Spotlight On… Pastoral Care.

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The Student Support Team in the School of Social and Political Science are the first point of contact for advice and guidance on administrative and pastoral matters. Pastoral care is split into two main points of contact, Personal Tutors and Student Support Officers. They both have wide and often overlapping roles which allows for you, as the student, to approach the contact you find most comfortable to talk to or the one which can provide you with the best solution for your question. Our PT’s and SSO’s are wonderfully warm and supportive people, believe me, I know two of them very well! I have interviewed my own Personal Tutor, Dr Elizabeth Bomberg who has been absolutely wonderful in supporting me in all things academic and personal, and our Student Experience Officer, Sue Renton who is warm, welcoming and always up for a chat! Official School of Social and Political Science information on student support can be found here.

Personal Tutor – Dr Elizabeth Bomberg:

Personal Tutor’s are a wonderful resource. Both the University and the School of Social and Political Science recognises how important and beneficial a good academic relationship with your Personal Tutor can be. They believe that by working in partnership with your PT that you can: become a confident learner in your discipline & play an active part in your academic community, reflect on your academic progress & your effective use of academic feedback and develop the range of skills & attributes required for success at university and beyond. Dr Bomberg, who alongside being my own Personal Tutor is the Deputy Head of Politics & International Relations and a Senior Lecturer, kindly did an interview with me. The following quotes from her give you, as incoming students, some great advice as to how you can work with your PT to make the most of your studies.

“Student Support features 2 parts within the School of Social and Political Science. There are two different roles which overlap. Somebody who is there Monday to Friday is the Student Support Officer. They can refer you to many different places, such as the advice place or student counselling. They are particularly helpful with Special Circumstances as they can often do this more effectively than a Personal Tutor. Whereas, Personal Tutors are thoroughly well versed within the academic side of pastoral care.”

“Use your Personal Tutor and make the most of your relationship. Visit your them during their feedback/guidance hours, which are usually the same time every week and posted on a notice on their door. Discuss essays and exams and talk together about moving forward, strategies that you could use within exams. Use it as a reflective exercise. Make it a habit to stop by even if it’s just for one question or a little bit of information.”

“Ask your Personal Tutor a variety of questions from ‘I tend to find essays easy but exams hard’ to ‘I always get feedback about referencing, how can I change that?’ Through finding patterns of common problems you can work together with them to actively improve upon your academic life. Things which are especially useful for students to discuss with their Personal Tutor are readings, outside courses and extracurricular activities. If you feel comfortable coming to Personal Tutors about any personal issues you may have, we are happy to listen and talk you through those, too.”

These are the lovely, friendly and warm faces of Personal Tutor, Dr Elizabeth Bomberg and Student Support Officer, Sue Renton.

These are the lovely, friendly and warm faces of Personal Tutor, Dr Elizabeth Bomberg and Student Support Officer, Sue Renton.

Student Support Officer – Sue Renton:

The Student Support Team are based on the first floor of the Chrystal MacMillan Building and are there to offer help and advice on a range of different matters. They are led by Sue Renton, the Student Experience Officer. Alongside that role, Sue is the Student Support Officer for students within the Sustainable Development MA and had previously been supporting students in Sociology for 15 years. The Student Support Officers work alongside and often together with a Personal Tutor to help solve any personal problems which may occur during your university life. This can include anything from Interruption of Study to Special Circumstances. The following quotes from Sue Renton give you some great advice on how to work with your SSO and what they can do for you. 

“The Student Support Officer’s are not just there for when you have a problem, they are there to help you at any point in time. For example, if you want access to dissertations, we can do that. If you’re just not sure of something, come to us. If you just want to pop in and say hello, that’s absolutely fine! We’re key people in pointing you in the right direction and we’re always happy to have a chat. Whether its referring students who need extra help towards the Advice Place or recommending student counselling to  helping you fill out paperwork, we can do it. We’ll always know where to tell you to go  if we can’t solve your problem ourselves.”

“If anyone does have a problem, whether it is not being able to make deadlines, applying for Special Circumstances or any other personal issue that you may experience, please get in touch with an SSO. It is a big advantage, especially if you can contact us in advance, as we can get in touch with not only our own SSO’s within the School of Social and Political Science but areas out-with our school. We can take the pressure off you and make sure you don’t feel alone.”

“In the event of a student wishing to withdraw, please discuss it with both your PT and your SSO. We can work together to make sure both the administrative and academic sides are completed in time. Your Personal Tutor can talk through your academic options and a Student Support Officer can talk you through the forms you would have to fill out and make sure the process is as stress free as possible. ”

“If any societies need help, I’m absolutely happy to give that to them. Any little problems, thoughts or things you may have, I am there to support you! My door is always open and all of the Student Support Officers want for students is for them to be happy and to succeed!”

