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In with the bricks, or how a building can make a difference

Lockdown taught us that you don’t really need to be somewhere physically to get the work done, right? History student Olivia might disagree.

When I started university, I didn’t really spend much time in the William Robertson Wing – the home of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, or HCA as it’s usually known. In the beginning I got lost one too many times, and gave up on it because the Undergraduate Common Room intimidated me, and the lift was out of service when I wanted to go to the research room and didn’t want to climb the stairs. So I found myself mostly in the main library feeling entirely anonymous. But now, almost all my time is spent in the HCA building, and I see and interact with the same people every day. A degree as large as history can be a little daunting, but the HCA building provides a small, tight-knit community within the larger University community which makes that a little easier.

A typical day, untypical places

I usually start my days early. I wake up around 6 or 6:30am and go for a run around the Meadows or around Holyrood Park (though in reality, it’s pretty stop and go because there are lots of very friendly dogs out in the morning and I miss my dog at home a lot). When I get back, I take a quick shower, get myself ready for the day, eat some breakfast, and head off to HCA where I will inevitably realise I’d left a book I needed for class in the ever-growing pile of books on my desk at my flat. C’est la vie!

Statues and bookcases in the Student Research RoomsI usually get to HCA around 9am and head to the Student Research Room on the third floor for the first part of my day. When I get there, I wave at my friend Josh, and get settled in at my favourite desk (second from the door on the left). I usually like to make a list on Monday of everything that I need to get done for the week and then set in on everything that I have to do. Inevitably, I will have a lot of thoughts and feelings about whatever it is that I’m reading for whichever seminar, and I will drag Josh into the hallway to gesticulate wildly about female poets in the Gàidhealtachd (an article by Anne Frater), or about a Medieval Islamic medical case study (an article by Cristina Alvarez-Millan), or Lidl being out of my favourite pasta shape (it can be a very hard life).

At around 1pm, unless I’ve had a seminar, I’ll head down to the common room which is usually just picking up as everyone else comes down for their lunch break as well. I’ll generally set my things down at the best desk in the common room (in front of the window second from the left) and settle in for about an hour with a group of my friends. Generally, I don’t get into the lunch debate that plagues every University of Edinburgh student, but sometimes I dabble and will get a wrap from Nile Valley (not African Wrap because they don’t marinate their aubergines the same way). I usually take about an hour for lunch, but my friend Ellie and I often have some kind of shenanigan going on that we loop the other in on (and very often get complained about on The Tab).

Students chat in the Undergraduate Common Room

After lunch, I bid my friends in the common room farewell and I put my headphones on and face the window. I’ll usually do my more intense work in the morning in the quiet of the research room and save my less intense work for the common room, so I often end up writing my dissertation in the afternoons or catching up on some work.

In the evenings, I try to take it easy. I generally leave HCA around 5 or 6pm, and I usually spend the evening making dinner and watching something dumb on television or reading. But on Mondays I have History Society meetings (a society I’ve been involved with since my first year and which has really helped me get to know my peers), once a month I have ‘girls night’ with my neighbours (who I only got the chance to meet because they’re also in the History Society), and every so often I’ll stay late in the building to finish my dissertation work (with the help of friends who are actually largely distracting though there’s no one I’d rather be distracted by).

The HCA Community

The spiral staircase in HCA, with a cast of the Venus de Milo at the bottom

Being an HCA student and having these spaces reserved specifically for HCA people is really special and I cannot imagine my university experience without it. With the amount of time I spend in the building, I’ve gotten to know my degree much more intimately than I think I would have had I not spent so much time here. I’ve been able to make lasting connections with faculty because I am just always around. Whether it’s been that I often ride the lift up with the same people, or I’m closer to office hours, I have really valued my time hanging out with lecturers and getting to know them more personally than we really get to in seminars.

I have also made lasting friendships through HCA. There is a definite group of us who spend every day at HCA doing the same things with the same people, and by virtue of proximity, we’ve been able to build these connections that have lasted years. It is a lovely thing to know that your space is a space you can share with your friends and with people who are just as excited about their degrees as you are about yours.

Being in HCA and being part of the little HCA community who spends all their time in the HCA building means that I know my friends are perfectly willing to have me gesticulate wildly at them about whatever I’m currently reading, and be frustrated alongside me that a text I need isn’t available in English, and stay late with me in the common room for moral support while I struggle through my dissertation. Having access to the HCA building has made my degree feel much smaller, despite being a huge programme, and it has made me feel much more at home in the space I spend so much of my time in.




So, you’ve decided to study a joint honours degree …

Twice the fun or double the trouble? Student Ambassador Aalish is studying a joint honours degree.

I made the choice to study Chinese and History simply because I love learning a language and history has always had a soft spot in my heart. Studying a language alongside history presents its own unique challenges, not only from each subject itself, but also when they are combined together. But what is it actually like to study a joint honour degree at the University of Edinburgh? I’m going to talk you through what a general day in my life looks like as well as talking about the how your degree could be structured and what your classes could be like!

The practical stuff

Most days my classes start at 10am. It is very rare that I start much later (apart from a Tuesday where for some reason I have one class at 4pm!). Usually, I have around three or four classes a day, which I like to point out is a lot, but this is because I am studying a non-European language. Generally, at the University of Edinburgh, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Arabic have a lot more contact hours than European languages because they are just so different to English. If you choose to study a European language you will likely have more classes than your peers who study a straight history degree, but not to the extent where you have 15 hours of class a week like me!

Statues and bookcases in the student research rooms

The student research rooms.

Starting at 10am I don’t usually leave the university campus until 5pm most days. I like to do the majority of my work at University so I can relax at home with my flatmates. My day mainly consists of language classes with the odd history class thrown in. I spend three hours at classes across the campus and for the rest of the time I prefer to study in either the School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures or in the Student Research Rooms in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. This is a small library that only those who study history, classics or archaeology courses can access and it has little marble Greek statues around it!

Studying history mainly involves a lot of reading. For each history course you generally get two hours of lecture and a one-hour tutorial. The lectures will have a lot of people in them and you will all be listening to a lecturer talk about the topic you are studying. It goes without saying that you should be taking notes as the lecturers can say a lot about each of the topics as this is often their area of special interest and study, and so you have to develop the skill of notetaking. This involves actively listening and deciding what is important or relevant information, and generally does not involve copying from the presentation as you will be able to access this information throughout the duration of your course.

Tutorials are smaller groups of about twelve students where you discuss the topics you have been learning about in your lectures. Most tutorials require you to do pre-reading and so you discuss these reading in the tutorials with your peers and instructor (who is usually either a PhD student or a lecturer) alongside discussing any proposed questions that were suggested on the tutorial worksheet. Doing these readings is really important as it is good practice for writing your essays. When it comes to writing an essay, you need to have done a lot of academic reading in order to back up your claims and argument  – this means you need to know what is useful and what is not, which you can practice in doing the readings for your tutorials. The most important thing I would like to tell you is to learn to read well – it will really help you in your studies of history!

The good bit

Studying a language is quite different to studying history. First off there is much less reading which can prove to be a nice break from all the reading surrounding history. In Chinese, Russian, Japanese and Arabic you tend to get more classes than the European languages but you will definitely have quite a few classes ranging from grammar, reading and writing to listening to lectures and, of course, oral classes. Oral classes are usually around six people, with a tutor who is a native to the language. These are my personal favourite classes because you get to apply what you know into practicing speaking with your peers, which I always find fun, plus, often you get to make up fun stories with your classmates!

