Blake Feldman ’17: Spring Study Abroad at the University of Edinburgh
By Blake Feldman '17
Tuesday, March 29 2016
Studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland has been a wonderful experience. The university is highly ranked in Europe and offers courses to over 33,000 students on three beautiful campuses.
I was able to diversify my education here, studying British Economic and Environmental History since 1900 and Ethics and Society, as well as a chemistry departmental course. Hearing the British perspective on familiar events in history has been a fascinating experience, and it's given me a more informed perspective on European politics, as well as the independence movements in Ireland and Scotland. Classes here are fairly similar, but precepts are called "tutorials," and the review period is called "revisions." A stark difference between this university and Princeton is that up to 100% of a grade can be based on the final exam; conversely, essays and assignments are thankfully few and far between.
Beyond my classes, I performed JP research in the lab of Dr. Stephen Thomas, a chemist who specializes in catalysis for industrial application. Undergraduate chemists in their final year are expected to perform research in a lab full-time, so any time I wasn't in classes, I was doing research. As a result, I spent 18 hours in the lab every week which allowed me to perform a considerably larger volume of experiments than I had expected. Fortunately, it’s been an absolute pleasure because the graduate students in Dr. Thomas’ lab are among the nicest and most intelligent people I’ve met, and they were always happy to answer my stupid questions as we enjoyed our daily tea and biscuits.
Outside the University, I’ve been fortunate to tour the beautiful countryside around Edinburgh, as well as the Highlands of Northern Scotland, France, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland. Being in such close proximity to so many European countries makes traveling to places I’ve never been incredibly affordable; a flight to Germany or Ireland from Edinburgh can be as low as £10 or $15. However, I don’t need to travel very far to see beautiful sights, because Scotland is as gorgeously scenic as photos portray. The city itself is full of grand old buildings and soaring gothic cathedrals, some dating back to the 12th century. On a high cliff overlooking the city is the Edinburgh castle, an ancient stone fortress within which can be found St. Margaret’s Cathedral, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh. Between the historic buildings can be found fish and chip shops, pubs, bars, and cafés. And true to the nation, a lone bagpiper plays all day every day on the corner of Princes Street and Waverly for the throngs of tourists gawking around at the sights.