Both Personal Tutors and Student Support Officers are always happy to help you, so please use them to your advantage! Without having a good academic relationship with my own PT, I wouldn’t have applied for my internship. Her advice and support helped me to become a better student and to apply for jobs I didn’t think I’d get. Since the start of university I have become a more confident, hard working and enthusiastic individual but I couldn’t have done it without Dr Bomberg’s encouragement. When I felt I wasn’t doing very well or when I reached hurdles in my academic career, I went and spoke to her during her office hours and we worked through it together. Your Student Support Officer will always be there when your life has become harder and Sue Renton is one of the most understanding people I have the pleasure of knowing. So please knock on her door, or your own Student Support Officer (which you can find the details of here) if you ever have any problems or questions. Through working together with both your PT and SSO you can continually seek support from both areas of Pastoral Care and hopefully, you will never feel that you’re alone here in Edinburgh.

Moving to University: Societies (Part One)

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This week we’re starting a very exciting feature on the blog! Over the next three weeks we are going to be featuring some wonderful societies, four of them being directly linked to the School of Social and Political Science and the other societies are ones which exist outside of SPS. This week’s subject based societies do everything from socials and guest lecturers to treasure hunts! Societies can provide you with some amazing opportunities, skills, friends and memories. I have interviewed all of these societies and hope that their answers can show you just how much you can get from being a society member.


Edinburgh University Sustainable Development Association:

1. Tell us a little bit about what you study and how you got involved in the Sustainable Development Association. What your role is now and how it has benefited your time at university?

My name is Liz Teixeira and I am a third-year Sustainable Development student with a Geography pathway. I am currently the president of the Edinburgh University Sustainable Development Association (EUSDA) and I was one of the founding members. We are a new society on campus, having received EUSA’s recognition at the end of the spring semester. Along with Claire (EUSDA’s vice president), Ronan (Treasurer), Tara (Secretary) and many others, we created this society to unite and represent sustainable development students and those interested in sustainable development as well as to promote sustainable development on campus. While we are still very new, we feel like we have already come very far in working with the School of Social and Political Science and creating relationships with other organizations and are continually working to bring students together. My favourite thing about being involved in EUSDA is definitely the friends that I have made. I think that it is so important to get to know people in your degree and I think that it is awesome to connect with people who are just as passionate about sustainable development as I am. I have made some of my best friends at university through the society and am so excited to see what we can achieve together.

2.  What is the Sustainable Development Association and what do you do?

The Edinburgh University Sustainable Development Association (EUSDA) is a brand new society on campus dedicated to promoting sustainable development and its principles at the university while united interested persons from across academic disciplines. EUSDA offers the opportunity for undergraduates, postgraduates, staff and others to engage with their passion for sustainable development. It represents the aims and aspirations of the Sustainable Development degree as well as educating anyone with an interest in this important topic. We host a wide range of events from academic events to socials! By being linked to the sustainable development staff on campus, we offer networking opportunities and a chance to bring people of all levels within the University together to collaborate and learn from one another. We value a fair, equal and inclusive environment where all members are respected. Being such a new society allows us to be a great place to allow new members to join and manage the society to meet their own interests. We have a very open committee structure and encourage anyone who is interested to run for positions, which is possible throughout the year, something that is unique to our society.

3. What do your society members gain from being a part of your society? 

EUSDA members can benefit from networking connections both within the university and beyond as speakers are brought in for various events. It is a great place to make friends within the School of Social and Political Science and throughout the university. We also plan to hold workshops next year so there will be opportunities to enhance your skills. Further, members will go on volunteer trips together so that we can see how to implement sustainable development in a hands-on way and give back to our community.


 4. What was the best event/social you had last year and why? Are there any funny stories? 

While we didn’t have many events yet last year besides our welcome event, though a number of our members worked together on the Edinburgh Sustainability Awards on the Chrystal Macmillan Building (CMB) team and we were able to earn a gold award. Our welcome meeting proved very positive and fruitful with loads of participation from students both from the sustainable development degree and across the university. The Edinburgh Sustainability awards allowed us to work together to improve the sustainability of the CMB. We worked with the buildings procurement team to ensure that resources were sustainably sourced, got feedback from students and staff to address concerns within the building, and we raised awareness about healthy living and resources that the university provides with an installation in the lobby, our lovely “cardboard Meredith” (pictured above).

