Calton Hill Edinburgh

My first two months in Edinburgh

My experience in Edinburgh so far has proved that coming here has been one of the best choices I have made. The culture in Scotland is very different from China, and, inevitably, life in the two countries can be a contrast. I would like to share my observations about the main differences I have noticed.

Apart from the great reputation that the University of Edinburgh has around the world, I was attracted to the global setting of Edinburgh and the traditional Scottish culture. For me, this was the most appealing aspect of the university, prompting me to live and study here.

Compared with Beijing, where I lived for four years, Edinburgh is not as frantic. I have enjoyed a slower pace of life, allowing me to take time to experience and understand the different cultures. I am particularly happy that I am able to communicate and make friends with people from so many different countries.

Food in Edinburgh

Food is definitely an indispensable part of everyday life for Chinese people. When greeting friends, we often talk about meals. Before coming to Edinburgh, I was a new hand at cooking, having only basic skills such as cutting and stir-frying. This is because I never worried about meals in China. There were several canteens in my previous university, where cheap but delicious food was served. And back in my hometown my grandmother is a really good cook and always makes nice dishes for me.

Sweet food, which is common in Edinburgh, is not really my cup of tea and eating out can be costly. So, I decided to cook for myself. I was more than happy to learn from my Chinese friends who are good at cooking. I also downloaded an App onto my smartphone to find new recipes.

However, things were slightly different when it came to putting theory into practice. I often put too much or too little seasoning into my food, and even burned my food the first few times when cooking on my own. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect! My cooking skills have improved impressively over time and I am even able to treat my friends with delicious dishes now.

Through my experience of learning to cook, I am aware of my potential to acquire new knowledge over a short period of time, which has boosted my confidence a lot. Although there will be many obstacles in the coming year, I am ready to face new challenges.

The importance of being self-driven

I have never studied in a foreign country for this length of time before. At the beginning of my academic journey here, I noticed many differences between the Chinese and Scottish education system. A challenging one is that you have to be self-driven here.

In the traditional Chinese education system, less emphasis is put on being self-driven in your studies. Students are strictly supervised by teachers, especially in high schools. In most cases, students are only allowed to do what they have been told to and any other ‘wrong doing’ is to be punished. For instance, a student could be punished for reading books when, according to the timetable published by the school administration, he should have been taking a nap. This situation arouses hot debates across China. A students time is almost entirely occupied by their academic tasks meaning that they have little free time.  As a result students may not have developed essential time management or self motivations skills.

Things are different in Edinburgh. I realised that I need to be self-driven so that I can make the most of my time studying here. There are enormous resources available for students in the university, such as advice on improving academic performance and employability, which are really beneficial to me. In Edinburgh, no one is forcing me to make use of these resources. Instead, I have to reflect on myself to identify my disadvantages before making decisions on whether or not to take their courses as well as which courses to take.

I have to be self-driven because I am fully responsible for myself and what I achieve here.

Although things are different in Edinburgh and it takes time to get used to, I still love my new life here. I believe experiencing new things and meeting different people will make me better person.




Published by

Hardy Dai

Hardy, from China, is studying MSc Marketing (2018)