Coming to the end of my time in Edinburgh, I’d like to look back at some highlights over the course of my time here. I originally intended to include low-lights, but I couldn’t actually think of anything worth including! Hopefully, this post can give anyone who is considering studying at the University of Edinburgh a good idea of what they can expect.
Climbing Arthur’s Seat at Sunrise
Arthur’s seat is the main peak in a group of hills called Holyrood Park. It’s situated right near the centre of Edinburgh and is easily accessible from the university campus. One of my favourite memories from Edinburgh is a simple one: climbing Arthur’s seat at sunrise with a few of my close flatmates! The views of the city are incredible, and the early morning sun makes everything look so much more special. Climbing Arthur’s Seat is a “checklist item” for visiting Edinburgh, but many people also run up it for exercise or just walk up it to get some fresh air! I like to go up Arthur’s Seat with a few friends when I’m feeling especially stressed about classes or exams. The brisk air and chilly winds always give me a fresh perspective on whatever is troubling me!
Scotland is quite well known for its castles, and as a resident of Scotland, you’ll have ample opportunity to visit and explore castles. I saw the Edinburgh castle right in town, the Craigmillar Castle a short bus ride away, and the Eilean Donan Castle in the highlands. Of the three, Craigmillar was my favourite, although it’s by far the least popular. As it’s not a popular tourist spot, there are very few restrictions on where you can go inside the castle. We were told that if we saw a door and it wasn’t locked, then we could go through it! There are many, many castles around Scotland, so you’ll certainly see a few over the time you’re here. I especially enjoyed learning about the often rich history behind castles like the one you see below: Mary, Queen of Scots is known to have stayed at this castle several times during her reign and it’s here the supposed “Craigmillar Bond”, a plot to dispose of her husband Lord Darnley, was allegedly signed.
Climbing Mountains in the Highlands
While Edinburgh is an amazing, incredible city, the highlands are just as worth your time! Grab your raincoat and some waterproof hiking trousers, and you’ll be all set for a wonderful time braving spontaneous rain showers and bagging a few munros (a munro is a Scottish peak with an elevation of over 3,000 feet. There are officially 282, and bagging them all is a lofty goal held by many!) The highlands are also full of wonderful rivers suitable for whitewater kayaking if sitting in a boat is more your style. The university has loads of clubs that do weekend and day trips into the highlands: the Hillwalking Club, the Mountaineering Club, and the Canoe Club to name a few. These clubs are welcoming to people of all abilities and skill levels, so don’t be afraid to sign up for a trip! Even if it rains all weekend, you’ll come away with some new friends and a few great memories.
Access to other European cities
I had never been to Europe before studying abroad, so I took the opportunity to visit a few other European cities! While a flight to Rome might sound expensive, flights between European cities can usually be found for shockingly low prices. You can book round-trip tickets from Edinburgh to London for under $20. Cities in mainland Europe are a bit more expensive, but not by much! I was fortunate to attend Oktoberfest in Munich and spend a weekend with my girlfriend in Rome (how romantic!). I’m planning to spend some time in London after my exams and will stop over in Reykjavik on the way back to Texas. Edinburgh has the largest airport in Scotland, so you’ll have ample opportunity to explore Europe while you’re here!
Walks in the Meadows
While travelling on airplanes is nice, sometimes all you need is a little walk in the park! Luckily, the university campus is right next to a large public park called the Meadows! While it’s less used in the winter months, a brisk stroll on the tree-lined walking paths is a great way to start your day. During the warmer summer months, barbecues are common and many a frisbee can be found flying through the air. The university library has many seats that overlook the Meadows, so you can sit and daydream about being out on the grass while you study for your exams! I like to take little walks as study breaks. Given that the Meadows are so close to campus, you’ll likely find yourself walking its paths at some point while you’re here!
Making great friends and saying goodbye!
Finally, the people of Scotland are like no other! I’ve met so many wonderful individuals and made quite a few incredible friends during my time here. It’s sad to say goodbye, but I’ve already starting scheming up excuses to come visit! Spending a semester abroad can be emotionally difficult because of the short time span in which you meet so many new people and then have to leave them all, but I think it’s well worth the memories and experiences. Saying all those goodbyes is tough, but feeling sad about leaving friends just reminds me how valuable the relationships in my life are! In a way, being able to feel sad is a beautiful reminder of what it means to be human. No doubt, if you spend a semester abroad, you’ll definitely learn a lot about the world and yourself!
Signing off one last time, hook’em from Scotland!
This post was contributed by Joel Swiatek, a 2018 Global Ambassador. Joel is majoring in computer science and is studying at the University of Edinburgh.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Joel’s time in Edinburgh>>