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How is to be Erasmus in Edinburgh?

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We continue our series of Erasmus city-guide with Alicia Benito-Martinez, an Erasmus pioneer who will run you through the wonderful city of Edinburgh. Discover Scotland, its traditions and the unforgettable experience of being Erasmus there! It was back in 1997 and for the first time I was ready to leave Spain and embark on an adventure in an English-speaking country.

It was the fourth year of my English Studies degree at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid and I realised that it was time to leave my grammar books aside and learn the language properly – I’d soon be out there in the real world!.

Accomodation: a flat in the campus... already booked!

I was lucky enough to visit my first destination of choice: Edinburgh, reputedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with a world-renowned University.  Everything seemed extraordinarily well organised – I was sent a package well in advance with all information, and  was offered a full-board flat within the campus so I didn’t even have to worry about accommodation (or cooking – a great relief !). Some of my friends shared a room, which was cheaper, or lived in flats outside the campus. I ended up living with a Korean, an American and a  Japanese – a truly international experience from the start. I got some extra money working at the cafeteria, where the real hard work was understanding the dinner ladies’ strong Scottish accent...

University: learn Scottish dance!

Lessons were in English, of course, which I had to attend about three times a week and didn’t have to sit any exams, just write essays, so I had a lot of free time and endless possibilities, and I made the most of it: I took German lessons, attended workshops, plays, joined the university gym, learnt how to dance ceilich (Scottish traditional dance) and of course I socialised a lot! All one needed was an open mind and a willingness to meet new people – everyone had something interesting to say about their own countries of origin.

Don’t miss the Highlands and Loch Ness

I hired a small van with a few friends and spent five days visiting the Highlands – an absolute must. In the Isle of Sky we hired bikes and rode around, we visited Loch Ness (I saw the shadow of Nessie but no one believed me!) and enjoyed the surprisingly nice weather. Every single corner of the city is astonishingly beautiful, the castle, the parks, only a few minutes away from the King building’s campus – even Princes Street, the commercial area, looks out of a fairy tale.

Going out: my favourite spots

It is an old but young city, full of life – my favourite venues were Teviot and the The Liquid Room, which still exist. In fact, it is difficult to live in Edinburgh and not know where to have fun - there are plenty of pubs and clubs. The worst bit, as expected, was the weather. It was wet most of the time and at 4 pm it was dark already - if you plan to visit Edinburgh, you can’t let it rain in your parade…

My advice: Erasmus in Edinburgh is an unforgettable experience

I had not thought about my Erasmus year for a while, and looking back now I realise how important this experience has been in my life. It opened my mind, it made me more culturally and linguistic aware – I doubt I would be the translator I am today if I had not spent one year learning the language first hand - and well, I loved the rain so much that I am now back in the island…

As one of the oldest members of the « Erasmus Generation » I can only say: if you have a chance to study at Edinburgh for one year, don’t think it twice. It is an unforgettable experience.