At the time of writing this, I’ve been in Edinburgh for just over a week and in Scotland for just over two. The first few days were difficult in terms of homesickness. I’m lucky enough to have family living just outside Edinburgh, so my aunt picked me up from the airport and I stayed with them for a week before my uncle and cousins drove me back to move into residence.
Even that quick brush with family was the perfect start to this experience. My tactic when I was first here was just to not think about my family — and it was totally working until about a week ago, when I first Skyped with my mom and 14-year-old sister. I immediately started crying and couldn’t say exactly why.
I’m going to be honest — I miss my family a lot. I have so much admiration for people who leave home at 17 or 18 for their entire undergraduate degree. But being out of my comfort zone is definitely a good thing and the amazing moments here have totally outshone the moments of weakness and sadness.
Unfortunately, I’ve also had the unsettling realization that I have no idea what I’m doing. As a fourth-year student, I feel like I should have it all together, but the system here is so different from what I’m used to at home that I feel like a first-year all over again!
In the UK, every student is assigned a “personal tutor” — a faculty member in your department who is the point of connection between you and the university. I was led to believe that they might not be all that useful, but my personal tutor was both helpful and understanding.
I worried a lot about making friends, but I shouldn’t have been so panicked. Roommates (“flatmates” here) have great friend potential, particularly since there are a lot of international students and exchange students (not first-years), and no one knows anyone else. We’re all in the same boat. My flatmates and I have quickly become close, and I’m grateful for their support.
So the bottom line is that going on exchange can be scary and unsettling. But it can also be amazing — there’s nothing quite like having a laugh with your flatmates at 1 a.m. about a classical art meme.