The Tourist Side of Studying Abroad

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

Hi, I’m Joanne and I’m an exchange student from the University of Maryland.

Hi, I’m Joanne and I’m an exchange student from the US.

In the beginning, I introduced myself with the first statement, but quickly I found out that Maryland isn’t even a well-known state so obviously most people don’t know where it is. I would say it’s close to Washington DC, but from the look in their eyes, location wise, I don’t think that was any better. Coming from University of Maryland, nearly everyone I met came from within the state, so there was a very low chance of meeting anyone international or on exchange. In a way, Maryland closed me off to the world outside of the University. Therefore, as an exchange student to Edinburgh, I finally was able to explore the different identities in our world. After numerous self-introductions, I changed to the second statement. There is a world outside the US and knowing where Maryland is, is not common sense anymore.

Edinburgh is such a multinational city; everywhere I turn, there are restaurants that claim to be from different countries, there are words spoken in many different foreign languages (or maybe just English with an accent that I don’t understand), there are different fashion styles, and there are different cultures/ways of living. Apart from the well-known Scottish dish, haggis, curry is served everywhere. I guarantee if you want curry, you can find it within 10 minutes walking distance in Edinburgh. Thankfully I love curry, so I am 100% ok with this. However, some ways of living is hard to adapt to, such as knowing that alcohol and smoking are their life and are so common among young adults. Social events always point towards alcohol, and pub crawls are where you meet new friends. My Scottish and European friends always ask if I came to the UK because of the lower drinking age. Some have even expressed that they feel sorry for me because the drinking age is 21 in the US. As an alcohol-free person, I constantly battle with “to go or not to go” because I feel uncomfortable in those environment.

Curry from a pub.

LETS TALK ABOUT WEATHER! It’s raining? Oh that’s normal. The weather is very confusing here. It can be sunny and warm sometimes, but when the ominous gray clouds roll in, it starts pouring. The general consensus is that Scotland is very cold and rainy, but I got a different view from a Northern Irish girl I talked to on the shuttle bus; she said she loves the sunshine in Scotland since Ireland is almost always gloomy. Below shows the weather for the next 10 days. My only hope is that it’s not raining when I’m walking to class.

Weather for this week.
Climbing Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano with new friends and of course it starts pouring when we descended.

Edinburgh is a very walkable city, so when I moved into my flat, buying the necessary cooking and bedding items were no problem. After settling in, I ventured out to explore the city and started learning the ways to campuses (I have class in both the Main Campus and Science Campus (King’s Buildings)). The first week of classes was pretty interesting with parasite biology, immunology, and history of medicine, but I am already stressed with the high quality essays the professors expect us to write. Even though there are no daily homework as in the US, the amount of reading and research is overwhelming. The professor seems to be a guide to self-learning rather than “the teacher”. Although this teaching method will certainly be good practice for medical school.

Random walkway
View of Princes Street and a tiny bit of the Scott Monument.
Another view of the Scott Monument from a nearby park.
Riding of the Marches September 17 on the Royal Mile – A reenactment of the Captain coming back to the city to inform citizens that they have lost in the Battle of Flodden 1513.
View from Calton Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In Edinburgh, there’s history everywhere you go. The museums I have visited all provided me with different aspects of life that allows me to piece together what life was like in Edinburgh since the Medieval time period to now. Many graveyards and churches also give a peek of religion in Scotland, which highlighted the Scottish Reformation that split the church into Catholicism and Protestants. A couple museums give insight into the grave conditions of poor people and the lavish lifestyles of the riches. What I was most interested in was the national health care history in Scotland, but I will keep that discussion until next time…