Ben Gambuzza ’20
Don’t go to Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, York, St. Andrews, Glasgow, or even London. If you’re going to the United Kingdom to study abroad, do me a favor and go to Edinburgh, Scotland.
Edinburgh combines historic Georgian architecture and a rough and tumble but ever so welcoming Scottish sensibility with a hopping nightlife and a world-class university: The University of Edinburgh.
Founded in 1583, Edinburgh University is one of Scotland’s four “ancient universities,” along with Glasgow, Aberdeen, and St. Andrews. Throughout the years, notable people such as Charles Darwin, Alexander Graham Bell, and Robert Louis Stevenson graduated from Edinburgh. It was also the first university in Britain to admit female undergraduates in 1869 (100 years before Trinity).
The University would be nothing without the city that it is in. Edinburgh is addicting. Since I first arrived on January 6, I’ve travelled out of the city three times. I stayed with a Scottish family in the midlands, visited a friend at Oxford, and took a vacation with friends to nearby Copenhagen, but each time I left I could not wait to come back. Everyone talks about how great it is to travel when they are abroad, and it is great. But it feels good to be in a city that you do not want to leave. And travel is not as inexpensive as they say, just a heads up. A bag of chips was the equivalent of $5 at a 7-11 in Copenhagen.
Edinburgh is unique if not just because of the beautiful surroundings. The city lies on the banks of the North Sea, and right outside my dorm window is the majestic Arthur’s Seat. A dormant volcano inverted by glacial ice, it makes a great hour-long trek, with the pay-off of a 360-degree view of the city and the surrounding green pastures. When I climbed it the first time, the wind was so strong you could lean back and be held by the gusts. Edinburgh Castle, home of royalty from the 12th to 17th centuries, also overlooks the city from a huge imposing rock. It divides the old town from the newer shopping district (if you want to shop at H&M you just have to work for it).
A typical week of work as a student here probably adds up to 20% class-time and 80% independent research. With about 35,000 undergraduates, professors rarely have time for individual attention. Students usually work during the day and go out at night. So, if you come into the library at 9:00pm on a Wednesday, don’t expect to find many people like at Trinity.
The Scots love to drink, and the night life in Edinburgh does not disappoint. I’ve found that students go out every night of the week. Pear Tree, an elegant but cheap student bar is where you might start the night. Then there is the obligatory trip to Three Sisters, a bar and club on Cowgate, one of the oldest streets in the city in which Sir Walter Scott (Edinburgh native) set many of his novels. And don’t forget the cheap shots at Revolution and the famous, always-lit, Frankenstein bar across the way, set in a Victorian church.
The minute I stepped out of the taxi in this city, I felt at home. If you want fun, history, and lovely people, haud yer wheesht and get to Edinburgh!