It’s a cozy Friday morning here in Edinburgh, and Fall weather has officially returned. And so has Madeleine Golding! Two years after studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh, Madeleine has just moved back to Scotland for grad school! She’s currently studying public health, with a concentration in health promotion and student wellness.
I’m here at the Edinburgh Study Centre with Madeleine to discuss her experience abroad and what life is like as a postgrad student!
Let’s go ahead and start with a general introduction. Where did you complete your undergrad?
I went to UC Merced for two years, and then I transferred to UC Irvine for my last two years. I studied public health at both schools. Then I graduated with a B.A. in Public Health Policy from UC Irvine. Oh, and I studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh during the Fall term of 2017!
What was one of your favorite memories from your time studying abroad?
I spent a lot of time with the International & Exchange Student Society, and every weekend they go on tours around Scotland and northern England. On one of those trips, I went to Pitlochry and a whiskey distillery — and I was serenaded by this guy!
So we’re coming back from the distillery and everyone is really tired, and he’s sitting with me by the window. And just as small talk, he says “so do you like karaoke?” and I’m like “yeah sure, karaoke’s fine.” So he takes out his phone, goes to YouTube, and pulls up one of those instrumental versions of songs. And he just starts singing to me! And everyone’s sort of periodically waking up and staring at us.
But that was just a really funny moment that I had, you know? It was unexpected, but it was cool. I also just liked traveling around with that group specifically, so I got to see a lot of Scotland during the four months that I was here.
Aw I love that! So what was it that ultimately inspired you to return to Scotland for your Masters degree?
So while I was here I took a lot of public health related courses, and I really liked the structure of the courses and how everything was presented and taught. Whereas at a UC, they have a lot of exams and a lot of extra assignments. Here it was more about conceptualizing the material that was given to you and using your resources to create some type of final essay. So I liked that a bit more because it was less about sitting down and memorizing material, and more about presenting what you understand of it. And you can sort of direct it into a topic that you’re interested in. So I like that way of teaching. And, it’s cheaper to get you’re masters here — so that was a big motivator.
What do you anticipate will be different about your time here as a grad student vs. your time studying abroad?
Well what I’ve noticed so far is that during my time abroad I was very aware of the time limitation because I was only here for four months. So I felt like I had to sort of do everything I wanted really quickly. I did trips every single weekend, and I would go out with friends regardless of whether or not I felt like I had time to go out with them. And that’s fun and I was really able to have a wonderful experience doing that.
But now since I know that I have a full year here, I’ve been able to take time and explore Edinburgh a bit more. And I also feel a bit more connected to the university, whereas before I was very much in a touristy mindset. So I’ve made a lot more Scottish friends than I did when I was abroad, and I’ve also gotten to meet more people in my cohort.
I know you’ve only been in classes for a few weeks now, but would you say that everything is how you expected it would be?
Yeah! Right now it’s just very broad. For what I’m studying, we have six compulsory courses we have to take and then we have a choice of electives which we pursue second term. Right now it’s representative of my study abroad experience, so classes are very similar. The professors are amazing, and it’s very group-based. I expected it to be a bit more fast-paced because it’s only a year, but it’s manageable at the moment, although it is the beginning of the term. But yeah it isn’t as stressful as I imagined it to be.
How was the post grad application process?
For me, it was so much easier than my friends who were applying to programs in the states. Firstly, the application is free, so that was great. But also it’s pretty standard in terms of what they ask for. I think the only difficult part was understanding the conversion of GPA, but it’s different for every university so you can usually look it up online.
What advice would you give to students who are considering studying abroad?
I think it’s a great experience! Everyone will have their own expectations and their own goals that they want to get out of it, and I think it’s important to remember that. Because when you go abroad, it’s okay to have things in common with people and to go do things together, but I think if you have your own set of goals you shouldn’t be afraid to go pursue them alone.
That’s something that I really got out of studying abroad as well: independence. You’re really in charge of what you want to do. And that’s one reason why I think everyone should go abroad. Because you design what you want out of your education through a study abroad experience, whether it’s here or anywhere else. And it’s important to remember that learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom.
What is one of your favorite quotes that relates to your experience here?
“Rest is not a reward.”
You don’t have to only rest once you’re tired. Specifically for study abroad, you have a lot of things you want to do, and I think it’s okay to just take a step back sometimes and say “you know, I think I need a little time to myself.” And not only doing it when you get to the point of exhaustion, but just taking small moments throughout your experience to sort of reflect on what you want to do and what you need to do for yourself — and differentiating between the two.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Well, the Clinton Foundation is coming to Edinburgh this year. They encourage students to come up with their own personal projects, and then a student wins some type of award. So they’re coming to the University of Edinburgh and I’m interested in going to that. And I’m also just excited to learn more about my area of study and meet new people in my department.
What is one thing that you love specifically about living in Scotland?
This might sound funny — but the weather! I love the weather. I don’t do well in the heat; it just doesn’t make me feel good. So I really enjoy the weather here. It’s one of my favorite parts. Being able to wake up tired and walk to class, and then feel a gust of wind — it just rejuvenates me!
Thank you for sharing your insight with us, Madeleine!