Generally, I prefer tutorials in ether History or in Chinese because I like to have a more a of classroom type setting like you have during high school. Saying this, I have had some really interesting lectures that I wished went on for much longer than their allotted time because it was just so interesting. The most recent one being a lecture on photography and its global influence. It really challenged a lot of my perceptions about the use of photography in history and I thoroughly enjoyed it! At university you get a wide choice in the courses you do so if there is something that interests you, I recommend choosing a course that covers this. But if you think this would be the most boring lecture to ever exist, make sure not to choose a course that covers this! Choose anything you think will really interest you and I am sure you will enjoy most, if not all, of the course.

Perhaps the best part of doing a history degree with a language, though, is the guaranteed year abroad in the country of the language you are studying. This is something I am really looking forward to as a day in my life next year will look a little different when I am studying Chinese and History in China.

All work and no play?

SHCA Blog View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill at sunset

A view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill at sunset

Now you’ve probably gathered that I really like my degree and I probably sound like a little bit of a nerd, but I promise I do other things outside of studying! Most evenings, I spend time with my flatmates and friends across the city, sometimes going out into the pubs and clubs of the city, sometimes out to the cinema, or even sometimes on a walk around the city. Don’t knock it! Edinburgh is a beautiful city both during the day and the night and one evening I happened to see the northern lights from Calton Hill!

On top of this I am involved in a few societies. The History society is a big society for everyone who studies history or has an interest in history, and through this I play football at the weekend with the Edinburgh Woman’s History Football Club. I really love this and it is such a fun way to get to know others who like to play this sport but also study history and also one of the cheapest ways to play football! I am also a committee member on another society and frequently attend other societies such as the salsa society.

If you are thinking about doing joint honours History with a language, I would highly recommend it! Overall, I would say a day in my life can be very busy, but dividing my time between history and Chinese helps to keep me interested and motivated.




It’s all Greek (and Turkish) to me! Studying in Edinburgh when English is not your native language

Over 10,000 overseas students matriculated with the University of Edinburgh in the 2021-2022 academic year, but what is like to study here? Georgia-Taygeti – originally from Greece – shares her experience.

My favorite class throughout the first two years of my History degree was not an actual history class. Instead, I looked forward the most to my Turkish class which gathered in the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies building four times a week. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my history classes, or policy and politics courses I took as electives. I did! But there was something really special about our little group of students from across the disciplines and our shared frustration over Turkish grammar. I ended up taking the course for four semesters and the class size ranged from nine to two, for our final semester before honors. I really enjoyed how regularly we met, the close-knit feeling of the group, and the Turkish treats our professor would bring us. I grew up watching Turkish soap operas, which I highly recommend as a genre of television, so I was really excited to be in a classroom learning Turkish. Mostly, I loved Turkish because in the classroom, all of us were trying to learn a language together. There was no one that was further ahead or further behind. In my history classes, there are always a couple of us that did not grow up speaking English and, still, it can still feel scary to have to participate in discussions with native speakers.

I started learning English when I was in primary school, as a foreign language. Now, I live my entire life in it, which feels insane. I write my academic essays, make friends, and work in it. Learning a second language opened a lot of paths for me, but also was a humbling experience, very much in the same way learning Turkish was. For me, learning a language is about making a lot (a LOT) of mistakes, until you start making sense. It also allows us to challenge our own sense of reality, both personally and as students. For history specifically, the range of sources I have been able to access through the languages I speak is significantly larger than if I only spoke English. If you only read English, it is easy to assume that all academic knowledge is produced in the Anglophone world. It is not. Really good historians produce work in other languages, and learning a new language can help us all access their work, instead of relying on the translation of their thought into English.

By virtue of the many language degrees Edinburgh offers anyone can take a language as a pre-honours elective. If that does not work for you, the Centre for Open Learning also runs ten week courses for many, many languages! One of my favorite recent fiction reads, ‘The Idiot’ by Elif Batuman, largely revolves around the protagonist and the relationships she develops with her classmates in her Russian language learning class. So if I can’t convince you to learn a language at university, maybe Batuman can!

Centre for Open Learning




The unexpected perks of bus travel in Edinburgh

Moving to another city can be stressful and frustrating but there can also be unexpected benefits, as Hanna (Classical Studies MA Hons) found.

A view across Edinburgh.

When I first came to Edinburgh, everyone assured me that there was an “amazing” public transport system here. However, coming from a big city in Germany with a close-knit system of trams, undergrounds and buses, I was rather disappointed. I thought Edinburgh was a capital city but all it has is a tram with a single line and buses. Since Edinburgh is exceptionally walkable and most of my weekday appointments are a 30-minute walk or less, this didn’t bother me too much. Besides, especially in the city centre, walking is just as fast or even faster than taking the bus. However, as my radius slowly expanded as the semester progressed, 45-minute walks in the rain down to the Peffermill Playing Fields, the University’s sports complex, or tiring walks back from the supermarket with full bags of my weekly groceries became more and more tiresome. So, I began to cautiously familiarise myself with the bus system.

Contrary to people’s assurances, I felt the buses are not always that reliable. Most of the buses don’t tell you the names of the stops, which makes the journey very stressful if you’re not yet very familiar with the city. And due to roadworks buses can be delayed or need take a different route than the one your phone shows. This always makes me panic and get off at the next possible stop! But there are some benefits to the buses in Edinburgh.

The infamously changeable Scottish weather sometimes made me take the bus anyway, and then the bus is a warm shelter from the wind and rain. And the exceptional friendliness of the bus drivers is just as warm! Coming from a place where no one speaks to the public transport drivers and they never interact with you, the bus drivers in Edinburgh are a wonder to me. They are – I am not exaggerating – the friendliest, most polite, and helpful people. I once took a bus from the airport to my flat and asked the bus driver for directions. He didn’t just tell me the stop. No, he stopped at a bus stop, turned off the engine, got out, helped me with my luggage and showed me the next stop I needed to get to and explained in detail which buses I could take.

Since bus travel was made free in Scotland for people under 22 (for many students, this means the entire duration of their degree), I have decided to officially make my peace with buses. Plus, what I have acknowledge only now, buses are one of the best ways to get to know Edinburgh. The architecture of the city is magnificent but you don’t really notice it until you look up – and that’s often not an option due to the aforementioned changeable weather. But if you sit in the front at the double-decker’s big window, you can see the impressive architecture and all the monuments of Edinburgh from a prime perspective. A truly worthwhile experience.

What’s more, buses are free not only in Edinburgh, but all over Scotland. This means you can travel to St Andrews, North Berwick or Glasgow for free in no more than two hours. Unfortuantely night buses are not included in the free bus ride which can be annoying when your feet hurt from a night-out at a ceilidh but that doesn’t interfere with my reconciliation with bus travel in Edinburgh. The next time it’s pouring rain, my shoulders hurt from grocery bags, and I have the prospect of reading my book on a warm bus, I’ll be all appeased again. Buses are now one of the things that make Edinburgh even better for me, and as long as I am not 22 yet, I will definitely make the most of my free bus travel pass.

