What is it Like to Attend the University of Edinburgh?

Aura earned her bachelor’s degree in classics from the University of Edinburgh. She specializes in Latin tutoring, Greek tutoring, and a number of other subjects. Below, she shares her experience at the University of Edinburgh:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options. 

Aura: The University of Edinburgh is very urban. It has campus locations all over the Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland. The School of History, Classics, and Archaeology, where I spent all of my time, is right in Teviot Place, near the main library. There are plenty of local buses to take you all over the city. Edinburgh is a relatively small city, so it’s totally manageable by foot or bicycle. All of the university buildings in the George Square/Teviot Place area are well lit and have security guards. I felt safe walking around at any time of the day or evening.

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Aura: All of the professors have office hours and most are happy to answer whatever questions you send over email as well. The teaching assistants and tutors were extremely helpful, too. I was especially well-supported when working on my dissertation. My supervisor and all of the professors in my department were there for me to bounce ideas off of, recommend titles, and help me meet my deadlines.

How would you describe the dorm life—rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Aura: Most freshmen live in the university housing. The buildings are large, so you meet a lot of people quickly. The food isn’t great, but most of the buildings are new and the area is right near the park around Arthur’s Seat. It’s also quite central, about a 20 minute walk away from most university locations. After freshman year, people share apartments with friends all over the city. There are a lot of reasonably priced student flats.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Aura: The University of Edinburgh has all the typical undergraduate liberal arts majors, as well as veterinary, law, and medical schools. In a university of 18,000 students, I really appreciated how small my department was. I knew my Latin and Greek professors well and was friendly with all of my peers. I did have larger lectures when I took ancient history classes, but nothing staggering. The library was well-stocked for whatever I needed to research, and my professors were all major players in their fields.

How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Aura: It’s always jarring being new at a large school, but the school organizes a great orientation week where you’re out meeting new people and familiarizing yourself with the city. I found my two main groups of friends from my classes and from my field and ice hockey teams. The university has a huge number of clubs and societies, and joining them is a fast and fun way to meet likeminded friends.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? 

Aura: The career center was pretty helpful when I was putting together my resume. It was easy to get an appointment to ask for some advice. Edinburgh has a good reputation within the UK and abroad, and large companies did recruit directly from the school. I ended up applying to grad school and my professors were extremely helpful with that process.

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?

Aura: There are a lot of students at Edinburgh, but there are a lot of venues, so most of the time places felt busy, but not overwhelmingly so. The student union had plenty of seating and cafes. In regards to the library, unless it was exam time, if you got there before 9:00 AM, you would have no trouble finding a desk. The gym could get busy, but if you timed it right, you never had to wait for a machine.

Describe the surrounding town.

Aura: Edinburgh is a gorgeous city, and because there is no area that is strictly “Edinburgh campus,” you are always wandering around in it. It is delightful being  a tourist in your city, checking out the castle, cathedral, palace, and various museums and restaurants (most of which have some sort of student deal). The area near George Square is full of student-friendly cafes and shops. Students walk downtown frequently for shopping, cinemas, and more nightlife. It’s easy to get to the train station to explore more of Scotland and there are numerous ways to get to the airport (it’s about 25 minutes outside the city center) to go further afield.

How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Aura: The entire student body is about 18,000 people, but this figure is spread out over many, many departments. I would estimate the largest lectures could easily have around one hundred people. However, whatever your major, you have more choice in classes in your third and fourth years of study, and so classes become much smaller at the honors level. In my first and second year I was in some very large history classes. In addition to the lectures in those classes, we always broke down into smaller groups for tutorials, which had 10 or fewer people in them. In my third and fourth year, I was never in class with more than 25 people.

Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Aura: I really enjoyed all of my classes and professors, but if I had to pick one, I would have to say that in my third year, I was in an Iliad class with Dr. Maciver, which was awesome. Everyone who does Greek is familiar with, or has probably translated, a decent chunk of Homer. However, the depth and the breadth of Dr. Maciver’s knowledge of epic poetry was inspiring. He created an environment in which it was not uncommon for students to laugh, feel sorrow at sad moments, ask questions, and have their minds blown by analysis of complicated Homeric similes. It was interesting having Dr. Maciver as a professor for the Aeneid, a Latin epic which borrows heavily from Homer, the following year.



Check out Aura’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.