Five things my year abroad helped me appreciate about Edinburgh Uni

Shockingly, Turnitin makes a feature

Is this list a manifestation of my denial that the best year of my life so far is over? Am I trying really hard not to cry because I’m not drinking at happy hour in the Paris sunshine anymore? Am I desperately avoiding thinking about another winter where it gets dark before I’ve woken up and I have five midterms due all in one day? The answer is yes, absolutely, yes to all of these.

This is all true, but recently I’ve heard the key to happiness is gratitude, and with another year in Edi up, whether it’s your first or your final, or anything in between, a bit of appreciation for the life we lead (and love?) can’t hurt. Besides, there are lots of things about Edi student life worth celebrating, such as…

1. Living close to people

This is probably the biggest one on the list. Last year, the number one thing I took for granted was that everybody I knew lived within a walkable distance (yes, New Town is technically walkable, no I did not walk there). In fact, it was something I complained about. I would storm back into my flat after what was supposed to be a completely uneventful trip to Sainsbury’s in my pyjamas, only to bump into people I would much rather have seen looking a lot cooler and not holding loo roll.

Here, I did the impossible and found a flat in the centre of Paris. Brilliant, I thought. It’s close to everything! I can walk everywhere! And then every single person I met just happened to live a forty-minute metro journey away. Every day was a battle against the smell of the metro (hint: urine) and trying not to get my wallet stolen.

a rare available seat

2. Turnitin

I know what you’re going to say. Look, I said it too. Turnitin was the bane of my life – I would wake up in the middle of the night stressing that I had somehow subconsciously plagiarised my entire essay and that I was due to be kicked out of the uni tomorrow – only to see that the similarity report had just highlighted every work I had cited (correctly!)

But you don’t know what you’ll miss until it’s gone. Yes, the university I attended is technically well-known, decently funded and in a country where the internet has been installed. However, that does not account for the system here that refuses to take in work that has not been hand-written or at least printed out. A tutor once watch me type up an entire piece of work in class only to tell me at the end of the lesson I should have asked him for paper, because now he wouldn’t accept it.

3. Food shops

Actually, scrap everything else on this list. If you just gave me a Tesco’s, or a Lidl or a Sainsbury’s, I would never have left. I missed a meal deal more than I missed my family.

Being abroad made me realise nobody does supermarkets like the UK. I could do a weekly shop in Lidl (even if it meant going through Newington and reliving freshers’ week flashbacks) and buy everything I needed and more. There were veggies that would last, decently priced fish and meat I could cook (sorry vegans), literally anything you could think of.

Not here. The concept of the ‘weekly shop’ does not exist. Words cannot describe how I appalled the French population in my first weeks here by routinely filling my basket with a million items, thinking I was being a budget queen and planning ahead. I learned very quickly why everyone was laughing at me. By day 2, all my stuff had gone off (even though I kept it in the fridge!!!) and I would need to return to my local Carrefour to offer them all my money again. I dreamt of opening the fridge to see something that isn’t a 6 euro pot of hummus and a mouldy carrot.

embracing the overdraft

4. One hour tutorials

I’m sorry, this might not be very STEM student friendly, but as a humanities student I can’t tell you the shock I had when I looked at my timetable here and saw three hour tutorials, some between 10am-1pm, some finishing at 8pm. All on art criticism and medieval french? Is there even that much to say? When am I supposed to eat? When am I supposed to sleep? Could I ever leave campus?

The one thing I will say they have going for them is a smoke break in the middle, something I think Edinburgh should consider incorporating, especially during exam season.

5. 24/7 library

I’ll be the first one to say that the library can be a evil place, bringing out the worst in people under those unflattering fluorescent lights, inducing students to leave their bags on desks for six hours at a time, fighting over the last seat on the fourth floor, etc, etc.

I know it can be hell. I know it supports you in your procrastination because literally everyone you know is also there, taking breaks at different times, coming and going and chatting and smoking and getting coffee and moving around. I know sometimes people talk too loudly and you have to do that awkward walk-of-shame when you can’t find anywhere to sit. It’s been well documented.

However, I genuinely cannot work in my own space. I am too easily tempted by the fridge, the telly, my phone, everything. I need hundreds of judgemental, working eyes in the same room as me so that I won’t swap onto the Netflix tab. And my local library in Paris shut at 10pm, meaning two things: 1. I stop doing all work around 9pm because it’s ‘nearly time to go’ and 2. I cannot print out work I stayed up all night doing if I finished it after 10, meaning that I am going to have to handwrite that 3,000 word essay before my tutorial.

the bane of my existence and the object of all my desires

All in all, my life is so much richer for having studied abroad and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone but coming back to Edi might just fill that hole in my heart (and bank account!)

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