 

Lothian Buses cover Edinburgh and the Lothians

Plan your journey with the Lothian Bus journey planner

Applying for Young Persons’ (Under 22s) Free Bus Travel

 

 

 




A day in the life… Scarlett

Scarlett is a 4th year History and Politics student and she’s going to take you through a typical day in her life to give you a taste of what it might be like to study at the University of Edinburgh!

 

It’s Wednesday, February 2nd…

8.00am – Typically when I wake up and the first thing to do is grab a cup of tea and breakfast. I can’t say that I’m always waking up this time or getting up right when my alarm goes off at 8.00 but I do have some mid-semester deadlines coming up so its up and at ‘em for me!

9.30am – I have arrived at the School’s Student Research Rooms, a study space reserved for History, Classics and Archaeology (HCA) students. After last year in the midst of a full lockdown it feels amazing to be able to come back on campus and enjoy these beautiful study spaces once again. I’d say we’re pretty lucky in HCA to have a study space just for us that is so atmospheric. There’s a huge glass ceiling over the space letting the sun shine through and I see so many familiar faces studying in the space as well. For the next few hours I’ll be working on one of my chapters of my dissertation in Medieval history.

 

Student research rooms showing bookcases and statues around the s pace

The Student Research Rooms.

 

12.00pm – My friend and I head out to one of our favourite coffee shops next to campus, Thomas J Walls, for some lunch. There are so many great food and coffee spots right on or next to our campus but today I was really feeling their avocado toast (they do it particularly well). As it’s so close to our building we run into several members of staff including the head of History and have a quick conversation. One thing I’ve always loved about the school is how welcoming and positive members of staff are. I feel that over the years I’ve really been able to cultivate positive relationships and found that they have been so supportive when I reach out for help!

A mug of hot chocolate with a large marshmallow floating in it. It looks delicious!

Thomas J Walls hot chocolate – how good does that look?!

1.00pm – And we’re are back in the Research Room! For the next few hours I’ll just be doing some readings for my special subject course ‘Early Medieval Sexualities c.500-1000’. Our next seminar is discussing Monastic purity and clerical celibacy in about the ninth century in Western Europe. We’ll be going over sexual sin in male monasteries and why sexual purity was so important in the cloister. One thing I really appreciate about the structure of the History Degree is the fact that in our final year the classes we take are a year-long. It really allows us to delve into the subject at more length and really niche down on our interests!

4.30pm – In need of a snack break. My friend and I head over to Teviot, the student union, for some hot chocolate. I also really love the cookies that they sell at all of the student union venues so I make sure to grab one.

Members of the History Society at pictured at the the last History Society Ball.

Me and friends all dressed up at our last History Society Ball.

5.00pm – I have a committee meeting with Edinburgh University History Society. I have been a part of the society since my first year and this year I’m the President! Being involved in the society has been a great way to be able to meet people in my course and stay active in the student community. Now out of the lockdown we’re able to resume some of our traditional events from pre-COVID! Last semester we held our annual ceilidh and we are currently in the works for planning our International Trip in the Reading Week (going to Krakow!) and our Annual Ball. This has been a really essential part of my student experience and I recommend everyone get involved in some way.

6.00pm – Look at me heading to the gym (a New Years Resolution). I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself an avid gym goer but Pleasance gym is great and has so many free classes for members. You can watch Netflix on the cardio machines and there’s a sauna in the locker rooms (I must admit this is my main motivation to go).

7.00pm – I head home and have some leftovers for my dinner before getting ready to go out to drinks with some of my friends. There are so many cool places to explore around Edinburgh and it is such a great city to be in as a student. Tonight, we’re headed to the New Town a little bit away from campus. I’ve genuinely really enjoyed my time here and am so happy with my choice to study here four years ago!




Life as an LGBTQ+ student in Edinburgh

As part of Pride Month, Tristan (Ancient and Medieval History, MA Hons) shares his experience as an LGBTQ+ student at the University of Edinburgh.

Navigating your first year at university can feel both intimidating and exciting as you get to grips with higher education, exploring a new city and meeting new people. This experience can seem even more daunting as an LGBTQ+ student, particularly when tolerance can vary so widely between countries. Fortunately, Scotland has strong governmental policy supporting the rights of LGBTQ+ people and the United Kingdom as a whole has consistently ranked highly on the Rainbow Europe Index. But what does this mean for LGBTQ+ students at Edinburgh, and what is life in this city really like for those of us who identify as such?

LGBTQ+ Life on Campus

As an openly transgender and queer man, I did have some anxieties about adjusting to student life and whether I would find my place in Edinburgh. Despite being an Edinburgh native, beginning undergraduate studies is a big step for anyone. Thankfully, my time here has been overwhelming positive and I’ve had the opportunity to engage in a number of LGBTQ+ centred events. I currently sit on the School of History, Classics and Archaeology’s Equality and Diversity Committee and, as part of that, helped organise an LGBTQ+ History Month event in February 2021. Despite being forced online by the COVID-19 pandemic, this meant we were able to invite a speaker from the US to discuss their work with Queer Britain. EUSA, the University of Edinburgh’s Student Association, also run events to commemorate this month, so you’re sure to find lots to get involved with.

Likewise, there is both a student-led PrideSoc, which you can join, and the Staff Pride Network who hosts events and networking opportunities. LGBTQ+ support is very visible on campus, and I’ve felt confident being open about my sexuality and gender identity.

Finding Support

As well as the groups on campus, there are various charities and community organisations which can support you as an LGBTQ+ person. LGBT Health and Wellbeing, based in Edinburgh, host a variety of services, including several social groups, so you needn’t feel worried about being isolated during your time here. You can also find support through the likes of the Scottish Trans Alliance, LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland.

In 2020, Somewhere: For Us, a magazine celebrating LGBTQ+ people in Scotland, was launched here in Edinburgh which is not only a fantastic resource but highlights the importance of visibility in the city.

Bars, Cafes and Eateries

Edinburgh also boasts several venues either owned by or active allies towards LGBTQ+ folk, including sober spaces such as the Greenwood Cafe, and bars and clubs like Cafe Habana and CC Blooms. There is also a fantastic queer-friendly venue opposite the central campus, Paradise Palms, if you want to grab some food (all of which is vegetarian/vegan) or a drink after your studies. Whether you’re looking for somewhere to eat or want to experience the night life, there are lots of options within the city.

Edinburgh as a city is vibrant and beautiful, and LGBTQ+ life here is no exception. If I can offer any advice to you as a prospective student, it’s OK to be yourself and don’t hesitate to reach out for support.

 

 

 

 




The write stuff

Former History (MA Hons) student and now MSc History student, Ruby, takes a look at student journalism and creative writing opportunities at the University of Edinburgh.

Undertaking a degree in the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology means you won’t be short of chances to hone your writing skills. Whether they take the form of a blogpost, an essay, or a translation, most of your assessments will be written work – plus, you’ve got your dissertation at the end of the four years! But if you fancy yourself as an art critic, investigative journalist, or political commentator, there are plenty of opportunities at the University of Edinburgh to take part in extracurricular writing. Below are just a few of the Societies you can get involved in – keep your eyes peeled for their events during Welcome Week.

