Something to Think About

It was the Sanhuinn Fire Festival on Halloween night. Looking it up, I saw it looked pretty awesome. But I didn’t attend, though I had planned to with a couple of friends. Instead, I spent my Halloween night in a bar chatting and drinking with people I barely knew, but afterwards felt like it was one of my best nights here in Edinburgh. When you’re in a different setting, away from the routine things that you normally do, you start to discover the little things about yourself that you didn’t consciously know–what you enjoy doing, who you like talking to, etc. I was so used talking to my friends back home. Now I’m here and I’m constantly meeting new people and I have to decide who I want to make the effort to keep in contact with.

Make studying abroad your own experience. Don’t let any study abroad blogs or people tell you that you have to “experience and do everything you can” in the short amount of time that you have. Never regret what you didn’t do, because that’s pointless. You do what you want to do with the people you want to hang out with. Even if that’s as “boring” as going for coffee or a walk together. I think any great time is time well spent, regardless of what you did.

Something else that is a bit more obvious. If you don’t have to, don’t take a lot of “hard” classes (think upper-divs and classes with heavy workload). Unfortunately, I have to, since I switch majors late and have to catch up. It is quite stressful when I want to do more in Edinburgh than worry about my classes. At UCI, every quarter, we take a load of around 12-20 units (3-5 classes, depending on your major and your schedule plan), and each quarter lasts 10 weeks. Here at Edinburgh University, the semester starts earlier (Sept. 08 vs. UCI’s Oct. Oct. 2nd), but UoE (Univ. of Edinburgh/Edinburgh Univ.) classes end earlier, around the end of November. Then you get a week of revision/studying and then a week of exams. So technically, UCI and UoE have 10 weeks of instruction (correct me if I’m wrong); the difference is UCI heads straight into exam week without that extra week for revision.

But, and my point in describing all that is coming, at UoE, you have to take 60 credits, which by UCEAP’s standards is equivalent to 24 units. Yeah. That’s a LOT of units. Courses in UoE are 10 credits or 20 credits, depending on the class. My lovely self ended up taking 3 upper-divs (10-credit classes), a 20-credit class, and my other 10 went to doing an independent study project. The 20-credit class is a lot of work (it’s 20 credits for a reason!), but the 10-credit courses feel just as heavy because the content in those classes are more difficult. Then there’s my project which also takes up a lot of time.

To be honest, I am falling extremely behind. It’s taken me November now to start thinking about studying as much as I can each and every day. It’s really easy to fall behind. I’d like to write more about UoE classes, but I’ll save that for later. Gotta go now.


Sorry, I fail at blogging…

Yeah, I’ve been here for a month now so where are all the posts at?!

I’d like to say I’ve been busy. Busy getting used to the city, to classes, to societies, to people, to everything. It’s hard to actually make some time to sit down and plan to write for a while. Since I’m one month in, what should I start talking about? Well, whatever, right? I should make this a fun blog for myself as well.

I won’t get into the informative stuff yet; I don’t have it in me to take pictures of things, upload them, and describe the process. At the moment, I am currently self-reflecting.

It is really amazing how many things there are to do here. You might not find out all of the things you want to do yet; it’s very hard to get that right the first couple of weeks. However, facebook and general googling is very helpful for finding things. What I mean is, when you’ve tried what you can and you are looking for more, try googling and then using facebook to check out the events.
I say this because I have gone to a number of events, I have joined some societies, but I just feel like there’s something lacking. It’s still something I have to figure out.

Ah, be prepare for the loneliness and the empty feeling that you get when your close friends and family, people who you do things with, are not here to enjoy the moment with you. Edinburgh is such a beautiful, beautiful city–I’ve experienced it both in the day and at night and it is just gorgeous. But I don’t feel the heart-pounding excitement and breath-taking feeling that I normally get from looking at scenic views. I’ve finally realized it’s because I’m not with the right company to fully enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong; I have met some amazing people here, but I don’t feel close enough to them to be able to share these moments that you can only share when you’re connected.

Sorry, I ramble because I can’t explain myself very well. It’s hard, I think, when you don’t understand it yourself. I don’t feel homesick and I didn’t get any culture shock either; I had also “seen” a bit of the city through GoogleMaps. So I feel pretty prepared to be here. What I’m not prepared for are the days that hit me really hard where I’m staying up tossing and turning and hoping that I would be able to connect to someone on a deeper level. I think it’s because I don’t care much for surface-level friends. I don’t want several friends that I only know a bit about; I would like a few or even just one that I know really well. Do you understand what I mean? Unfortunately, it’s sorta hard to find the right mood to tell people, “I want to know more about you. Let’s spend a few hours over coffee/tea/whatever and get to know each other.” Also, without sounding anything but romantically interested.

On the bright side, because I actually have made good memories here already, most people here are friendly and like your first year of college, very eager to make friends. I’ve gotten along with my flatmates (although it took a couple of weeks) and we have had two movie nights and plans to explore more of Scotland. I have made a good friend that I’ve taken walks and talked about more philosophical things with. I’ve also became friends with some people in my classes.