5. Is there anything else you would like to add?

We are really excited about our events next year and would like to encourage anyone who is interested to visit us at our booth at the Societies Fair during Fresher’s Week. We would also like to invite everyone to our SD Scavenger Hunt which will also be held during Fresher’s Week, more details coming soon!

PIR logo

Edinburgh University Politics and International Relations Society:

1. Tell us a little bit about what you study, how you got involved in PIR Soc. What your role is now and how it has benefited your time at university?

I’m Maxwell Greenberg. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my degree is single honours Politics. I got involved in the Politics and International Relations Society largely as a result of my involvement as an assistant editor on the University’s Journal of Politics and IR, Leviathan, which features the best of student Politics and IR academic writing and analysis. The Journal is a part of the PIR Society, and the communities are one and the same. I led the Journal as Editor in Chief in my third year, and after a year’s experience on the PIR Society Committee, ran for the Presidency, the position I occupy now.  The PIR Society has given me, and hundreds of other students, a lot, but mostly, it has given me a sense of real community at this university with people who share my interests and passions.

2.  What is PIR Soc​ and what do you do?

We are the official Society of the PIR Department, which houses the Politics and IR degree programmes. We’re an academic community, bringing together academics and students, and teaching academic skills. We are a speaker’s bureau, bringing exciting and diverse political opinions into our community. We produce a Journal, Leviathan, which gives student writing and ideas a platform, exposure, and amplification, whilst building writing and editing skills. We produce a radio show, host socials, connect students with alumni, help students write CVs, and so, so much more. The PIR Society should be any Fresher’s first stop, not just if their degree programme falls within the PIR Department – our membership is large and diverse, including students from all over the world who are future Physicists, Vets, and Medics!

 3. What do your society members gain from being a part of your society? 

Society members gain a welcoming, inclusive, and international community that welcomes diversity of opinion and academic debate. It’s our job to make sure that you leave your first PIR Society event with a new pal and food for thought.


 4.  What is the best event/social you had last year and why? Are there any funny stories? 

The best event we had last year was hands down our first event – a presentation on the situation in Syria by our previous President. Over 100 students turned out, enjoyed the debate, and headed to the pub afterwards. We decided to include a photo of the dignified bit of the night.

5. Is there anything else you would like to add?

The PIR Society is a vibrant, welcoming place. You and your ideas are very welcome, and we hope to see you at our Scottish Parliament visit during Fresher’s Week and beyond! Like us on Facebook to keep up with our events for the year!


Look out for next week’s blog where we are going to hear from the Sociology and Social Anthropology Societies. Remember that you can always look up any societies that aren’t featured by looking through the societies page on EUSA. Which societies are you planning to join? Are there any societies you wished existed?


Spotlight On… Graduation.

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This week I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Graduation Reception in the Playfair Library. We saw our wonderful Graduates from the School of Social and Political Science celebrate their day with friends, family and partners. There were lots of smiley faces all round! I thought it would be a great idea to catch a few of our grads while they were on a high and ask them what advice they would give a student coming to study at Edinburgh for the first time. Here are the results:

1. “Take every opportunity that comes your way, listen to your gut and explore your passions. Find the people that can take your further so that you can get to a point where you can look back and say, ‘I am so proud of what I have achieved.'” Alyssa.

2. “Take advantage of the teaching as much as possible, seek them out and you will gain a lot.”Chris.

School of Social and Political Science Graduates: Chris, Alyssa & Charlotte. Don't they all look wonderfully happy!

School of Social and Political Science Graduates: Chris, Alyssa & Charlotte. Don’t they all look wonderfully happy!

3. “Try as many things as possible and then when you find them, commit to those things that you love.”Sianan.

4. “Take advantage of the international community, share experiences with each other and always be accepting.”Pedro.

5. “Pick outside subjects for two reasons. Either because you find them exciting and interesting or because it is relevant to your degree and will forward you as an academic.”Charlotte.

Pedro, Sianan, Celina & Aislinn.

School of Social and Political Science Graduates 2014: Pedro, Sianan, Celina & Aislinn. They all look brilliant in their gowns!

6. “Don’t be discouraged if you don’t make friends during Freshers Week. There’s both plenty of opportunity and time ahead.”Celina.

7. “Introduce yourself to everybody, you never know who you’ll meet. 4 years later you might be graduating with your best friends.” Aislinn.