“The Student” (studentnewspaper.org)

Perhaps the most obvious outlet for student writing is the University of Edinburgh’s fortnightly newspaper, “The Student”. It was founded in 1887 by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (“Treasure Island”, etc.), which makes it Europe’s oldest student newspaper. As you might have guessed from its name, “The Student” is entirely produced by students. Whilst the paper is registered as a Student Society, with the Edinburgh University Student’s Association (EUSA), it is totally independent from the University – meaning the stories they publish don’t pull any punches!

“The Student” covers breaking news, but also has sections dedicated to features, opinion pieces, reviews, sports, science, and lifestyle. Whether you’ve got opinions about events at the Scottish Parliament, the latest film releases, or the price of curly fries at Teviot Row House there’s likely to be a space for you.

All articles written for “The Student” are published online and some make their way into print with physical copies being available for free across campus. Perfect for proudly sticking up on the fridge, or for posting home to your family.

Because The Student is not just a paper, but also society, they run plenty of social events alongside their writer’s meetings. You can write two articles before you need to buy membership, but why wait and miss out on all the fun?

“Retrospect” (retrospectjournal.com)

“Retrospect Journal” is a student-led journal for the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology. Originally founded in 2006, as the journal of the Edinburgh University History Society, it became an independent EUSA society in 2012, and now accepts submissions from across the three disciplines.

It’s the perfect place to submit that essay you’re really proud of, but they also accept everything from interviews, to reviews, to even short historical fiction pieces. Submissions are accepted throughout the semester for its website, alongside publishing a themed print edition twice a year. Copies of the journal – complete with beautiful illustrations – can be found in the Undergraduate Common Room or ordered online.

Much like “The Student”, “Retrospect” is a great way to meet other students, especially those within the School. Members can often be found at school-wide events, such as the William Robertson Cup (an annual staff versus students competition), alongside the History Society, Classics Society, and Archaeology Society.

You do need to buy a membership before you can be published in Retrospect , but all membership fees go right back into funding the journal – either maintaining the website or covering print costs.

“The Rattlecap” (therattlecap.com)

Founded in 2018, “The Rattlecap” describes itself as an “intersectional forum for discussion and change”, and a “thought-provoking, kind, and empowering space.” Their self-confessed “monthly-ish” issues are always centred on a theme, with previous editions including: “Connection”, “Isolation”, and “Recovery.”

Each month’s theme is always open to individual interpretation and submissions can take the form of current affairs reporting, opinion pieces, or creative writing and poetry. It also has a dedicated “History, Philosophy, & Education” section, if you’re interested in turning an essay or seminar presentation into a more concise, journalistic article. Articles are published online and always accompanied by a unique illustration.

Whilst your first submission is free, in order to have more than one article published you will need to pay for membership. Paying for membership also allows you attend its social events, which include everything from a book club, to film screenings, to cooking and crafting sessions.

There are hundreds of societies at the University of Edinburgh, with new ones being founded each year. As a result, this blogpost has only managed to scratch the surface of all student-run publications available to take your submissions. Rest assured, whatever you write, it’s likely you’ll be able to find a home for it – even if it means taking a leaf out of Robert Louis Stevenson’s book and founding your own paper!




Being an international student in Edinburgh

Leaving home to go to University is daunting enough, but what’s it like if you’re travelling across the world to do it? Scarlett is from the US so she can tell you.

At times as an international student, it can be difficult to be so far away from home. But trust me when I say it’s worth it! Now, as a third-year student I can say I’ve found a home in Edinburgh.

Members of the History Society in Prague.

When I first started university, I didn’t experience too much homesickness. The first few weeks are packed with classes and social activities. I was so busy meeting new people and going to class I barley even noticed how far away I was! My accommodation was really social, and a few of us would go to the Welcome Week stalls and then go to society events in the evenings. When classes started, my tutorial group would grab coffee or drinks afterward. It was also so much fun to learn more about Scottish culture and history. Although I struggled to adjust to the accent, Scots are so welcoming, and I loved exploring the city.

It wasn’t until around late November and Thanksgiving was coming up that I started to feel homesick. Most of my friends from home were on break from their own universities and hanging out with each other. It was also my first time missing out on the holiday and the longest I had spent away from my family. It’s not easy to be so far away from home especially since my friends around me could do weekend trips to see their families.

Coming back from the winter break, I felt rejuvenated but still fearful that the feeling would return. Thankfully, by then I had built up a solid group of friends and I started attending more society events, getting closely involved with the History Society. With them, I attended social events like the Annual Winter Ball and Burns Night as well as going on a trip to Prague in the February Reading week. This gave me a group of people to turn to if I was ever missing home, and last year my friends and I put on our own Thanksgiving meal together.

I still get homesick, but it’s so much less frequent now and I absolutely love being an international student in Edinburgh. The city offers so much to do from outdoor climbs up Arthur’s seat or a fun spooky tour of Mary King’s Close to just or popping into different restaurants and pubs in the New Town. I’m so happy I made the choice to study abroad!

 

 




LGBT+ History Month

The University of Edinburgh Staff Pride Network supports LGBT+ colleagues and allies, one of whom is HCA staff member Emma. We asked her about her role as Ally Representative.

Hi there! I’m Emma, the School of History, Classics and Archaeology’s Modern Apprentice who has recently been appointed as Ally Representative in the University of Edinburgh Staff Pride Network (SPN). As it’s LGBT+ History Month, I thought I’d let you know how my role works and what you can do to support the community at the University.

Ally reps show constant support to the LGBT+ community in many ways. They familiarise themselves with the language to use when talking with LGBT+ people such as preferred pronouns, they organise and become involved in events, they educate themselves on the history of the movement  – LGBT+ History Month is an annual month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements, founded in 1994, and a great source of information – and last but not least they stand up for what they believe in! As well as an Ally Rep I am also the Meeting Secretary for the Network, and am part of the events team in the committee whilst creating and curating the SPN Instagram account.

I’ve supported the LGBT+ community fully throughout my life so am determined to put my organising skills to work to create some fun and engaging events and make sure LGBT+ voices are being heard and respected across the School and the wider University with my other fellow ally rep, Tara Spires-Jones. We’ll do everything we can to make the UoE a more inclusive place and to encourage other allies to speak out and show their support for the community.

If you are interested in becoming more educated and involved in the Staff Pride Network, join our lovely group of people in the network to keep making supporting the LGBT+ community possible! If you’re at the University and  have any questions, or if you have event ideas or important issues regarding LGBT+ staff or students at the UoE for myself and my other ally rep to follow up on, contact me at the School and I’ll get back to you!

Further information:

Find out more about University of EdinburghStaff Pride Network

Network events for LGBT+ History Month

LGBT+ Allies

University of Edinburgh staff – join the Network

Dr Molly Merryman

Dr Molly Merryman

 

LGBT+ History Month Event

As part of LGBT+ History Month Dr Molly Merryman gave a lecture, ‘Queer Voices from the Pandemic’ on 9 February, 2021. You can view a recording of the lecture at this link.




Considering graduate study?

After four years of study, why would you want to do more? One of our Student Ambassadors, Alfie, has some thoughts.

An undergraduate degree at university is a significant commitment. Time, money, not to mention a lot of concerted effort to complete whilst juggling a variety of other elements of life. So, when considering the option to go into another degree after undergraduate, it’s natural to be nervous. The prospect of another year – or even longer – of study with all the accompanying costs and issues attached can be a frightening consideration for anyone. So why do it?

