Welcome to Scotland, the birth place of haggis, Dolly the Sheep, and Harry Potter!
Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn, which sums up the magical feeling of being abroad for spring semester of junior year at University of Edinburgh. From the the very first day, I was introduced to haggis (parts of sheep), neeps (turnips), and tatties (potatoes) — a traditional dish, complete with a drink of Irn-bru (“iron-brew”), which tastes like bubble gum and outsells Coke! Of course, the night wasn’t complete without a ceilidh (social gathering with some dancing) led by kilted Scotsmen and bagpipes.
With Edinburgh being the heart and capital of Scotland, there is a never-ending list of things to do. From the beautiful sights at Arthur’s Seat to visiting the Dolly the Sheep at the Scottish National Museum, there is a greater number of adventures than the amount of weekends!
There are over 30,000 students at Edinburgh–you can find people from all corners of the world! One of the most alluring things about Edinburgh (if you’re a Harry Potter fan like I am) is that you can find snippets of J.K. Rowling’s inspiration around the city. The Elephant House is a café where she spent time writing her drafts and you can find familiar names like Thomas Riddle, William McGonagall, and Elizabeth Moody around Greyfriar’s Kirkyard! Not to mention the iconic Harry Potter bridge in the beautiful highlands of Scotland, not too far away.
With respect to the academic life, there are quite a number of differences. Instead of 4 or 5 courses, I am taking two chemistry courses, one distribution requirement, and working in a research lab a few hours a day. My research project in the Campopiano group focuses on the determining vital mutations and its influence on the catalytic activity of the ArgE enzyme for an industrial reaction. It’s interesting to know that the structure of the chemistry courses consists of a few lectures on respective topics instead of dedicating a whole semester to a single field. It has been really valuable to get a small dose of physical, organic, and inorganic topics integrated into a single course. Tutorials are similar to the precepts offered at Princeton, but the key difference is that the only examination is the final. That arrangement puts more independence and responsibility on my own shoulders, but also gives me the flexibility to plan trips around the city and Europe.
I’m grateful to be able to continue to learn more chemistry while being able to apply theoretical concepts into my research work and having the opportunity to travel and sightsee. I can’t believe that I am halfway through the semester–looking forward to what comes next.
YJ Choi ’20