School in Scotland is incredibly different than school back home in the States. I knew, coming here, that things would be different for me obviously. At home I go to a small private school where a lot of my classes are capped at 10 people. The University of Edinburgh has huge classes between one and two hundred people. Coming to the university here, I thought that would be the biggest change I had to deal with would be getting used to these bigger classes, but that would just be too easy wouldn’t it?
The first week of classes, I felt like I had never been to school before. The first class I walked into the lecture literally started with “As you will remember from last semester…” Turns out I was technically enrolled in a year long class with a special portion for visiting students, but this was something I didn’t know going into this first lecture. Another surprise in the first week was when I went to the second day of that very same class and if the class changing venues wasn't confusing enough there was also a different lecturer that day. Out of the three classes I took this past semester only one had the same lecturer every class. I knew that my time at a big university would be less personal than my ten person classes at my home institution but this was way different than I thought.
Looking back on my semester here are a few things that I really wish I would have known going into the semester.
I was also a bit of a different case from other people but for most of my classes lecturers were different every day, there was no attendance taken in class, and the lecturers just talk at you for 50 minutes with no pauses for questions. I couldn’t tell you even one of my lecturers names for my English course, and there was probably six or seven rotating throughout the semester. You just don’t really get the kind of contact with your teachers here as you do at even big universities in the states.
That being said, every class has a tutorial and you do get to know your tutors there. They are always the same and they run their classes similar to how classes at my home Uni would be run. That class only runs once a week though so it’s a little difficult but it is better than just having the anonymous lecturers.
They will tell you which books you actually need to buy, or just get from the library, or don’t need to get at all. The resource lists are all online and they can be a bit confusing to people who have not used them. Tutors can really clear up this information for you. Going to your lecturer is not necessarily helpful. I have heard of some who can be helpful but often they are just there to give the lecture on a certain topic and don’t really know the details of the course.
Tutors also are very helpful with clarifying anything with assignments and everything. I wish I would have used this resource a bit more in the beginning of the semester because it would have really helped me as I was getting to my first Essays and everything.
Whether it is another visiting student that you can bond over not knowing what is going on, or a full time student that might understand a bit more, asking other for help is essential. At first I thought I was just being dumb about figuring out classes, but I found out most of us were a bit lost and we could all work to figure it out together. Asking people who actually go to school there is also helpful, they know the system are often happy to help and you can also make friends!
Overall, the experience as a student in Edinburgh was extremely different from my time at home. I love the city and the people I have met here. The school itself was honestly really hard to get used to but I think it would be much easier if I was a bit more prepared going in. I have loved my time here but I think that having this experience makes me appreciate my home school much more.