It is, of course, worth noting that academic study is not for everyone. If you’ve got a real knack for academic work and a passion for a specific research topic or want a job in an industry that requires a specific postgraduate qualification, it may be a good choice for you. Having a suitable research direction in mind will likely be important when looking at programmes and for research programmes such as an MRes or MPhil it will be integral to the application process. For taught courses, such as an MSc or an MA, a focus on skills development and personal qualities will take a precedent. Knowing how to market yourself, be it for your passions or your skills, is a key element to any application.

A graduate degree is a fantastic opportunity and can give you the chance to develop new skills for the workplace, academic or otherwise, but it’s worth remembering that it will come with additional responsibilities. The workload for a postgraduate degree is significantly higher than the average year of an undergraduate degree, and there are often more complicated matters regarding funding. Loans and scholarships are available, but the former can be costly in the long term and the latter are never guaranteed when you begin your application. Don’t let this dissuade you if you’re particularly passionate about a certain topic, just bear in mind that there are more funding processes to apply to, and this kind of research is worth doing at an earlier stage.

The graduate application process itself can be tough. Between rejections, cancelled courses and funding issues, it can feel hard to bounce back. Personally, I found that losing out on my desired graduate course to cancellation was a very hard moment, but I was able to find an alternative that I’m happy with as it allows me to pursue a personal research project. This was all made easier due to my research into graduate schemes starting early in the year, around the summer before classes start. It’s around this time that graduate degrees will have requirements updated for the new term, and it’s from here that you can make the best of time off from university to begin your search for graduate study options in honest.

So graduate study is a great opportunity for the right candidate that offers a bridge into professional development or further academic growth, and is a very viable choice following an undergraduate course. Just don’t feel like it’s either a guarantee or a necessity.

If you are considering postgraduate study the School of History, Classics and Archaology offers scholarships for Masters and Phd programmes – more information




Approaching the dissertation

Dissertation. A big word, and often a scary one. Alfie, a Student Ambassador, looks at ways to make it slightly less intimidating.

Perhaps the culmination of your time at university and exceptional (circumstances notwithstanding), also the longest piece of academic writing you will have created to date. Sounds like a lot – and let’s not mince words, it is a big task and not one to be taken lightly. However, with the right preparation, forethought, and enthusiasm, it is as enjoyable a project as any other. It should represent the sum of your passions and interests that you have cultivated over your time studying, or perhaps afford you a chance to further explore areas you have not yet had the chance to investigate. Simply put, it is a fantastic opportunity to hit your stride as an aspiring academic, or to cap off your university experience.

When it comes to the dissertation, it is never too early to start planning. I’m not suggesting that you should be coming out of your first year lectures and taking an abundance of notes on potential topics and sources to use, rather if something grabs you early on, maybe it could be something worth considering for the future. If a particular topic, method, or concept catches your eye, take notes! Remember it for later, and by the time that third year rolls around and the question is being asked, you’ll have some ideas for what you’ve got planned.

It is worth bearing in mind that third year is an optimal time to start your planning, especially over the summer break. At this point in your studies you will have likely covered a great deal of content and – hopefully – will have found something you enjoy writing about. If this is the case, take notes from any courses you have around the subject area and try to explore them. Consolidate reading lists, discuss material with suitable academics, and read around the subject if you have time. Naturally, this isn’t something that you need to have done by the first day of fourth year, but it’s something worth preparing if you have the time to spare. In addition, try to identify an appropriate member of academic staff to act as your dissertation supervisor – someone who is ideally familiar with the topic, so that you can discuss ideas accordingly.

Writing the dissertation is a separate beast and surprisingly manageable if you like to break things down into sections. A dissertation will often have a literature review that examines contemporary academic thought on a topic and is not too dissimilar from discussions of readings done for seminars. This is often a large portion of your dissertation, so be sure you’re comfortable doing the reading to follow through. Other key chapters are your introduction where you’ll outline your subject, structure, and points for consideration, and your discussion, where you can make a deep dive into the content, highlighting your own ideas and opinions, as supported by or in opposition to existing thought. Be sure to give ample time for the writing of all this, as it can seem quite demanding, but rest assured that you’ll be able to intersperse this with meetings with your supervisor who can discuss your progress.

When it comes down to it, the dissertation is quite a big process, but one to (hopefully) be enjoyed. The freedom to pursue your own academic interests and supplement your own research with the aid of university professionals is a great opportunity to develop your own researching capability, perseverance, and self-motivation, all desirable and transferable skills for postgraduate study and beyond. While it is a big challenge, it is one that you’re not undertaking alone, as all other undergraduates will be in the same boat as you. So don’t worry, do your best, and remember to engage with the stuff you’re passionate about – it’s all plain sailing from there.




Boost your mood

It’s November. It’s cold, dark, and very, very grey. The weeks are filled with endless assignments, frustrating group projects, hours of staring at your laptop screen, and most likely a lot of reading. Asha, a final year History student, looks at how to improve your mood when it starts getting dark at 3pm.

Every year without fail, I fall into the same mid/end of semester slump. And this semester, when we are staying inside way more than before and there is less to look forward to, I definitely rely on a lot of ways to boost my mood. Sometimes I just have to resort to lying in my bed, but most of the time these work pretty well for me!

Talk to your friends and laugh

If you’re struggling to keep your mood up during the semester, make sure you make time to talk and laugh with people who boost your mood. Try and avoid talking about deadlines or classes and take a bit of time to think about other things that make you smile. This could be playing a game, walking up one of Edinburgh’s many hills, or just going for a coffee!

Go for walks in nature or change your surroundings

It’s amazing how much getting out of your room and changing your surroundings can affect your mood. If you are stressed or anxious about deadlines, try taking a long walk and stretch your legs. Holyrood park is a great place to do this, and the beautiful views of the city can help clear your head. Just being surrounded by trees can really help me to feel a lot better. If you need a change of workspace try going to a café or a different library that you haven’t been to before – this could help you get some new ideas and boost your mood.

Sometimes I find it really easy to get to the end of the day and realise that I’ve spent most of my day staring at a screen, whether that be my laptop or phone. Try and take a bit of time away from screens and giving your brain a rest.

Be kind to yourself and take a day off!

When I’m feeling really stressed and I am looking for small ways to boost my mood, treating myself to small things can really help. Taking a day off, or lighting a few candles, or buying yourself some cake can be the little mood booster that you need to regain the will to live.

Cook yourself a tasty and healthy meal

Cooking for yourself and looking after your body are really important parts of self-care and cooking a tasty meal for yourself after a hard day can really boost your mood. For me, this is a chance to have an hour away from my phone or laptop, and either spend some time in my thoughts, or even better, enjoy the company of your flatmates and cook for them! I find cooking really therapeutic, and even if you don’t think you’re very good at cooking, challenge yourself one day to cook something, it can really transform your mood!

Finally – ask for help!

