As a first-year student currently beginning the second semester, the shock of adapting to university life is still pretty fresh. Therefore, out of touch and out of practice, the secrets of managing this whole student thing- specifically in Edinburgh- are only just revealing themselves. I’m studying Ecological and Environmental Sciences with Management and so have 2 compulsory courses per semester: one that’s biology-based and one which is management based. When I first gave a courtesy glance to my timetable a few weeks before the first semester was due to start I couldn’t believe my luck! Naively not taking into account only my compulsory classes were shown and additional contact hours (labs and tutorials) hadn’t been added yet, I was excited to see I only had a handful of hours each day and began thinking of the endless possibilities of how I would fill all that time…
Fast forward to week 1 of the semester and reality hit. I now had an additional course- Geography- to account for, with a compulsory tutorial to attend every week. Biology had a lab scheduled every week and a practical every other week. Management only had a tutorial per module but was consistently a 9am lecture which, I would argue, comes with its own struggles. Now transitioning into the second semester, I’d like to think that I’m getting a bit more of a handle on doing this student business and so I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned past semester and a handful of things I ‘d wished I’d known.
Lesson 1: Think about travel time
I don’t even want to attempt to calculate all the hours I’ve lost walking the streets of Edinburgh to get to lecture halls. If you want to catch up on notes or even just schedule in time for yourself between lectures then you should figure out early on how long it takes you to get from place to place and look into alternative options that might speed up your travel time. Cycling is a great option for getting around and all the university campuses have an endless number of bike racks. If you’re an international student and not keen on buying your own bike then the JustEat Cycles offer quick and easy bike hire and have stations all around the university. Annual subscriptions to them are available for £90 or they cost £1.50 for hire up to an hour and can be found here: https://edinburghcyclehire.com/
Buses are also a viable option. There is a regular shuttle bus from the main campus to King’s that operates every 15-20 minutes and is free for all students and staff. This is a lifesaver, especially after a long winter’s day when you want to do anything but walk home in the cold and dark. Bus passes are available for £420 at the beginning of the academic year for students. This gives unlimited travel on any Lothian bus and Edinburgh’s tram system and comes in handy for getting to different campuses as well as possible travelling for field trips. You can find a full list of prices here: https://www.lothianbuses.com/ridacard/
Lesson 2: Find an efficient note-taking style
Another thing that took me a while to figure out is my most productive note-taking style. I quickly figured out than the technique I had in school of rewriting notes at a later date and making everything look pretty wasn’t exactly the most time-efficient method to apply after lectures. Unfortunately, my handwriting resembles that of a scribbled 7 year old’s and rewriting notes is usually taken up primarily by me trying to figure out what I’ve written down. I’ve since moved on to bringing my laptop to class which has sped up the revision process at a later date three-fold. Doing things such as this early on will save so much time in the long run, something which you will definitely thank yourself for later..
Lesson 3: Make time to chill
Constantly travelling from A to B and trying to fit in being social, as well as possibly attending different societies can easily take its toll on you and you may find yourself in a bit of a slump. Take it from a girl who tried to do it all and was diagnosed as anaemic by her flatmate 2 weeks in. Apparently having “I’m so tired” as your catchphrase all day, every day isn’t a healthy way to be. Therefore, always try and fit in some time for you to chill out in whatever way you prefer. My current method is watching Sex Education on Netflix with a green tea but it can be anything from making time to read, going for a walk in the countless green spaces around Edinburgh, or doing a bit of crafting. I really enjoy drawing and painting so have also taken to drawing little pictures of the city when I fancy a bit of mindless activity. Making sure you don’t burn out is so important as it will really affect your mental health and attitude towards the university and putting the effort in.
Lesson 4: Find your thing
Obviously, you come to uni to study but there is so much to get involved in outside of just attending your lectures and tutorials. There is a society for just about every interest, from Art to African drumming to Anime, and everything in between. There is great opportunity in the first few weeks to try out all the different societies without committing to anything and so you’re able to see what you’re actually interested in and might want to pursue. I went along to so many different clubs the first few weeks and found tons of things that interested me. I now really enjoy kickboxing where I’ve met tons of great people and have the opportunity to kick and punch all that weekly uni stress away. Another perk of societies is some great socials. Who doesn’t love a themed pub crawl?
And if you’re not keen to try something new, they’ll be a club for any interests you already have or you were part of in-school which gives the opportunity to find like-minded people. A list of EUSA societies can be found here https://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/activities/societies/findasociety/
Lesson 5: It’s okay to not have a great time all the time
The fifth and final lesson I’ve learned is that studying in Edinburgh is a difficult thing to do and it’s okay to feel like you’re struggling sometimes. Transitioning from secondary school to university where you suddenly become completely responsible for your learning can be tricky and does take a fair bit of adapting. I took a year out as well so was completely out of touch from the studying life and did find it extremely hard getting back into the swing of things. On top of that, you can feel a lot of pressure to be having the time of your life all the time. Edinburgh is a stunning city full of so many interesting things to do and the university itself always has so many things going on. However, if you want to take a day to stay in your flat not doing anything even though there’s a really good event going on or all your friends are going to something, that’s okay! You will make so many great memories at university but you don’t have to be making them all day, every day. This ties in with lesson 3- I can not stress the importance of putting yourself first when you think that you need some time to chill. If you feel you need it, take it!
Edinburgh is a great city and an amazing place to study but it does take a bit of adaptation when you first get going. It’s important to remember that everyone’s university experience is different and what works for others may not always work for you. Allow yourself to make mistakes and figure things out as you go and soon enough you’ll look back and realise how much you’ve learned in your time here. I know I still have tons more lessons to learn and will probably look back on this post and laugh at how little I know now.
By Lauren Marnie