Being a student in Edinburgh

Magda Budzynska·28 June 2021·8 min read
Being a student in Edinburgh

Hi, my name is Magda and I am from Poland. When the summer will come to an end I will begin my third year at the University of Edinburgh where I am studying Maths and Business. I am really grateful to have the opportunity to study at such a prestigious university. I am given plenty of opportunities to be involved here, meet new people, and establish myself within the university. It’s amazing how much it helped me leave my comfort zone and become more independent.

What’s it like living in a foreign country?

Moving abroad is a big life event which has its benefits but the disadvantages are unavoidable. I remember my first day when I arrived at the airport. The left-sided traffic, people speaking in a different language and all of my heavy luggage made me absolutely overwhelmed. However, all I needed was some time to adjust to the new surroundings. During my first year, I didn’t really find time to explore Scotland as it was a very busy and chaotic time. The second-year went completely differently. Due to Covid-19, I was forced to find alternatives for my free time. I discovered plenty of new spots located in my neighbourhood that I didn’t even know existed. My absolute favorite places are Blackford Hill and just next to it the Hermitage of Braid. I used to go there at least once a week for a walk or run to see the Edinburgh from above.

What is my course like?

BSc Maths and Business is a four-year degree. It allows me to take courses in business and management alongside the mathematics courses. It provides me with problem-solving skills and analytical skills through mathematics and enables me to understand how to apply them in a business setting. Besides the compulsory courses, there are optional choices such as programming, economics or even languages. In my case, the teaching approach differs a lot between my first year and second year which was affected by Covid-19. My typical week consisted of 4 tutorials and 2-3 pre-recorded lectures per course. The University of Edinburgh very much emphasises the importance of the independent study. The first year allowed me to develop as an independent learner which positively affected my ability to learn in the online setting.

What’s it like doing joint honours?

I am happy to be part of a joint honours. Studying two different majors allows me to get insights into two completely different fields of study. It was a perfect opportunity for me to combine Maths, a subject which I excelled at in high school and knew I wanted to incorporate in my studies, with business which enables me to explore less scientific approaches. It is great to be involved in both the School of Maths and the School of Business as it provides me with more opportunities also those outside studies.

What was it like to change a degree?

During my first year, I changed my degree from Ecological and Environmental Sciences with Management. I remember that I was very disappointed with my first choice when I attended the welcome week lectures. Throughout the transferring process, I gained a lot of insights into how British universities operate. It was a perfect opportunity to learn more about the offered courses and meet some of the staff. Moreover, I finally understood that it is never too late to rebrand yourself.

What was my accommodation like?

During my first year, I lived in university accommodation. It is recommended by everyone to spend your first year there as it gives you a chance to socialise. I was assigned to five people flat at Hermit’s Croft. I had my own room fully furnished and a shared kitchen and two bathrooms. It was located just ten minutes on foot from the main campus area and about 20 minutes from the city center. In my second year, I knew it was the right time to move out to a private flat. I heard some stories about covid-19 cases and self-isolation at university halls and I knew that living with two of my friends in a flat was the best decision. We were very lucky to have access to a garden which we used a lot, especially during quarantine.

What was the student life like?

Edinburgh offers a great quality of life for students. Living in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe can’t disappoint. Besides the well-equipped university facilities and academic institutions, there is plenty of things to explore. For nature enthusiasts, there is Arthur’s Seat located in the Holyrood Park, Blackford Hill and Pentlands as well as many parks and botanical gardens. History fans have the best opportunity to expand their knowledge by visiting the landmarks such as the castle located in the city center as well as the Scott Monument or St Giles’ Cathedral. Many students socialise by going out clubbing or drinking at bars. One of the most well-known streets for a night out is Cowgate. Just nearby, The Hive Venue is located which is one of the most iconic places according to many students.

Was there time for extra-curricular activities?

During the fresher’s fair I got the opportunity to learn about the societies that exist at the Edinburgh University. There are 290 student-led groups that anyone can join. They offer to develop new interests, let you meet new people and pursue your hobbies. The first society I joined was Women in STEM which promotes gender equality among science students. I was really amazed by their mission and decided to run for a Secretary position in the committee next year. I also decided to join Sports Union and went for few yoga classes and began my journey with surfing. If it wasn't for the university, I would never have tried it. Last but not least I was a member of the Polish society which was a great opportunity for me to connect with people who share similar cultural traditions.

How did COVID_19 impact my experience at University:

When the pandemic began I remember at first I was indecisive about whether I should stay in Edinburgh or go back home to Poland. I wasn’t ready to end my first year like that. It was very difficult for me to move out in less than 24 hours. I remember that most students in my accommodation were running back and forth as quickly as possible to get to the airport. I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to my friends everything was so chaotic. I finished that year without taking the exams. During my second year, I experienced the Covid-19 impact on the teaching format. I needed some time to adjust to online learning. At first, I found it difficult to motivate myself to watch the pre-recorded lectures. However, the university offered a lot of help and additional sources to make the whole process easier. School of Maths even loaned its students tablets and laptops to ensure we have the right equipment. The library was the only university building that stayed opened during lockdown which allowed students to learn in peace and quiet. Covid-19 not only impacted my academic life but also had a big influence on my free time. I was no longer able to attend in-person social activities but it was possible to find alternatives. I spent my time going to online webinars and zoom calls, exploring Edinburgh and had fun with my flatmates while cooking together or playing board games.

What have I gained from my degree?

Overall, I rate my university experience very high. Despite the pandemic, I managed to make new friends and meet people from all around the globe. Not only have I gained academic skills but also I developed new passions and hobbies such as surfing. I am really grateful to have the opportunity to study at one of the best universities in the world in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.