The University of Iowa

Working 9 to 5 Just to Stay Alive

February 11th, 2016

Marcus exploring castles

Exploring castles never gets old. Here is the Caeverlock Castle in Dumfries.

By Marcus Smith*

Hello everyone!

I decided to title this post after a lyric from one of my favourite Beyoncé songs because I feel like it most effectively captures the type of work ethic that I have adapted since arriving in Edinburgh (which was more than a month ago... can you believe it?). Scottish culture has a very different concept of time, but now that I have adjusted to it, I have found myself being much more productive.

Holyrood Park Trail

View of Holyrood Park trail. I have been more motivated to run knowing I will get to see views like this!

At the University of Edinburgh, students are not in class as often as we are in the States. I am in class for only nine hours a week and do not have any classes on Fridays. Since there is less time in class, students use the rest of their days to study so that they have their nights free to do what they please. The daytime is also used to run any errands that need to be done, for most stores close around 6 p.m. There is definitely a sense of a 9-to-5 work culture, but there is also plenty of time to explore the city and relax.

This style of time was different for me because at Iowa, I typically did most of my studying at night... but if I did that here then I would miss out on a lot of activities. The University always has several events a week in the Student Union, and there is always a bar or live music venue that has a special event every night of the week. Apparently Monday night is the biggest night of the week to go out here, which was definitely a big culture shock for me!

Also, student clubs and societies have their events at night, and most of them are open to both members and non-members. I have taken classes with the music society, dance society, and I plan on taking an African drumming class this week! The societies have been great ways to meet new people, pick back up an old hobby, or try something new. They are also a lot less of a commitment time-wise than student organizations in the States, giving me the opportunity to be involved in as many clubs as I want.

Glasgow Cathedral

The Glasgow Cathedral was quite breathtaking.

So given all that is happening here at night, it is nice not having to worry about schoolwork most nights because I have completed it all during the day. Nonetheless, there have been times when essays are due that I have to work at night, but overall I can get most of my work done during the day with plenty of time to spare.

I typically use my Fridays when I don’t have class to explore a different part of the city. Previously I have taken a stroll around Holyrood Park, tried out different coffee shops, and explored Edinburgh’s numerous museums and galleries. It is nice to wake up and think “What do I want to do today?” instead of “What do have to do today?” I also have a couple of trips planned in the upcoming weeks, and it is great to have weekends free to travel and see different parts of Europe.

Initially, I was intimidated by the amount of free time I had here. At Iowa, I had a rigid schedule of class, work, student clubs, and study, so the concept of having any spare time was quite foreign to me. After being here for a month, though, I have realized how important it is to take time for yourself. I have felt more energized, refreshed, and alive here than I ever have before, and every day I feel incredibly grateful to have this experience.

Until next time, Cheers!

*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