I think the best people to learn from are those that came before. In this small mix of people we have postgraduate students, society Presidents, 1st class honours achievers and those who have come to Edinburgh and made the absolute best of the opportunity they were given! They have given some excellent advice and I wish I had been able to quiz some graduates before I came to university. Take heed of the advice and most importantly remember that university is what YOU make of it. One day you could be the one earning a fantastic degree and you could also end up giving advice to incoming students, too!


Moving to University: Study Space.

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One of the realities of university life is that studying becomes even more important than it might have been within your high school or college life. The biggest thing I had trouble with when making the adjustment to university life was getting into a good routine of studying. Finding a place that provided a comfortable, distraction free space for me to work within was difficult at first. Throughout the last 2 years at Edinburgh University, I have found myself testing study spaces from cafes to silent study spaces. Here are my top 6 places to get your study on!

1. Main Library. Although the library can often get incredibly busy it is still one of my favourite places to study. The work spaces are clean, most people are quiet and respectful and there’s even the Library Cafe for a quick chocolate and caffeine fix. My favourite part of the Main Library has to be the group study space. As an auditory learner, working in groups is really beneficial for me and being able to talk about particularly difficult concepts without being shhh’d is great. For those of you that hate any sort of distraction there is a silent study space on the 5th floor which will fulfil all of your distraction-free needs.

2. Hugh Robson Building. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Hugh Rob’, this wonderful study space is open 24 hours a day and has provided the venue for one too many of my late night study sessions (something I would not recommend doing!)  I always find Hugh Rob to be vastly quieter than the library so when I really need to knuckle down and do something this is the place for me.

3. Teviot. One of our wonderful student unions, Teviot, has a designated study space appropriately named ‘The Study.’ This has free access computers and even holds some student visual arts exhibitions throughout the year! My favourite place to get my required readings done is in the Library Bar but only during the day. I really enjoy doing some readings over a plate of delicious nachos while discussing them with some friends on the same course.


Two beautiful days in the Meadows – a perfect spot for studying in the sun. Along with Paul, our HelpDesk manager in the library.

4. Appleton Tower. Although Appleton Tower is apparently one of the ugliest buildings in the whole of the UK, it does provide some splendid study space. Sitting in the mezzanine next to the cafe are a whole bunch of computers which hold the basics such as Microsoft Office and different web browsers. As a 2nd Year who had a lecture from 4-5 pm last year, Appleton provided the perfect place for some in between lecture studying.

5. Cafes. Edinburgh is well stocked when it comes to cafes, from the famous Elephant House to my personal favourites, Kilimanjaro or Bean Scene. There are plenty of options for those of us who prefer the atmosphere of a cafe for their studying needs. The Bean Scene does a £5 meal deal which satisfies all of my study cravings and Kilimanjaro has some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. When it comes to studying in cafes, you have to find the right place for you. Start trying out places at the start of term and then hopefully by the time exam time comes around, you’ll have found the perfect place.

6. The Meadows. If being indoors isn’t really your style and if it is a lovely, warm and sunny day outside then studying in the Meadows is a great option. Be sure to pack a blanket for sitting on and you’ll be well on your way for  a productive study session and maybe a little bit of people watching.

Wherever you end up studying the most important thing is that it should be comfortable, relaxing and cater to your needs as a learner. The best advice I can give about study space is to give everything a go and soon you’ll find the perfect place for you. Make sure to balance your academics with your social life, though, so you don’t burn yourself out!

My Edinburgh Bucket List.

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We’re deviating from the usual ‘Spotlight On…’ series for one week only today. While writing last Tuesday’s post, I found myself realising that even after living in Edinburgh for 2 years there was so much I had yet to do and so many areas of the city that I was yet to explore. To remedy this situation, I decided to take Sociology and Psychology student, Kayleigh’s advice and a make an Edinburgh bucket list. So, with a little help from my friends and colleagues who have given me some amazing suggestions, I have made my bucket list as follows.

1. Lebowskis. Believe it or not, I’ve actually set foot in Lebowskis as it is a bar and restaurant. But, as my flatmate Hannah reminded me, I am yet to order a drink from their menu. As it is one of her favourite places to get a cocktail this is something we have to do together before she goes on her year abroad to Utrecht. We’re going to set up a friend date soon to have a good natter over one of their famous White Russians.

2. Cuckoo’s Bakery. My good friend, Louise, always raves about Cuckoo’s Bakery and her favourite cupcake in the whole world is their take on a red velvet. Louise has been suggesting that we go and get a cupcake together for ages, so I think it’s finally time that I fulfill this promise as she says their cake is absolutely delicious.