Whether it’s from friends, family, tutors or student support, there are loads of people out there willing to help you. If you’re stressed about an assignment, do not hesitate to contact your tutor, and do not forget, it’s their job to help you!

https://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/yourvoice/ourwork/mentalhealthweek/
Find even more inspiration to keep your mental health and wellbeing healthy

‘Let’s Talk Mental Health and Wellbeing’ runs 9-27 November with events and ideas to support mental and wellbeing. Find out more on the EUSA website, www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/letstalk

The University’s Health and wellbeing pages are a great source of information and support, www.ed.ac.uk/students/health-wellbeing

Keep moving without leaving the room with live streamed exercise classes courtesy of the Sport & Exercise team, www.ed.ac.uk/students/health-wellbeing/live-streaming-exercise-classes




Working as a student

We asked Student Ambassador Alfie for his thoughts on what it’s like working whilst studying.

My first piece of advice for any students looking for a job in term-time would be to make sure you read the job advert closely. If you don’t, you may end up like me. Not that that’s a bad thing. I’ll explain.

SHCA Blog Student Party

When it’s all gone a bit hands in the air…

I’d been at Edinburgh for almost a year, and was coming up to the start of my second year. The shock of being at university had finally worn off, and I began to realise that my degree left me with some spare time in the week. Now, spare time is a great way to unwind, but for some of us, too much spare time leaves us feeling aimless, and that’s certainly the way it is with me. So, I took myself onto the University’s MyCareerHub and began to hunt for some part-time work because, hey, everyone needs a hobby, and it hardly hurts if that hobby is paid. There I was, flicking through all kinds of different opportunities – Typist? Too uncoordinated. Childcare? Not quite my speed – when I noticed that the Student’s Association were looking for… Security? Sure, that doesn’t sound too hard, and the pay seemed good. Bouncer. Stand on the door and scowl. Right?

Eighteen months later, I’m still working that same job. Except it’s not the job I expected. But that’s OK, because it’s a world away from being a bouncer. The advert emphasised customer service and communication, which, while useful for the job is not the purpose. I now know that the role focuses a lot on managing the expectations of customers and doing your best to make sure everyone is looked after and safe. It’s given me a real sense of freedom and skills I know I’ll use elsewhere. Finding employment and managing the schedule it brings alongside full-time study is an impressive achievement – one that future employers will look for, and one that demonstrates a great step into maturity. What’s more, you can get official recognition for it on your HEAR transcript with an Edinburgh Award.

I have a new income stream alongside my studying, and more focus as I spend less time staring aimlessly at the ceiling. I also have a new group of friends from all kinds of backgrounds, as well as experiences and ambitions that I’d never considered before moving to university, to share an entirely new part of my life.

Some people are fortunate enough to never need to work whilst studying, but for the many of us that have to, Edinburgh is full of opportunities whether it’s a Saturday job, something a little more regular, or one of the many full-time positions over the summer. There really is something for everyone, and something to ensure that we can all get a little more money in our pocket.




Being a Student Ambassador

One of our Student Ambassadors, Kate, tells us why she was interested in the role.

New beginnings are some of the most exciting experiences of our lives. For me, the most exciting new beginning was when I uprooted myself from Lancashire in the North West of England and came to Edinburgh alone to begin my university experience. Now, in my fourth year, I am just as excited whenever I return to Edinburgh as I was back then.

When the opportunity arose to become a Student Ambassador, I put myself forward immediately because I knew I wanted to be a part of these new beginnings for other people. Getting to be a part of the excitement of open days and talking to prospective students about Classics has been a way that I can show my appreciation for the School, and my enthusiasm for my subject.

Whilst I have been an Ambassador, I’ve been presented with many opportunities to get involved with the School. Not just through Open Days, but also through focus groups for bettering employment in SHCA, calling campaigns to prospective students and giving individual tours of the building. All of these things revolved around my own schedule, which means that they never affected my studies.

SHCA Blog The Chancellor unveils a plaque marking 300 years of history being taught at the University of Edinburgh

The Chancellor, HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne unveils a plaque marking 300 years of history being taught at the University of Edinburgh

I think my favourite experience as a Student Ambassador was attending the celebrations for the 300th year of History at Edinburgh. There was the chance to hear some amazing talks by current students and alumni, to engage with many other alumni of the School and I got to meet the Chancellor, HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne. It was amazing and something I will never forget.

All of the things I have done with great friends, who I wouldn’t have met otherwise because we’re on different courses. This has been one of the best things about being an ambassador.

Anyone who wants to be involved in the School should become a Student Ambassador because you aren’t just helping the School out; you’re also creating memories and opportunities for yourself.




Top tips for exams

One of our students, Sarah, gives us the lowdown on surviving exams.

As a student, exams are inevitable: some courses only require in-term coursework, but most have a final exam to test your learning through the semester. As a fourth year I’ve gone through many exams and have developed my ideal system for dealing with them. This is my list of top tips for exams, based on what has helped me through these four years.

Revision

There is no denying that revision is stressful, especially when exams are early or come closely together. What comes first is figuring out where you can revise best. I personally like to find a good café where there is some background noise and lots of coffee and snacks, however, others might prefer the library, various other university buildings, revising in accommodation, or revising from home. Even if you prefer to move around to revise, I’d recommend finding some reliable spaces where you can work well and sticking with them.

Once you’ve found your revision space, the work itself is the next step. Over the years, most of my courses have been composed of a number of different and distinct topics, with exam questions relating to these individual topics. It’s usually best to revise a few of these topics rather than the entire course, to build greater depth of knowledge in particular areas. Always make sure to ask your lecturer for advice on how to best revise, and how many topics you should learn for the exam.

Relaxation

Revision is important, but you should also allow time to relax and wind down. I have a bad habit of overworking and getting very stressed, particularly with essays and exams, and have had to force myself to stop working after I’ve done a certain amount or if it’s getting too late in the evening. In exam time you have to take care of yourself – eat well, don’t overdo the coffee, make sure to get enough sleep (I’ve found apps like Sleep Stories and Slumber are good for distracting me from overthinking), and try not to overdo it. Make time to talk to your friends and flatmates, as they’ll all be feeling the stress too. It’s important to get work done, but it’s just as important to keep yourself feeling OK, relieve some stress, and remember, especially, to take a break after an exam if you have another soon after. It’s good to do well but not if you’re sacrificing your physical or mental health to do so.

In the exam

The next step is the exam itself. Always remember to take plenty of pens, a highlighter can be useful, and definitely remember a watch in case your seat doesn’t have a clock nearby. Take your time and read the questions carefully (everyone tells you to do this but it’s definitely important!), and try to decide on both essay questions early so when you go back to the second your brain has had a chance to come up with an answer. Before writing, it is always useful to sketch out a plan – even just a basic structure for the answer – that you can go back to when you are writing, to help yourself out later. With two hours for two essays, I take five minutes for each essay to plan its structure, then around ten minutes per paragraph, and any spare time to reread my answers. This may not work for some, but it has done well for me so far!




Living in Edinburgh

It’s only now that I’m in my last semester of my final year, and I’m having to contemplate moving to a new city, do I realise quite how much I love Edinburgh and the people in it. Having lived here for four years now, and I can honestly say that there is no other place quite like it. It’s become my home away from home.

But if you are moving here for the first time it can be daunting, so I’ve compiled a list of things about living in Edinburgh which might help. Some are things that I wish I’d known before I came here, while others are simply things that I love about the city.

The Weather

SHCA Blog Cerys at the Botanical Gardens

At the Botanic Gardens during their Christmas Lights show, wearing the cosy coat my family bought me!

