One year done at the University of Edinburgh; these are my experiences from the gothic, kilt-dominated, bagpipe-sounding, city that Edinburgh is. Were my expectations met? Or did I expect too much? Safe to say, it has been both a challenge and a victory finishing my first year at university, but I am glad that I took the leap. And if you are ever considering a degree in Scotland, or anywhere abroad for that matter, these words might be just what you need to hear.

First of all I just want to say: Yes! I have completed my first year at university, and not just any university, the 18th best university in the world. All I can think is that this year went by so incredibly fast. I feel like it was yesterday I was carrying my three suitcases from the airport (do not judge, I have a lot of stuff), and that I met my flatmates for the first time. This year has been full of challenges and achievements, but best of all I have finally found my path.

How it all started
In 2016 I decided to apply for universities in the UK, and after a challenging application period and a trip to the University of Cambridge where I was invited to an interview, I finally got into three universities: University of Bath, University of Exeter and, of course, University of Edinburgh. To be honest, University of Edinburgh was not actually my first priority, however I fell in love with the vibrant and charming city (aaand the free tuition fees).

What I expected
As a student I have always liked a variety of subjects, but my love for natural sciences eventually outweighed my other interests after high school graduation. My biggest priority for my degree was to land in a wide field that would allow me to experiment between the natural sciences branches. As a person I am a big fan of ‘trial and error’ and I think that there is a limit to how much preparation one can do. Sometimes you just need to give it a go!

Furthermore, before moving to Scotland I tried to have realistic expectations. I knew moving to another country would not be a piece of cake, and that integrating amongst a new culture (let alone getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road) would take time and energy which I wanted to be mentally prepared for.

Were my expectations met?
After arrival I truly expected to reach a ‘point of no return’ where ‘it all would hit me’ and I would realize this big change that studying abroad really is – but it never happened. And I believe that this is thanks to the social experiences that living in a university accommodation has brought. I simply never had time to sit down and reflect tremendously on it all before I, eventually, had gotten used to my new life in Scotland. I am incredibly thankful for all the social experiences that this year has given me: from dance shows to murder mystery societies – let’s just say that I have had fun!

Cf. my academic aspirations, my degree ‘Ecological and Environmental Sciences’ has given me the opportunity to explore both biology, ecology as well as some physics and chemistry within my compulsory courses, and I have furthermore experimented with programming, management and social sciences as elective courses. When I look back now I realize how much I have developed – both in terms of knowledge and realization. In the beginning of the year I was lost as to what courses would suit me better and now I have even had the luxury of combining social sciences with natural sciences courses which, surprisingly, has given me a new perspective onto my degree. I am going to continue within the natural sciences but I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to go beyond my chosen field merely out of curiosity.

Finally, for you reading this, studying abroad is likely to feel like a scary, huge life-changing decision before departure, but in my experience it feels quite the opposite once actually there. So, as cliché as it might be, just go for it! And embrace all the challenges and achievements ahead – they are part of the experience.

Written by Patricia Nørgaard-Madsen