Exchange diaries Edinburgh: Learning to love the city

Styna Tao is in Edinburgh on exchange this fall. She’ll be sharing her experiences every three weeks as a regular contributor to Lifestyle.

I arrived in Edinburgh on a damp Saturday evening. I came out of the train station to a city shrouded in mist and fog and dragged my suitcase up hills and cobble streets. All around me, stores were closed but the pubs were thriving.

It turned out this was a fairly accurate representation of Edinburgh. It’s a city with a rich history that showcases its architecture and its people’s pride, accompanied by unpredictable weather. When I was narrowing down my choices for exchange universities, I knew that one of the advantages of doing exchange in Europe was the opportunity to go to a university with a long history and the appearance to show for it. I can’t express how excited I am by the cobblestone streets, even though they’re not the most comfortable to walk on. Yet every time I walk outside, it feels like I’m walking on history.

But all the amazing spots in Edinburgh can’t be properly enjoyed if the weather isn’t in your favour. Unfortunately, the fog that I arrived in reappeared again a few days later. The weather deteriorates in temperature quickly in the evenings and the dampness sets in.

It is not unlikely to have cloudiness, sunshine, rain and fog all in one day. It’s pertinent to always have an umbrella and dress in layers just case the weather changes. The most frustrating thing was going to class in the fog, coming back from class in the misty rain and then discovering sunshine coming through my window when I sat down for early dinner.

By day, Edinburgh offers plenty of cultural education in the form of museums, galleries and historical sights. The Royal Mile is a tourist and personal favourite. Up at the top of the Mile is Edinburgh Castle, at the bottom is Holyrood Palace and the middle is scattered with tourist shops, many of them advertising cashmere. As well, if shopping is your idea of a good time, Princes Street offers plenty of shops and stores that are sure to empty your wallet.

Right next to Princes Street is Princes Street Gardens, one of the many green spaces in the city that offers beautiful views and a place to relax. For anyone looking for a more heightened natural setting, Arthur’s Seat takes just about an hour or so to climb. The hill is right in the city and the panoramic view is breathtaking. Whether you are up for a climb or not, you can easily enjoy the same picturesque scenery you might find on a postcard.

By night, Edinburgh is transformed into a vibrant scene where both visitors and townspeople alike mingle with a pint or two in one of the many local pubs. Naturally, students also enjoy the various clubs open most nights of the week offering discount drinks.

Edinburgh seems to be a wonderful combination of university town and historical city, which is exactly what I love.

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