3. Lochend Park, Meadowbank. According to a good friend and colleague, Matt, Lochend Park in Meadowbank is one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems. He and his girlfriend often go there on romantic walks together, which must win him some brownie points! He says it is not only absolutely beautiful but has lots of swans, too, which he has seen grow up from signets into adults. There are a couple of cycle routes that I’ve found so I’m planning on riding my bike down there at the weekend.

A view of the wonderful Calton Hill and some very stereotypical Edinburgh tenement buildings.

A view of the wonderful Calton Hill (which is somewhere I’d suggest you add to your own bucket list!) and some very stereotypical Edinburgh tenement buildings.

4. Toast. My friend Simon said that Toast is his favourite place to go to brunch with his girlfriend or friends. I’ve been reliably informed by him to order the caramelised onion and goats cheese on French bread. Although apparently a little pricey, I don’t think I can miss out on the ultimate brunch experience.  I might take my own friends on a brunch adventure… and maybe even invite Simon along, too.

5. BBQ in the Meadows. As suggested by Meghan, a BBQ in the Meadows is an Edinburgh student staple but even after 2 years, I’ve never done it! According to her, the best place to sit is in the middle, with lots of fantastic friends, where you can all participate in a good amount of people watching.

6. Dominion Cinema. This wonderful cinema isn’t even that far away from my flat and I’ve still never been! Unlike the suggestions by any friends or colleagues, going to the Dominion is my own addition and something that I’ve been meaning to do forever. It’s special as it offers sofas to sit on instead of the usual cinema experience. I guess I’m just waiting for a good film and some great company!

My bucket list has become an ongoing list of suggestions and must dos from everyone who has come into my life while I’ve studied and lived in Edinburgh. Coming to Edinburgh can be a fantastic experience if you want it to be. The trouble is that everything is what we make of it and I know lots of fellow students that don’t take advantage of all of the amazing things that are around us, both academically and socially. The challenge is, can you create a bucket list that is as wonderful as mine when you come to Edinburgh? Or, if you’re already from Edinburgh, do you have any suggestions to add to my bucket list? Let me know! 🙂

Moving to University: Seeing, Doing, Eating and Exploring.

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This week I have racked my brain and asked my fellow School of Social and Political Science friends to think about everything there is to see, do, eat and explore in the wonderful city of Edinburgh. The city, much like the University, is full of diversity, culture, friendly people and lots of great things to do and learn. Although there are multiple different sources of insight on what to do and what not to do in Edinburgh both online and in print, I hope to give you some very personal recommendations of what to get stuck into while you’re here. Here are my 6 tips and tricks for everything Edinburgh.

1. Throw yourself into anything and everything. Freshers Week is a really great opportunity to try everything out, whether it be society events or nights out, especially because there’s no obligations to go back! This idea extends past Freshers Week, though. During your first months in Edinburgh, try and give everything a go. This will mean that you will begin to find the places you prefer to hang out in or the little shops that you know always have good deals.

The view from North Bridge, a friendly piper and the Christmas Market.

The view from North Bridge, a friendly piper and the Christmas Market.

2. Go up.  “I’m a bit of a sucker for a good view so I’d say explore and go up Braid Hill, Calton Hill, Blackford Hill or other pretty places like that – it helps you to get to know different areas of the city and makes it feel more like home when you have nice places to visit. I’ve spent many a day going on a hike with my flatmates. The roof of the National Museum of Scotland has a great view, too, and it’s free!”  (Hannah, Politics & Sociology)

The wonderful view of Edinburgh from Blackford Hill.

The wonderful view of Edinburgh from Blackford Hill taken by Hannah on one of her hikes!

3. Eat! “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates. One of the best ways to explore Edinburgh is by your taste buds. A few of my favourite haunts include Union of Genius,Frisky, Miro’s Cantina, Oink, Henderson’s and I’m always a sucker for the cheap and fantastic nachos from our very own, Teviot. Talk to your fellow students to see what they think is good and give everything a go. Another great place to go for a little bit of Harry Potter is the Elephant House. 

Apple pie from the Elephant House and frozen yoghurt from Frisky.

4. Go off the beaten track.  “I’d say just go off the beaten track for a day… Put on some good shoes, take a wander and see where you discover! Little cafés, great shops, amazing scenery! My favourite days in Edinburgh are the ones that I have no plans and I can just wander, take in the architecture and enjoy a rare bit of sunshine!”  (Katie, Politics)

Water of Leith by Paula in the office & Union Canal taken on a bike ride

Water of Leith by Paula in the office & Union Canal taken on a bike ride

5. Tick off the touristy places. “Make a bucket list of all of the more tourist orientated places like the Castle (although it’s considered bad luck to go before you graduate!), Old Town, Royal Botanic Gardens and the many galleries and then tick them off as you go. A lot of these things are free, too. Another good idea is to put them all in a jar and pick one out every week. If you pick it, you have to follow through and do it!” (Kayleigh, Sociology & Psychology)

The view from a bridge in Paris & from the Tower of London.

