9 things you need experience as a student at Edinburgh University

Scottish things

Written by Hunor Deak, Edited by Charlotte Burns

New to the wonderful city of Edinburgh? From the Highlands to the Borders, there is so much you'll experience - from the amazing food, people and culture.

Here are my 10 things that you will (or must) experience when studying at Edinburgh:

1. The pubs

It is a clichéd thing to start with but you cannot experience Scotland (or being a student) without going into a historical pub- and Edinburgh is the pub capital of Scotland. Places such as The World’s End or Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar are hundreds of years old and are a great place to down ale while on a night out. They are the perfect places to pick up new friends, kill away any home sickness and experience the city on a truly personal level.

Pub crawls are a great idea, especially the Edinburgh Literary Pub tour. It is a great way to see the city and learn a lot about Scottish literature.

2. The Fringe Festival

You cannot be a student in Edinburgh and not experience the Fringe festival. In August Edinburgh becomes the comedy capital of the world. George Square and Central Campus becomes a field for the greats of comedy to entertain you. All topics are on the table, and its a place where nothing is taboo.

The last time I went I caught a glimpse of Trevor Noah, the current host of the Daily Show (which is a pretty awesome spot!). The entire city embraces a carnival spirit where fairs and street parties are plentiful.

3. A touch of history

Edinburgh is one of the great historical cities of the world and every street corner has a story to tell. Museums are plentiful, places like the National Museums and Galleries are a must see. Student societies and companies run city walks from the Old City to New Town. They cover everything, from horror to historical based tours. There are also loads of day trips to Stirling, Glasgow, Aberdeen and to the Highlands if you fancy seeing a bit more of Scotland.

The University of Edinburgh is an old, world renowned institution where the greats of history studied and lectured. People such as James Hutton and Charles Darwin are household names - studying in the same place as people like this is a great feeling.

4. Princess Street

Princess Street is absolutely beautiful, with plenty of parks in the middle of the city. It is dotted with statues, beautiful museums and some of the best shops in the world. Brands from Paris, New York and Tokyo can be found here.

Around Christmas time, the street (starting from Waverley station and ending at Haymarket railway station) hosts its own annual German Christmas market. The entire street is connected together by a series of trams that take you through foreign embassies, street performers and top class architecture. The street also provides a good view of the Edinburgh Castle. Princess Street is the place where Old Town and New Town converges creating a truly unique place in the world.

5. Student Politics

Student politics at Edinburgh University is serious business. New students might be taken aback but like in real life its effects are felt through the university. Every Friday evening a giant committee from the EUSA (Edinburgh University Students’ Association) occupies the Teviot Row House (the first student purpose built student union building in the world), to decide policy. They spend hours and hours discussing and voting on everything from the menu items to the type of employers allowed on university campus. (As of now students from the School of Science and Engineering are fighting with the politics students on the right of weapon manufacturers to recruit students directly from the university).

Usually student politics keeps itself confined to some select areas of the campus, however come May (election and referendum season), where like the great flood it sweeps through Edinburgh and covers everything. Election leaflets are everywhere; candidates interrupt lectures to give their speeches and staff will knock on your door at night demanding you to vote.

6. The Food

It's not all Haggis and deep fried Mars bars you know - you can get incredible food from all around the world in Edinburgh! Fish and chips with an Irn-Bru at a sunset harbour is a must do. You also need to try Tunnock’s Tea Cakes, Cobbs Millionaire Slice and Shortbread.

Edinburgh is famous for its cafeterias such as the Elephant House where J.K. Rowling wrote the early Harry Potter books. Whatever is your liking Edinburgh and Scotland are ready to satisfy, whatever your taste.

7. Cosmopolitanism

In Edinburgh cultures of all kinds can be found. You can shop in a Chinese supermarket, visit a Hungarian café or listen to Irish folk music. The staff at the University of Edinburgh is very diverse, friendly and helpful.

I’ve been lectured to by an American, a South African and an Australian. Edinburgh is the Athens of the north and culturally it lives up to its name.

8. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

It is wee bit expensive but the Military Tattoo is an experience of a lifetime. In August the whole of Edinburgh Castle gets a makeover. At the front of the castle giant stands get elect allowing the accommodation of thousands of people. The show itself is a blaze. It showcases the military marching bands of many nations of the world.

In the recent years along the military parades I’ve seen many civilian performers from Mexico to Australia. After ‘The Flower of Scotland’ or similar the entire spectacle marches onto the streets of the Edinburgh accompanied by torches. It is truly magical.

9. The Innovative Learning Week

Are you tired of the usual university lectures and tutorials? If yes, the Innovative Learning Week was invented for you. The point of the week is to let you learn as creatively as possible. For the week all classes are dissolved and you are allowed to try a multitude of academic disciplines.

Student societies and lecturers organise field trips, lab workshops and personal sessions. While on the Innovative Learning week I climbed Arthur’s seat to measure air pressure; I saw biochar being made and I enrolled myself in a short business course.