The University of Iowa

Becoming a city boy (getting around Edinburgh)

January 21st, 2016

Marcus Smith is a sophomore studying political science as well as ethics and public policy at the University of Iowa.. The Bolingbrook, Illinois, native is spending his semester on the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University program in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

Hello everyone!

First off, I would like to thank everyone who is reading my blog, and hope you find my posts somewhat entertaining and interesting as I document my times here in Scotland. For my first entry, I’m going to talk about getting around the city of Edinburgh, which has been quite different than my time in Iowa City.

cobblestone street

What a typical street in Edinburgh looks like. Lots of cobblestone!

I have now been in Edinburgh for 14 days, and I am starting to feel more acquainted and slowly learning how to navigate it.  The city is so picturesque and charming, and I often find myself wandering the streets for hours at a time just taking in the beauty of it.  That being said, I still get lost at least once a day, and would like to take this time to personally thank Google maps for always being there for me, and for the University of Edinburgh for posting maps on virtually every street corner.

Marcus at St. Andrews

Me on the beach during a day trip to St. Andrews with friends.

One of the biggest adjustments that I’ve had to make has been allowing myself more time to get places. I have around a 20 minute walk to get to campus, and about a 30 minute walk into the city centre. Needless to say, I can no longer roll out of bed at 9:15 and expect to get to my 9:30 class on time. I’m not even bothered by how long it takes me to walk to class because the views I get to see are absolutely breath-taking.

Also, once I’m on campus, the University is quite compact for its large size, and all of my classes are within a 10 minute walk of each other. It has definitely been a different experience of not going to school in a “college town” like Iowa City where most of the city life revolves around the university. Edinburgh has almost 500,000 people, and the University only accounts for 33,000 of that population. The good thing is that I’m used to large universities, but I am not so familiar with city transportation, and I’ve had some interesting experiences as I’ve been learning to get around the area.

The most blatant difference here is that they drive on the left side of the road. I cannot count how many times I look the wrong way when crossing the street, and it’s amazing that I have not gotten hit by a car yet (fingers crossed it stays that way). The roads are also a lot narrower, and it amazes me how these large busses manage not to hit each other when making turns.

Another funny situation was when my friend Sarah and I were attempting to get a taxi, but we didn’t know if they did it differently in the UK. We didn’t want to seem like rude Americans who whistled at a taxi, so we asked a lady on the street who ended up flagging the taxi down for us! (Proof of how nice people are in Scotland). Taxis are cheaper here than they are in the U.S., but I still am not used to paying for transportation, so I try to walk as much as I can. My pedometer says I am averaging around 5 miles a day, which is good because it can be an adequate substitute for paying for a gym membership here. I plan on coming back to the States with some killer legs!

I have absolutely loved my first two weeks in Edinburgh, and I cannot wait to master the city and explore every inch of it. Here’s to a great semester!