We asked a bunch of international students what their first impressions of Edinburgh were

‘Is Hive a type of STI?’

University can be enough of a culture shock on its own, but being from a different country is an entirely different ballgame. When I first came to Edinburgh, not only was I shocked at how old everything was but how well preserved it was as well. The school I went to was built in the 60s, making it the same age as my parents, and is already dilapidated. Whereas in Edinburgh, buildings older than the United States themselves were kept in pristine conditions.

Coming to Edinburgh also made me aware of how University, in Britain especially, reveals a lot about class structures. Although America has a plethora of class problems all on its own, it was surprising to me how certain halls and certain courses were labelled as “middle class”, compared to back in the states where all university students are randomly put into halls and don’t even decide on a course until they are well into their second year.

I was curious to see how other international students found Edinburgh – not only in terms of the city but the culture of the university as well.

Sakshi, Third year, International Business – originally from New Jersey, USA 

“I had a terrible first impression of the city. So, I visited in the February when I received my offer, and I absolutely hated it. It was my 18th birthday (the only time I had off of high school), and I found it so cold and rainy. I thought all of the buildings were grey and that the city was just so depressing, but now I obviously love it.

“In terms of the uni, I absolutely loved it. I thought it was really gorgeous and the people all seemed really kind. I thought British people were all friendly and willing to help compared to the people back in New York. And they were mostly all willing to chat which was nice and that they lived their lives at slower, more leisurely pace which was a nice change.

“The mannerisms of people definitely were a change (they’re so polite) and the jargon was too, basic words that I said were said differently in the UK and people still, to this day, mimic and laugh at my ‘American vocabulary.’ Also, the fact that chippys close so early was kind of a bummer, back in Jersey diners are regularly open 24/7.”

Nina, Third Year, Sustainable Development – originally from Dubrovnik, Croatia and New Jersey, USA

“Why does everyone drink pints instead of water? Is hive a type of STI? And if this is really a ‘city’, how is there an extinct volcano in the middle?

“Aside from shock and awe, the first impression of Edinburgh was the realisation that you really can have it all: clubbing on Mondays, optional lectures, and somehow getting praise for being a student while getting to live in a magical snow globe of a city. Got me feeling #blessed that I didn’t choose St. Andrews.”

Fiona, Fourth year, Illustration – originally from Vietnam and Russia 

An illustration by Fiona, comfortable in Edinburgh

“I was in London for my foundation year and came up here for open day/to see my friend, and just fell in love with the city once I walked out of Waverley station. And after that, I just had to move here -granted it was one of those rare sunny September days.

“I was shocked at the way that art students carried themselves in London – art students really put a lot of effort into the way the looked, people would walk around with these really elaborate outfits just to go to class. They were always trying to make an impression. Whereas, it was a bit of a relief coming to Edinburgh and seeing that art students are very casual, and don’t try to prove that they’re art students, although, I found it really difficult to find international people on my course.”

Nicolette, Third year, Physics – originally from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 

“The people are so warm in contrast to the weather. I felt very welcomed. The city itself is absolutely breathtaking. Even until this day, I’d walk down the mound or walk past Holyrood and just have to stop to admire how beautiful this city is. I think the Uni has loads to offer to different types of people.

“In comparison to Malaysia, everything in Edinburgh closes early! And the food isn’t nearly as good as home, but there are some places that come quite close. In general, I found British people very very polite! And not entirely straightforward sometimes, because they’re so polite! I found Scottish people very warm and friendly though.”

Lily, Third year, International Relations – originally from New York, USA

“I thought the city was lovely but also a bit confusing with all the winding streets and lack of street signs but I loved it right away. I thought the uni buildings were beautiful (besides old Appleton and DHT) but the grading system was really weird to me at first as well as the obsessions with VKs, though I’ve come to love them.

“I thought the people here were all friendly but more reserved than people back home so I thought they actually didn’t like me at first but once I realized it was just the culture I was a lot more comfortable and have really great friends now.”

Anush, Third year, Chemistry – originally from Armenia 

Anush, pictured on the right

“I loved the way the city looked and felt, partly because of its resemblance to my hometown. Whichever way you look in Armenia there’ll be a hill or a mountain so Arthur’s seat was definitely something that would make me happy to see every morning on way to uni.

“Locals proved to be very kind. I knew I’d be fine in this city when within the first 10 minutes of arrival a man selling Big Issue outside of Waverley was offering to help with the heavy luggage I had on me. Not to mention how cool it is to relearn geography with so many people from all over the world you meet every day!!

“At first, I thought the city is quite small, everything is within walking distance and I might get bored sooner than later but have come to realise that with so many things happening every day you can definitely find something to do if you want to. I also love the nightlife! Sneaky’s has become my favourite! I’ve never been out in Armenia, clubs there aren’t places for “good” girls.”