The view from a bridge in Paris & from the Tower of London.

6. Get outside of Edinburgh. Scotland has so much to offer. I’ve been on day trips to the Highlands to see Ben Nevis and Loch Lomond and over to Fife to see St. Andrews & Crail and for the best fish & chips in the world, in Anstruther. Another great place to go is Glasgow, where I love to browse around the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum or just take a walk around with my Glasgow University friends. One of the best parts of Edinburgh, though, is it’s proximity to the rest of Europe and how cheap flights out of the country can be. I’ve been to Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam & London and know people who have been everywhere from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Dublin, Ireland.

Boats in Crail, Fife, Fish & Chips in Anstruther, Fife and Ben Nevis.

Boats in Crail, Fife, Fish & Chips in Anstruther, Fife and Ben Nevis.

When you come and join us in Edinburgh, get exploring! The best way to see the city is on your feet and with some good company. You are bound to find many hidden treasures, delicious things to eat and exciting places to go in the city and beyond. What better time for an adventure than now?

Spotlight On… International Edinburgh.

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Here at the University of Edinburgh, we are a diverse and welcoming community and by joining us you will be surrounded by people from across the globe. Our students have all kinds of thoughts and differing opinions, likes and dislikes and a lot of great stories to tell. For me, this is one of the reasons that I wanted to study here. It gave me an opportunity to learn about other countries, cultures, religions and so on without moving too far away from home. Learning to be more open minded, accepting and gaining some new friends along the way is never a bad thing!

To give you an idea of where in the world our lovely students are from, I have been asking incoming Freshers to send me a picture of somewhere in their home town, city or country. We’ve had some brilliant responses and I hope the following photos give you an insight into what is it like to be part of both the School of Social and Political Science and the wider University community. You can click on the collages to make them bigger, if you’d like.

The University of Edinburgh and the School of Social and Political Science recognises that our multicultural community is something that is really special. For me, it’s been invaluable to be able to sit in a tutorial and talk about various countries and then be able to hear the thoughts and opinions from someone that lives there. It has also been fantastic to be lectured by academics of all nationalities, who constantly promote ideas of inclusion, understanding and openness. This year in the School of Social and Political Science we hosted events such as the Global Ethnographies Week by a PhD student, Arek Dakessian and my personal favourite, the Transatlantic Seminar Series which promotes informed discussion of current issues and research on American and European politics, economy and society. 

The international part of our Edinburgh community is not just for our international students, either. I joined the North American Society in 1st year after I travelled to the east coast of the US in between high school and university. Within the society I found a group of like-minded people who welcomed me with open arms, even though I was British! Through this society I am able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my North American friends and support my favourite American football team during football season. There are hundreds of societies to get involved with and our international students often find a home away from home in them, too.

This year we launched our annual Gather Festival which reflects upon and celebrates the diverse University of Edinburgh community. There were 52 events and over 2,500 people attended and we’re hoping that it will be even bigger and better next year. Alongside this, we have a great International Office which provides everything from visa advice to help for those lucky people who go on a year abroad. Another great place to go is the International Student Centre. They are a group of splendid student volunteers who organise socials, trips and events all based around key themes of diversity, fairness, friendliness and hospitality.

We cannot wait to welcome you into School of Social and Political Science and to the wider university community. I know that I found many places in Edinburgh that now feel like my second home and I hope you will, too! For some more fun, I made a Google Map of the places everyone who submitted to the photo request is from. It would be great to continue to build the map, so leave a comment or send me a message and let me know where in the world you’re from!

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Moving to University: Looking After Yourself & Living With Other People.

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Learning to live with other people and fend for myself worried me a lot before starting university. It can be an adjustment to go from home comforts to living with relative strangers. The benefits of university life definitely outweigh the negatives, though! A few of our splendid Undergraduates are having the same worries that I had and I want to put them at ease. Here are 8 easy tips for making the leap from home life to living on your own as enjoyable as possible.

1. Be a friendly face. Always take the time to introduce yourself and talk to people, especially if you are more outgoing and confident than others. Everyone finds adjusting to university life a little different and some people can be shy, anxious or just missing home. That simple introduction could turn into your new best friend or just make them feel better about the change you’re both going through. Of course, not every friendship is meant to be… but it is always nice to have people to smile at!

