Moving to a new city can be a daunting prospect. Mixed in with all of the excited anticipation and thrill of travel are anxieties about the smallest of things like:
“Will the supermarkets be the same here? Will they stock my favourite candies/icecream/brand of soda?”
Or: “If I’m vegetarian, will I have to wither away on a diet of potatoes and the occasional piece of lettuce or will I have other options in this strange foreign land?”
These are completely normal, natural questions you may have when moving to a new city (not at all an outcropping of my individual concerns). This article is here to assuage all of the worries that may pop up when electing to make Edinburgh your new home.
As far as student life is concerned, I believe that Edinburgh is one of the best cities you can live in. The University of Edinburgh is just one of four main universities in the city and it alone has over 36,000 students. The city reflects this student population with a vibrant array of societies, pubs, cafes and activities galore to help you make friends with students your own age.
The university campus is spread throughout the entire city with the sciences campus and the vet school a shuttle ride away. Unlike my home university of UCSB, there is no student accommodation directly on campus (unless you count the comfortable chairs in the library that I’ve fallen asleep on many times over during exam season). Having experienced both types of campuses, (self-contained like UCSB and spread throughout the city like Edinburgh) I have enjoyed both.
I actually think that I gained a far greater appreciation for Edinburgh as a city having to take a twenty minute walk to class every morning and now a forty minute walk into work from my apartment in New Town. When you live on campus its easy to get caught up in a bubble of university life and forget that there is a vibrant and sprawling city all around you. In the United Kingdom most students will be horrified by the concept of sharing a room with another student so you’ll likely be staying in a single all to yourself with hall mates or flatmates around you. I love this set up as you get a bit more privacy but when you want to be social you can make a jaunt down to the kitchen or living room and form long-lasting friendships with your flatmates!
There are a few different student zones in Edinburgh that you may be living in. The most convenient ones are centralised around the meadows (the beautiful park just behind the university). These areas are called Marchmont, Causewayside, Newington and Bruntsfield respectively. If you’re seeking your own accommodation in Edinburgh for instance for our Scottish Political Internship, these are great areas to search for housing. Pollock Halls is the catered accommodation for incoming freshman and exchange students that many of you may choose to stay at. I chose to stay here and loved it but it did certainly feel like stepping back in time to Freshman year with the dorm style living/dining experience. The location is stunning, just under Arthur’s Seat (the extinct volcano that formed the basis of the city) and I can’t imagine anywhere more beautiful to live. Outside of this general area, flats around Lothian Road and into New Town are lovely but a bit more of a walk particularly if you start to head down towards Leith so as you are planning your accommodation make use of your friend Google Maps!
Every city has individual shops and bakeries to buy your weekly groceries at but while in Edinburgh, the three main supermarkets you’ll frequent will be Tesco, Lidl and Sainsburrys. Outside of the city centre you’ll find markets such as Asda, Morrisons and Aldi but these won’t be the most convenient to reach. Something to note: grocery store clerks won’t bag your groceries here. I know this sounds prissy and silly but it’s something we get so used to in the US and its good to note that won’t happen here! Another quick tip: don’t forget to look both ways when crossing the road. Again, perhaps this is ridiculous to point out but you won’t be used to the direction of traffic and pedestrians definitely do not have the right of way here. When you’re looking to purchase bedding, Primark will provide cheap and accessible items and there is a TK Max on Princes Street. If you’re feeling fancy and want some nicer home goods M & S does nice begging but if you’re on a budget stick with Primark. (Many places in the UK will offer a student discount if you show your ID card, give it a shot!)
In terms of academics, Humanities students will primarily be in George square and the surrounding buildings, science students will be at kings, the law school will be in whats called “Old College” and this area isn’t far from George square. The university has quite a few buildings spread out throughout the city but those will be your main hubs. If you want a little tip on where to grab lunch during your breaks check out our previous articles on food in Edinburgh!
In terms of activities to get up to in this amazing city the list is endless and requires its own article all together! Check back on our blog soon to hear an update.