And I can go on and on about what I’ve done and how I’ve tried to not spend all of my time in my room. But it also bugs me a bit that I feel pressured to not be in my room, to go out and do something as much as I can. But why? I know I only have a semester here. Do I really want to rush through things and pretend I can ignore my studies and travel and explore like a madwoman because I only have a couple of months here?

I’ve decided not to think like that. Because I can always come back, I don’t want to feel as though my time is limited so I have to do everything I can. Instead, I want to soak up the moments, even if there aren’t a lot of moments. I’d rather experience more of a few things than a bit of everything; the latter I can do later in life.

I’m just rambling now. But I think this post is a good example of how one might think abroad. You just have so many mixed feelings, and you get to know yourself better when you decide what you really want.

Accommodation/Housing Offer

The Nitty Gritty Info

Received my accommodation offer on June 9th, 2014 and had 7 days to accept my offer. There was actually an error on mine; I’m a semester student but the housing offer was a year contract. I immediately emailed them about this and they immediately corrected the problem.

Also, since I’m a semester student, which means that I am studying for less than 120 days, I have to pay the housing fee in the full amount when I accepted my offer. Had to accept my offer, otherwise I wouldn’t get any other offers. The housing fee was ~1640 USD; I also bought a bedding pack for ~42 USD, and this consists of a pillow, pillowcase, duvet, duvet cover and bed sheet. Trying to cut down on the amount of luggage that I bring as much as possible.

My Personal Thoughts

I didn’t realize this, but I probably picked the perfect accommodation option location-wise! It’s right next to the Informatics Forum and the Appleton Tower, which I’ve researched are most likely where my lectures and labs (computer labs) will be held. My flat is also next to various other places for easy shopping and traveling. It’s self-catered and I’m sharing it with someone else (not known yet), but I picked the cheapest option available, so we’ll see how that goes.

Initial Application Process to Study Abroad

This would be helpful for UCI students who want to know more about the study abroad process. Maybe helpful for other UC students too, since I applied through the UCI Study Abroad Office, which then transferred my application and materials to the UCEAP office (which works with all the UC’s). 

I turned in my UCI Study Abroad application on January 27th, the day of the deadline. I didn’t have my passport at that time and asked them if I could turn it in later. I also didn’t have my official transcript (which costs me $15 at the Registrar office in Aldrich Hall; it’s now increased to $17). The study abroad people took my application anyway and made a note that I would be turning my transcript tomorrow and that I would apply for my passport by next week. I completed all of that.

Went to the UCI Passport Office to apply for my first US passport book. Had to fill out a DS-11 form, which they provided on-site. It costs $110 with the 2 passport pictures included (they gave me one for free as an extra). I didn’t do expedited shipping because the passport lady advised me not to, whereas the peer advisor at the UCI study abroad office said it would be really good to do it (you really need to know which advice to take). I don’t remember how much expedited shipping costs, but it was a lot (I’m thinking $20 or around there). I ended up getting my passport before the end of February after applying for it on Feb. 07. I paid with a check (cash & credit card not accepted). Went back to the UCI study abroad office to give them the pink slip indicating that I had applied for a passport. 

CONCLUSION: Despite being last-minute with turning in my application, turning in my official transcript late, and getting my passport after I had turned in my application, everything worked out dandy and I have been accepted to the University of Edinburgh as a visiting student. The UCI Study Abroad Office is GREAT. They were really helpful and lenient about the deadlines; I was very surprised. It seems like they knew students often miss the finer details about the process so they were ready to help with that and answer any questions you have. So, if you’re afraid that you won’t make the deadline or whatnot, talk to them! They’re great. 

Who Am I? + Organization of the Blog

Who Am I?

Hi all. I want to briefly introduce myself, some of the stuff here will also be on the About page. My name is Katie and I am an upcoming 3rd-year undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Just finished my spring quarter, but I can’t say that I’m done with my 2nd year just yet since I’m continuing on with summer classes. Unlike most of the study abroad blogs that I’ve been going through, I am taking classes from the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh (UoE), and not the popular subjects like literature, history, politics, philosophy, and law. I was very disappointed when I couldn’t find anything about the computer science classes at UoE, so I’ll make that a focus of this blog.

Organization of the Blog

Since I’m a Computer Science major, I don’t have a lot of faith in making my writing come to life with fleshy descriptions and vibrant details; that’s just not me. Therefore, I plan to make this blog informative and helpful. I’ve been reading a lot of study abroad blogs, and they have been heavily written by English majors who spend a lot of time writing about their personal adventures. Very interesting to read, but for those of you who read study abroad blogs to know more about what you’re getting into, they’re not so helpful.

For that reason, I will be using tags to distinguish my posts. Those tagged as “informative” will be things about the studying abroad process, classes, and other practical topics. Those tagged as anything but will be anything but, so you can skip through my nonsensical adventures. If the posts are mixed with both informative and other contents, I will titling the sections of my posts to let you know. I also have two categories, “Before Edinburgh/Preparation” and “While in Edinburgh,” both of which are self-explanatory.