2. Learn to make your own meals! Unless you’re living in catered accommodation, learning to make your own meals is a really good idea and it’s not as hard as you think. There are so many YouTube channels, blogs and student cookbooks that these are often overwhelming. At first, I would suggest asking for some help at home and getting a few simple, tasty meals under your belt. Once you get more confident you can use herbs and spices to make them a bit more exciting. Plus, home cooked meals make for a great Instagram picture! 😉

3. Be flexible with your levels of cleanliness. Not everyone is as tidy or messy as others but everyone is responsible for pulling their weight. Avoid pointless arguments through communicating with kindness, being understanding of others standards and never adopting the ‘they didn’t do it so I wont either’ attitude.

4. Be respectful of your flatmates. Walls can be thinner than they seem!  Since most people have different deadlines and sleeping patterns, it’s always best to be quiet if in doubt. Of course, everyone will have the occasional lapse in judgement so remember to be forgiving of others, too.

Flatmates & Friends

Just a few of my wonderful uni friends! From lecture halls to the flat next door, there are always brilliant, like-minded people to be found.

5. Get to know your neighbours. Three of my best friends from living in halls were my next door neighbours, we even used to have Sunday Roasts together! Now, not all neighbours are born equal so you may not get on with yours. Despite this, extending a hello and an invite inside during Fresher’s Week can go along way… even if it is them letting you borrow some toilet roll when you’ve forgotten to buy more.

6. Take responsibility for yourself. Once you get to university, it’s easy to rely on others doing things for you. Whether that be your flatmate or your Mum! By taking responsibility of cleaning your own dishes, washing your clothes and paying your bills (if you have to do that yet) from the start, you’ll feel better about settling in.

7. See things beyond your halls. Fresher’s Week is a brilliant time to immerse yourself in everything, even if you never go back again. If you go out there and join a couple of societies, get involved with the various tours and go to the club nights you’ll forget about missing home so much (if you are at all!). You’ll also make lots of new acquaintances and some really great memories.

8. Look after each other. Making the adjustment to university life can be easy for some and really hard for others. It’s important to look out for everyone, especially for those who aren’t settling in as well as others. Extending the invite towards a quieter flatmate or neighbour is always an appreciated gesture, even if they say no.

The University of Edinburgh has some really great resources about making the move, too.  There are pre-arrival and post-arrival checklists here and the 2013 ‘Getting Started Guides’ are here and will be updated for 2014 in July. A top tip is to keep an eye on both your university and personal emails for any information or for links to joining accommodation or subject based Facebook groups. My final tip would be to try to be open to learning a lot in a short space of time and above all else, have lots of fun! 🙂

Spotlight On… Academic Success.

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Thursday has come around again and it’s time for another ‘Spotlight On…’ post. As requested by some students in our lovely Undergraduate Facebook groups, we’re focusing on academic success this week. I know when I started university I was really anxious about performing well academically so it’s a completely normal feeling to have. A lot of this advice may seem quite obvious but don’t dismiss it right away. If you know about these tips but don’t do them, maybe they’re not so obvious anymore! 😉

1. Stop worrying. At the Pre-Arrivals stage it is important to engage with reading lists, browse the information the university has provided and to make some connections via social media but if it feels stressful and overwhelming, take a break! Coming to university is a wonderful opportunity that should be enjoyed, even the academic side!

2. You are good enough to be here. I think every Fresher at some point initially suffers from ‘imposter syndrome’, that feeling that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, funny enough… Remember that most people feel the same way as you do and that you are here for a reason.

3. Time management isn’t just a buzzword! When a lecturer, tutor or your parents tell you to start an essay early – do it. Set clear goals, prioritise the nearest deadlines and make time for having fun. By giving yourself more time to do an essay, you account for the fact that some days you just can’t write anymore, that you may need to do some extra reading and allow time yourself to look over it with a fresh mind.

4. Plan time to procrastinate. Procrastination is a fact of life, we all do it whether we admit it or not! To try and curb how much time you spend doing it, give yourself 10 to 15 minute study breaks to do something unproductive. Make time for socialising with friends, too, as sometimes informal discussion about essays can push you in the right direction.

5. Take advantage of feedback. Your lecturers and tutors are not just there for show. They are happy to help you with your academic studies and they hold feedback sessions for a reason! Written feedback should be referred to as you write your next essay, not just understood as a critique of your last.

The Meadows on a beautifully sunny day this May and our wonderful Castle last week!

