…by Madalena / from Portugal / PhD Evolutionary and Developmental Biology / 2nd Year
As an exchange student, you feel heavily misplaced when you first land in “your” new country and city. You are afraid if that feeling will ever go away and you are confronted with a whole new life full of responsibilities that you probably weren’t used to.
But now I’ve survived my first month. Always coughing all the time and missing my mother’s cares when I’m sick, in an open battle with spiders in my flat, constantly greeted by the Scottish cold breeze and the wonderful Scottish people.
The best way to get used to the city is to walk. Walk everywhere. Find someone in the same position as you and walk with them.
I was lucky to have two other girls going through the same experience as me and that made everything easier. But acknowledge that it is going to be hard… even with company, you have to do this for yourself! You have to be sure that you are here because you want to. And if in the first few weeks you are still lost, don’t lose hope. It gets better. You will feel lonely, you won’t know how to manage your money, you’ll desperately say “I wanna go back. I don’t want to be here”. But just let time work it our for you, have patience. Live each day at a time for this will only bring you good things in the end, no matter how rocky the trip was (picture of Arthur’s seat with pun intended).
On my second day here, I got lost on the bus, and after getting it in the wrong direction… I got on the wrong one as well, all this after spending 20 minutes hitting on a closed bus stop after bus stop. I was late for my first “official” day of work, I got yelled at, I cried. But even though it was overwhelming on its own, it made me realize that that is not me. I can figure things on my own, I can lose a few minutes the day before scheduling my trip to work, learning where the nearby bus stops are, which one is the fastest, which one gets me from point A to B with the desired efficiency. Why am I freaking out? But well… I calmed down; I came home. And could that day have got any worse? Yes.
I got home and couldn’t find a way to turn on the oven nor the stove. When I was almost losing hope (I was already willing to cook in the microwave instead), I foundd a red switch. My mind screams “Red switches are not good. Do not touch the red button”. But I did, and suddenly everything was working! And these little moments are part of the experience! It never happened again and now I even laugh about it and think how silly of me to freak out about such a simple thing. But don’t disregard these moments, when you are alone and getting acquainted with your new routine, everything seems a huge problem and obstacle – but focus on how great it feels when you overcome each one of them, even if it is by just turning on a switch.
You are guaranteed to have a lot of fun in a new city. Whenever you feel sad and unmotivated, get out, explore, discover. Enter a random bookstore (picture for evidence):
I ended up going to a rave, go figure. And I am not one to go out often. But the rave had Hodor (Game of Thrones) and I was easily compelled to go with. So… unexpected things can happen all the time if you let them.
Group up with people from your own country and get a little bit of home anywhere you go. Build a new comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to ask and try new things. Go to a garden. Go on a gastronomic adventure, take pictures. Go to a pub, join every traditional event that you can! Learn the culture and embrace it. Enjoy life. Or, you know…write a blog post to help to get your feelings out.
I am Madalena, I am from Portugal and I am 22 years old. I have never moved out of my parent’s house, nor my country. I am frightened but excited to see what Edinburgh has got to show me.