As a naïve 18-year-old from South Wales, I was blissfully unaware of how cold Edinburgh (and Scotland more generally) gets in winter.  Little did I know that snow in February is par for the course and how much a bitingly cold wind can cut you to the bone! From November through to February of that first year, a scarf was permanently attached to me and I had a hot water bottle in bed every night, in a vain attempt to stay warm. Thankfully that Christmas, my family gave me a huge duvet-style coat that has kept me warm every winter since!

The Variety of Things to Do

The city is always full of things to do, so if you’re looking for something you can definitely find it! I love going to the theatre as a treat, and the wealth of performance spaces that Edinburgh has makes this really easy. It’s also quite straightforward to find tickets for a good price, as most places offer student rates or sell last-minute tickets at a discounted rate.

Green Spaces

SHCA View from Blackford Hill of Edinburgh

The view of the city and Arthur’s Seat from Blackford Hill.

As a country girl, I really appreciate the amount of easily accessible green space there is in the city. First and foremost, there is Arthur’s Seat, the ex-volcano in Holyrood Park. However, there’s also the Royal Botanic Gardens, Blackford Hill and the Pentland Hills. Indeed, I’d argue that you get a better view of the city (especially at sunset) from Blackford Hill than Arthur’s Seat (controversial, I know). If I ever feel homesick, or just want to clear my head, I know I can go for a walk and be surrounded by nature within 30 minutes. This has definitely made city living much easier for me.

A Compact City

Despite there being so much to see and do, Edinburgh is actually a relatively compact city. You can get to most places in both Old and New Town on foot. Because of this, it didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable and familiar with the city. However, if you want to go further afield, say to Newhaven or Portobello, Lothian Buses are great.

SHCA Blog Cerys Flew

Carys Flew




Summer in the city

The rules and regs of summer in Edinburgh by Student Ambassador Ruby.

I’ve always argued that Edinburgh is a city designed for ‘bad’ weather. The Old Town looks even more Gothic in the gloom, and no student’s Instagram would be complete without a photo of Arthur’s Seat surrounded by atmospheric sea mist called ‘haar’.  However, I’m also an advocate for staying in Edinburgh over the summer months so I’ve always chosen to take a summer job here, rather than head back to my family home, once exams are finished.

Over the past 3 years I think I’ve made every summer mistake possible, from getting sunburnt on the Meadows to promising myself I’ll still revise if I go and sit outside. Some of these mistakes could be avoided with a bit more common sense, admittedly, but others you can only learn to avoid through trial and error. To give you a head start, I’ve decided to compile some of my hard-earned wisdom into some dos and don’ts. Enjoy!

SHCA Blog image of Meadows

The Meadows in bloom.

DO make the most of every sunny day

Summer in Edinburgh seems to always begin just as you’re having to revise for exams or work to a deadline. “That’s okay”, you tell yourself, gazing wistfully out of the library window, “I’ll work hard today and then I’ll enjoy the sun at the weekend.” Sensible, right? WRONG. What you’ll quickly realise during your first summer in Edinburgh is that sunny days are glorious, but fleeting. The second the sun comes out you need to make the most of it, as it won’t be there long!

DON’T burn the grass on the Meadows!

The Meadows is a large public park, located behind the University’s Main Library. During the summer months it becomes the city’s shared back garden and the epicentre of most students’ social lives. Trying (and failing) to grill sausages over a disposable barbeque is a Meadows rite of passage and on a sunny day you’ll see plenty of others doing the same. However, just as essential to this ritual as ketchup or hotdog buns are bricks to prop up your barbeque. Edinburgh residents are very fond of the Meadows and, therefore, very protective of it. A single blade of singed grass is enough to get you dirty looks …

SHCA Blog Dunabr

Sun, sea and sand at Dunbar.

DO head outside of town

By the time it gets to your first summer, you’ll be feeling settled in Edinburgh. You’ll have your preferred floor of the Main Library, a favourite coffee shop, and a fierce loyalty to a particular late-night chip shop. You’ll be feeling more confident and at home, and exploration will probably have taken a back seat in favour of studying.

However, summer is the perfect time to recapture that spirit of adventure you had in Welcome Week! With no more deadlines to hold you back, consider heading outside of the city centre. Portobello Beach is just a bus ride away and has a wonderfully retro amusement arcade to enjoy if the weather starts to turn. Alternatively, Dunbar has stunning views and is easy to reach on the train.

DON’T try to get anywhere in a rush …

It is often said that the city’s population doubles in August thanks to tourism. Whether this is true or not, it certainly feels true as previously quiet streets become bustling. Not only is there more people, the crowds also move slowly. Whilst you’ve had weeks to admire Edinburgh, everyone else wants to stop and take photos every few steps. Unfortunately, I’ve never found a way to get around this problem – you just have to relax and add an extra half hour onto every journey time.

MAYBE get involved in the Fringe?

SHCA Blog Royal Mile during the Fringe Festival

The Royal Mile during the Fringe Festival.

I finish on a controversial one here – the Fringe seems to divide opinions. If you haven’t heard of it, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is an arts festival which lasts for almost the entirety of August. There are thousands of shows and practically every spare room in Edinburgh becomes a temporary performance space. Fringe-haters complain about the crowds and the cost of a pint of beer being hiked, whilst Fringe-lovers can be found rushing from show to show and taking every flyer they are offered on the street.

I fall somewhere between the two. Yes, the Fringe is expensive but it’s very easy for students to find part-time work. And, whilst the hours can be long and unsociable, working the Fringe is a great way to meet new people. The city does become very busy, but there’s also the chance you’ll spot a celebrity. Give it a go – it’s right on your doorstep – then make up your own mind.




Essay writing

Everything you ever wanted to know about essays but were afraid to ask by Student Ambassador Constance.

Essay writing, love it or hate it, it is the metric by which we students are measured. Figuring out your ‘style’ is something of a journey and will inevitably include some painful marks to grow as a writer. However, there are some tips I can offer, distilled from my four years of successes and failures, to help demystify the approach to essay writing.

Picking a topic – Don’t go for the obvious and easy. This can be hard, especially if you are pressed for time. But the reality is a lot of people are going to go for the obvious and easy, especially if you are in a big course. It will only make it harder for you to stand out amidst the fifty other people who picked the same question.

Picking a topic Part 2 – Pick a topic you like. If you like a subject more, chances are you are going to try harder and, dare I say, enjoy the process of researching more. Better yet, if you have the opportunity to pick a question, go for it. It is a perfect opportunity to focus on what you enjoy.

Research – Get your ducks in a row. Do not cut corners, I repeat, do not cut corners. This is when you want to be organized and systematic. Make sure you are clear when you take notes and have noted who said what. I still get cold sweats thinking about running to the library at 3 am because I could not figure out which book I had taken a quote from.

Research – Be one with the source. If you are using primary sources, it is best to have a direct quotation so that you ensure you have not lost any of the original source’s meaning, especially if it is literary in nature.

Writing – (When you can) Take bite size pieces. Inevitably, there will be a time where you write an essay in a day. Afterwards, you will feel groggy, gross and your brain’s IQ will have depreciated to the value of a guinea pig until you have had a full 8 hours of rest. Some people can function perfectly under these circumstances – if you are one of them, Godspeed my friend – but most are not. My best essays were slow burners where I took time to make a really pretty and detailed outline and only wrote a maximum of 500-1000 words per day.

Editing – Take some time and then go for it. Essays are like boyfriends or girlfriends; sometimes you just need a little space. Give yourself a day or two to avoid your essay and then go to a printer, print that baby out, grab a pen and read it aloud. Yep, read it like it is the Queen’s Speech and cringe at the sound of your own voice. It the most useful tip a lecturer from first year gave me, and by far the most surefire way to catch grammar mistakes.

Submit – Get the receipts. Chances are you will be submitting your essay online via Turnitin. For all that is good and holy, no matter how tired you may be, check your email to make sure you got a receipt confirming your submission. Nothing is worse than losing marks for an essay you thought you submitted on time.

What is perhaps the most important thing is not to be dismayed if you do not get the mark you want. Read the feedback and take it to heart when you go to write the next one.




Working as a student

Jack Liddel working at the Royal Yacht Britannia

Jack hard at work.

All work and no play? Student Ambassador Jack looks at working as a student

At times, it can be a tricky balancing act but I’ve benefited greatly from getting a glimpse into the world of work; from stepping into a completely different environment to University study, doing something I enjoy whilst gaining different skills from those I might develop at University.

I think I am in an incredibly fortunate position. I’m able to study full-time at a thriving, diverse university, with all the extracurricular and social opportunities that offers, but also work at one of Edinburgh’s busiest tourist attractions.

I work at the Royal Yacht Britannia as a Sales Assistant overseeing ticket sales and working in the gift shop. Every week during term I’m able to work just one day and then work practically full-time over summer, so from that point of view I’ve been very lucky to have a supportive and flexible employer who has been able to offer me this contract.

It’s fantastic to work with the public alongside a highly engaged customer service team, and it’s also widened my social group outwith University. I love representing my city – of which I am extraordinarily proud – by working in the tourist industry.

To any student who is thinking about what it is like working and studying, I would say it is certainly testing. There have been weeks when I have found it tough, juggling deadlines and shifts – University is hard enough and any job is a big commitment. But I think it’s challenged me to be more prepared and organised, not least when it comes to good time management – a vital skill in any workplace – and I’ve become a more rounded and experienced individual for it. I would very much encourage you to consider whether a wee job on the side could be beneficial to you – if nothing else, it’s some extra cash for us poor students!

 




A visit to Rosslyn Chapel

Edinburgh is a tourist hotspot but students can enjoy its attractions all year round. Ossana, a Student Ambassador, went to Rosslyn Chapel.

The end of exams put me into a touristy mood. It is during these times, even more than usual, that I feel immensely glad that I chose to study in Edinburgh. The city offers endless beautiful spots and close proximity to other unbelievable sites.

I decided to take a trip to Rosslyn Chapel, only an hour bus ride outside of the city. It received many great reviews, and is renowned for its intricate carvings, and is considered one of the finest churches in Scotland. Built in 1446, the chapel has played critical roles in Scottish history, and continues to be a place of worship and an important site in Scotland.

The chapel was everything one could expect and more. Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed within the building, so you can be assured that the following is spoiler free. The church is rather small, but every wall, ceiling, and column is covered in intricate carvings and sculptures. The themes carved include Christian themes, as one would expect, such as the Seven Sins, angels playing instruments (including the bagpipe!), and the face of the Christ (hidden among the stars on the ceiling). But there are also more obscure themes which even experts are still baffled about. Among the decorations are ‘Green Men’ faces, that may have to do with paganism. Also among the carvings are ears of corn, monkeys, and the face of a frustrated master-smith staring angrily upon the superior work of his apprentice (there is a humorous story that goes with it, but I shall not ruin if for you).

My experience in the church consisted of repeatedly saying “Wow!” and playing a game of Medieval ‘Where’s Wally?’ (“Where’s the angel with the bagpipe? No. Not that one, that one is holding a harp! How many Green Men have you found? I’ve only found three. Oh wait, there’s a fourth!”).

In 2003, Rosslyn Chapel was featured in the bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code. Subsequently, the 2006 movie adaption, starring Tom Hanks, was filmed in part in the chapel.

Perhaps slightly to my disappointment, the local guide told us that the Star of David which was featured in the movie was nothing more than a prop, a sticker stuck on the wall. The sticker has since been removed, but it left a green mark which you can still easily find if you know where to look. Some think it damages the church, but it is undeniable that that mark has attracted many keen Hollywood worshippers there.

If you are still not convinced to make the trip, let me assure you that just outside the chapel is a beautiful visitors’ center and a café that overlooks the best of nature. Coffee, views, and Medieval treasures: What more can one ask for?

While one cannot necessarily trust what one reads in books (especially one written by Dan Brown), you can be assured that Rosslyn Chapel is truly as beautiful as they claim, if not more. And while it may not contain the Holy Grail, there are secrets and unsolved mysteries hidden on every wall, column, and in its mysterious crypt, just waiting for someone to solve them…

Address: Rosslyn Chapel, Chapel Loan, Roslin, Midlothian, EH25 9PU

Opening times: Seasonal differences (please refer to website – https://www.rosslynchapel.com/)




First Annual Staff-Student Cup

The School, its Societies and students organise regular events and this was the inaugural event in the Staff-Student Cup (which is a shield, it’s a long story). Senior Student Ambassador Francesca was there!

This semester the School of History, Classics and Archaeology (HCA) is launching an annual Staff-Student Cup. This is a series of three challenges, pitting academics against students. Last night was our first event: a quiz, held at the Villager pub. With over 50 people, and nine teams, we had a great turnout.

We started out with an anagram challenge on the theme of buildings around George Square campus while people chatted, bought their snacks and drinks and found a seat. Anagram solutions included the Old Medical School (home to HCA), the Playfair Library (the beautiful library at Old College), Potterrow and Teviot (where most of the Student Union activities take place) and Buccleuch Street (pronounced Bukloo).

The first two rounds were on general knowledge and films. Questions included: Where was the 1966 World Cup final held? Who played Don Corleone in ‘The Godfather’? Then we got on to the third round – a little more competitive – on trivia about the city of Edinburgh. We had to answer questions on the name of the fire festival held each spring (the Beltane Fire Festival), the population of the city (the 7th most populous in the UK), famous writers (Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of detective Sherlock Holmes), the Edinburgh Capitals (an ice hockey team) and where you would find works of art by Eduardo Paolozzi (the National Museum of Scotland).

The final round – on History, Classics and Archaeology trivia – was the most interesting, especially as it pitted students against experts in their fields. Some questions weren’t too difficult: What British city was called Acquae Sulis by the Romans? Bath! What is the name of the School of HCA’s quad? The Elsie Inglis Quad! But some were fiendishly difficult, even for specialists. We were quizzed on the name of the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated (Spencer Perceval), what US President Benjamin Harrison installed in the White House but was too afraid to use (electricity), and the names and order of Henry VIII’s six wives (my team failed this question, so you’ll have to Google it). Then came the two bonus questions. When was the Old Medical School – our building – completed? 1886. And when was the University founded? 1582.

The quiz master disappeared to count the scores and the results were revealed… in first place… ‘The 7 Sisters’ – the staff team!

SHCA Blog Francesca Morphakis

Francesca Morphakis