YOUR Guide to: make the most out of your study abroad experience by travelling, learning, and living
Despite the fact that she has the same surname as the bustling capitol city of the UK, Mhairi London chose to spend not only one, but TWO years abroad a bit further north. After having the most incredible third year in Edinburgh, she returned back to UCSD only to immediately begin her application for a fifth year abroad in the same city she fell in love with the first time around. It seems as if Edinburgh will never give Mhairi up as she has just been accepted to study a Masters in Cognitive Science at the University of Edinburgh following her final year abroad. Now THAT is dedication. Keep reading to learn more about her incredible journey.
1. What made you originally choose the city of Edinburgh?
My parents met in St. Andrews during their year abroad (through UCEAP!) ages ago and instilled a pretty strong love of Scotland in me as I was growing up. Even though I grew up in San Francisco, 5,000 miles from anything remotely Scottish, we celebrated Burns Night every year and my dad got his kilt out any chance he could get. So naturally I gravitated towards Scotland while deciding where I wanted to go abroad. I didn’t know much about Edinburgh other than it was cold and there was a castle in the middle of the city, but I took a chance and applied, and that was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.
2. What about the University of Edinburgh, or Scotland in general, has made you choose to keep coming back?
While I do love the laidback surfer attitude of San Diego and the foggy tech-y vibe of San Francisco, there’s something special about the people and the culture of Edinburgh that is really special. I like to say that Edinburgh is a large enough city so that there’s always something to go do, but it’s small enough that you can always walk there. There’s a great community feel to the city, and everyone is clearly proud of the city’s history and prestige. This can be seen anywhere from how the city comes together during the Fringe Festival, to how the Meadows were completely packed with people building snowmen during Beast From the East. Besides that, the school and the programs they offer are a great fit for me and what I want to study, and the professors are some of the best I’ve ever had.
3. Are there any aspects of the British education system that are different from the US which you find useful in your studies?
At least in my field, professors really expect you to be self-motivated and able to carry out your work on your own in a responsible and efficient manner. While, like American schools, professors are completely approachable and make themselves available outside of class for questions, they are not here to hold your hand. Therefore, the workload assigned is usually more substantial than what we would find back in California. A good portion of the examinable material comes from readings outside of class. But if this sounds scary, it’s actually completely manageable if you stay on top of your requirements.
4. As a UC student who is about to start your third year studying at an institution in the UK, do you have any specific academic advice for students struggling to adjust to the different system?
Again, really just try to stay on top of your work. Nothing is worse than going into revision period and realizing just how much reading or coursework you have ahead of you. Other than that, get to know your professors! Edinburgh is a world-renowned ancient university, so you can bet that most of the professors here are experts in their field with something interesting to say. It’s a known fact that professors love when Americans come speak to them because we’re already so immersed in a school culture of working alongside and collaborating with our professors. Just like at home, these professors are here to help and love being recognized for their work, so show them some love.
5. What are your plans post-Masters? Do you intend to remain living in the UK?
With timing and funding permitting, I’d love to go on and try to get my PhD, either at Edinburgh or somewhere else in Scotland; I’m not opposed to exploring. If I’m burned out with school by the end of next year I’ll almost definitely try to pursue a work visa of some sort and go from there.
6. What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you during your time abroad?
I had the opportunity to see countless countries during my first year abroad, even if it was only for a weekend or a few days. I can totally see where the stereotypical “Well when I was abroad…” comes from, because I had such a hard time not talking about all the amazing things I got to do and see while travelling around Europe and Africa. Being here for part of the Fringe was also so cool. The whole city completely transforms and becomes so lively and exciting. I guess it also doesn’t hurt that I met my wonderful Scottish boyfriend while I was here…