someone copied the keys and was able to access students' flats and stole money from multiple rooms. There are also rarely people checking around campus for suspicious behavior, so it's surprising more break-ins don't happen with the lack of security. The main door to my building was also broken for an entire semester where it could easily be pushed open without a key. If you lost your key, they would give you a new one, but not change the lock, so if your key was found by someone who could figure out which room you were in, they could potentially unlock your door. There were also many fire alarms, much more than I've had at Middlebury, but it could be because it was primarily a freshman dorm. My proximity to campus and popular areas was perfect. The gym was a mile away, but it was an easy straight shot from Pollock Halls and on a safe street, so I was very comfortable walking back at night. I made many of my friends through living at Pollock Halls, so I am glad that I was housed there overall.

* Food:

The dining hall staff were incredibly kind--I loved this one man who always said hello and had varying hair cuts and colors, sometimes pink or purple I think. So I feel bad complaining about the food, but it could have had more variety and options for vegetarians or vegans. The main protein for vegans is at breakfast where they serve vegan sausages, but at dinner, your best bet might be yogurt, as the protein is always meat, usually cod. One interesting thing that gave the food an extra star is that my stomach was never upset by the food. Meanwhile in the US, and especially at Middlebury, I often had trouble with that, so I had gotten a lot of testing done to see if I had any digestive problems. All of my tests came back fine, so I suspect my stomach is sensitive and that the food there, even the excessive amount of croissants, was easier to digest.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Edinburgh is by far the safest city I've been to; people are openly friendly and open to talking, and I made friends easily with locals who would drop what they were doing just to talk. It also felt like a familiar culture for me, although I know that as a white person, it must be much easier to blend in, since the city lacks diversity. I would also say that it is somewhat similar to the US, where they play American music (usually 2000s hits you would have heard on the radio) and dress similarly, so I didn't find it hard to adjust. One thing that I did not expect was the lack of Scottish people. I rarely met people who were from Scotland; usually people were studying there or had moved there from European countries like The Netherlands, Germany, France, or Sweden. I would have liked to have met people who had grown up there, other than a few Uber drivers who were Scottish. I would say that the part of Edinburgh that is the University of Edinburgh is more European overall than Scottish.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

For mental health, the university was very understanding and would give extensions or reach out to check on you. However, getting medications was extremely difficult; I ended up flying home multiple times to refill some medications. They did not have one of mine, and another was a controlled substance so I needed to go home, get more, and get a letter from my psychiatrist. I also found that if you are not there for a year, you cannot register with a General Practitioner, or if, in my case, you don't think about registering until you have a health problem at the end of the year and at that point it's too late to register, the only way to get help is to call when the university's medical center opens and hope they have room for you that day. For my antidepressant, they had a similar one that would require me to taper off my current one and start that one, which was just not feasible due to potential withdrawal. As for physical health, you definitely need to register with a General Practitioner through the university as soon as you arrive; otherwise, by the middle of the spring semester, you may not be able to register with one. That means that you will not be able to make appointments and must call the office every morning to see if they have any availability. I went in one time to be assessed for arthritis, and they told me that getting in with a physical therapist would be difficult and potentially not worth my time. If you're spending a year there, it would be good to have backup plans in case it is difficult to get your healthcare needs met. I did at one point go to the emergency room, and they were very kind, helpful, fast, and didn't charge me anything for my visit.

* Safety:

This is honestly the safest city I've been to, especially as a female-presenting woman. There are many countries in Europe where I experienced harassment, while here I can walk around every day, wearing a tanktop, and not be harassed.I also always feel safe walking home late at night alone, which I haven't experienced in the United States either in cities. As long as you have common sense, don't follow strangers home, bring headphones in case someone is trying to catcall you (rare in Edinburgh), and ignore any staring, you should be fine and feel very safe. I would also recommend staying near central Edinburgh instead of the residential areas. I had one incident of harassment where a man was particularly persistent at following me in the area west of the Meadows, but you're unlikely to end up there unless you are intentionally going to a place in that area. Most students stay around Nicholson Street, the University libraries, or Princes Street, and that is more than enough. If you are coming home late at night, I've heard that the Meadows is not particularly safe at that time, but I've never heard of any specific incidents.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

I'm not sure about my answer. I would love to do it over again, and have the same friends as I did the first semester (that was my favorite of the two because they were all only there for the fall), and make Edinburgh feel even more like home. However, I value living life to its fully and for me, that means consistently choosing new experiences over the old. I would enjoy being somewhere less similar to the US, such as a country that speaks a primary language and then English as a secondary language. But, I would not trade that year I had for any other place or experience.


* 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)

For me, I was on a dining hall plan and had free public transport, so I could easily spend nothing each week if I didn't have a weakness for chai lattes (go to Lady and the Bear or Coffee Angel on Nicholson Street) and thrifting at charity shops on Nicholson.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I was on the dining hall, so maybe $20/week for food. Other expenses, maybe also $20/week?
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Make a budget plan and stick to it. My budget plan was to spend as little money as possible so that I could use it for traveling via flights to other countries on the weekends or during breaks. For food, the Pollock dining hall (one of the residence options and the only one with dining hall) is only open for breakfast and dinner, and you cannot take food out of the dining hall, so if you eat a lot, either plan to eat two large meals or buy some bread and peanut butter for lunches. Spend money on experiences, not alcohol; I drank one time only during my fall semester and was able to go to clubs and bars all the time sober and have just as much fun. Pro tip: if you care about traveling while abroad, google flights is your best friend (search on there Edinburgh to Europe with your preferred dates and it will give you the cheapest places to fly to and you can plan around that) since flight prices can vary drastically by day from $25 to $200 for a one way to the same city. Also, keep an eye out for smaller airports you can fly into and then be able to take public transport from. But beware of airports that have expensive public transport into the city (ex: Brussels Charleroi or most Parisian airports). An example of a good flight alternative is instead of flying from Edinburgh to Amsterdam, fly from Edinburgh to Eindhoven or Rotterdam, two other airports in The Netherlands that connect easily by public transport to Amsterdam. It also helps to look at flights one way, since flights within Europe are not cheaper when booked roundtrip, unlike transatlantic flights. My rule for myself was to save money in every way possible so I could get more trips out of it. Do your research, and it'll help immensely. Also, groceries there are cheaper than in the US, especially fruits and vegetables, so your budget will be different than what you would expect in the US.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Direct Enrollment

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • 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?
  • recorded lectures to rewatch
  • the study abroad group chat
  • extra resources like a rock climbing wall with towrope and belaying
* What could be improved?
  • more opportunities to meet full-time students
  • access to more classes
  • more opportunities to get grades (most courses only had 2 grades)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew how easy it was to travel to European countries from Edinburgh, because I would have travelled more my first semester on the weekends and perhaps had friends come with me.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Introduction to Philosophy

Course Department:
Instruction Language:
Comments: For this course, there were only two grades factored into the overall grade. These were the midterm and final, the midterm being a paper related to a choice of quotes from foundational philosophers, and I chose Socrates. Based on my reading of the material, I wrote an essay that I believe received a lower mark than I expected because of my slight criticism of Socrates. I realized that it was not quite like an English class at Middlebury, where opposing opinions were accepted. For the final, it was a take home with several days to complete it. Leading up to the exam, I rewatched the recorded lectures, reread the readings, and took extensive notes. I believed that I wrote my responses well and accurately, but was very surprised at the grade I received. For a course like this, I would say that it differs from a liberal arts education significantly. I did not enjoy this form of learning as much because it was about remembering facts, rather than expanding on them.
Credit Transfer Issues: