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The Study Hub Blog is the home for study skills resources and support with student life for all taught students at the University of Edinburgh, from first year Undergraduates to taught Postgraduates.
Transitioning to university: student life (part 1)

Transitioning to university: student life (part 1)

(Photo: Pixabay) 

In this post, we asked students how their transition to university went from a social and cultural change perspective.  

Social change   

In the social sense, I’ve seen marked differences between school and university. I went to an ordinary state school in Fife. It was relatively homogenous: we mostly had similar backgrounds, and the overwhelming majority of us were Scots. When I came to Edinburgh, in 2017/18, only 30% of students were Scots [1]. This difference was quite overwhelming in the beginning. How was I to interact with all these new international students with different cultures and attitudes? But this diversity, as you’ll hopefully find/have found, is a great thing: it offers opportunities to learn about different parts of the world and different perspectives on the issues you’re discussing in class.     

When I first came to university, I also suffered from some sort of inferiority complex. I felt intimidated coming to such a prestigious institution from an ordinary Scottish school. It felt as though everybody was going to be more intelligent than me and judge me as a result of it. This led to some anxiety when it came to participating in tutorials. But, as my degree has progressed, I’ve learnt that this isn’t the case. University is a safe place to experiment with new, creative ideas and not one where you’ll be ridiculed for doing so. So, I now feel more confident about fully participating in the university experience.    

If you’re suffering from anxiety, see the Student Counselling Service’s self-help resources.      


Cultural change   

I was warned that I may experience cultural shock, but I thought moving from one European country to another would not involve a big cultural change. I was wrong. Mediterranean and British cultures are really different: I never had meals at the same time as my friends, I had no idea of how to dress for Scottish weather – four seasons in one day describes it well – and I even didn’t know how to introduce myself – two kisses? a handshake? half a hug?    

The difference in traffic directions put my physical safety at risk a few times but it was the way people interacted that shocked me the most: everyone apologized by default, said please and thank you all the time and asked me “Are you all right?”. It took a while to realise it was a way to say hello, and it is still a challenge to adapt to different interaction styles in the global community that is our university!    

Getting to know the city, asking a lot of questions, and getting involved in societies with students from all around the world helped a lot, we are all, in some way, adapting!   



Reference List   

[1] The University of Edinburgh (2019) ‘Annual Review 2017/18: Student numbers 2017/18.’ Available at: [Accessed on 3rd July, 2020]  



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