6. Look at the grading system. Both UK and International students should look at the School of Social and Political Science’s marking descriptors. It clearly tells you what markers look for when grading and gives you some guidelines to follow. For some International Students, it is important to note that it tells you that you don’t need 90% for an A!

7. Read, read and read some more. All courses within the School of Social and Political Science will have required reading for lecturers and tutorials, please read it! It makes engaging in tutorials and lectures so much easier. Also, when you have to study for exams you are revising what you already know rather than teaching yourself brand new concepts.

8. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, ask a friend or tutor, no matter how silly you may think it is. The same goes for feedback, if you’re unsure what it means go to your tutors feedback session or send them an email. Getting quality feedback helps you improve.

9. Learn how to reference accurately! Most schools with Edinburgh suggest using the Harvard System of Referencing and getting a grasp of referencing is not a bad thing to do before you come to university. There is some really useful information on Edinburgh’s Institute of Academic Development’s site, and a great guide here. 

10. Go to lectures and tutorials. This may seem like the most obvious advice but it’s really important. Although most courses will put PowerPoint slides online and yes, sometimes lectures aren’t the most thrilling of experiences, there is nothing that can replace learning to engage in a lecture or tutorial in a way that suits you. Do you just like to sit and listen? Do you like to take notes or record the lecture? Do you want to copy the slides or write down what the lecturer is saying? Through working out what works best, you’ll enjoy lectures and learn more effectively.

I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t come to university and pay attention to the all of the advice that everyone gave me but I wish I had. The obvious, clichéd advice usually is that way for a reason… because it works! Use university as an opportunity to understand more about how you learn and what works best for you. Despite this, please don’t forget to have fun! Getting the right work/play balance may not come easily at first but if you time manage and practise some trial and error it should work itself out.

Do you have any tips for your fellow students? Comment below, it’d be great to hear from you!





10 things I wish I had known before starting University… Edinburgh Edition.

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This week I have been asking current undergraduate students from the school SPS and beyond what they wished they had known before starting university. What better way to get a little heads up than from the very people who have been there and done it before!

1.I wish I had known that ‘office hours’ is actually a drop-in session to get help/feedback from lecturers! My essays in first and second year could have benefitted from that…” – Silje, English Literature.

2. “We had no idea how much a decent student flat near campus would cost! We’ve got a very central flat but if we’d looked even a mile further out we would have got a lot more for our money.”  – Emily, Law and Suzey, Italian and Linguistics

3. “With university, much more so than school, what you get out of the experience depends so much on what you put in – whether that is academic effort, or joining societies etc…” – Lorna, History and Politics

4. “At first, I was surprised at how much work I had to do for my outside course (Sociology) but it was great because it gave me both an insight into another degree and skills which I can apply to a variety of different things.” – Kayleigh, Psychology  

5. “Exam timetables aren’t released that far in advance, so don’t book anything until you know when your exams are.” – Hannah, Sociology and Politics

One of our lovely student unions, Teviot and a beautifully sunny day outside the Chrystal Macmillan Building.

One of our lovely student unions, Teviot and a beautifully sunny day outside the Chrystal Macmillan Building.

6. “I was surprised about how easy it was for me to change degree. The university was very accommodating and understood that people may change their minds after their first year of study and so the process wasn’t difficult at all. My personal tutor was very helpful and let me know where all of the relevant information was.” – Catherine, Social Anthropology with Development

7. “Put yourself out there from the start and take advantage of all of the societies and sports clubs because I wish I had done more!” – Shannon, Geography

8. “I wish I had known to learn a few quick meals before coming to university, making your own food is cheaper and healthier.” – Craig, Computer Science

9. “I wish I’d known not to stress about everything so much. I was a very stressed out first year, wondering what to expect from essays, exams etc. but all you can do is read the guidance and give it your best shot! Whatever you do, don’t get yourself in a panic. You’ve been accepted to the University of Edinburgh for a reason – you are an excellent candidate. Always take pride in that.” – Katie, Politics

10. Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone and everyone. Even if they don’t want to talk to you again, they are usually nice to your face. And when you do meet awesome, down-to-earth people – it is GREAT!” – Liam, Chinese

My own advice would be that I wish I had paid more attention to the feedback given to me on my essays in 1st year. Until realising how important it really was at the start of 2nd year, I found myself making the same mistakes over and over again. It really is worth paying attention to and can often help in those moments when you’re completely stuck on an essay. All in all, there is some great advice in this blog post and I wish I had someone to tell me what they wished they had known!

Do you have any advice that you’ve been given that you’d like to share? Did this blog post put your mind at ease? What else would you like to see on the blog? Comment and let me know!

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