Edinburgh, week 4
After almost a month spent in the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen – I’m not biased at all – now seems a good time to give some news and explain a bit more what I’m doing here.
First the news: Still cold, still windy, still very very expensive. Seriously, I’ve spend a crazy amount of money in just living, keeping the extras to a bare minimum and I’m more than eager to receive my scholarships – they seem to have trouble finding me, must be the wind eh.
Anyway, I’ve still been able to walk around a bit since last time I reported here. So far we’ve been to Aberdeen, which is 2 hours away in the north; we have seen the majestic Dunnotar Castle (looks a lot like Winterfell to me) as well as the Crathes Castle where we enjoyed a really interesting tour and met the local ghost, the lovely Green Lady.
I finally got to try the English Breakfast and spent a few hours exploring the National Museum of Scotland, which I found big, with a large collection of Scottish items. I did not take a tour/guide and that may be the reason why I was a bit frustrated, not finding enough information to satisfy my curiosity. But it’s definitively a great place for the kids.
I went twice to the cinema with my flatmates, and found out that eating during the movie is VERY important to them, and the size of the popcorn baskets impressed me. Also visited an old tartan factory, and lastly spent the night in an Irish pub with 11 international students from all around the world – I was the only French. This week I’ve planned on visiting the Edinburgh Castle, maybe the zoo and we have a trip to the highlands planned on Saturday.
So that’s it for the report. Now let’s talk about the Uni (because yes, still have to go to uni).
Edinburgh Napier University was created in 1964 (…)
As for the “Welcoming week”, it barely lasted a day (7th of January) with a welcoming conference and some paperwork, which gave me the opportunity to get my ID student card. The lectures started on the 13th of January.
I have 8 hours of lecture or tutorial per week, when I had around 25h back in France. Being an exchange student, I had the choice with my classes, and I took those called Scottish Culture and Society, Intercultural Organizational Management and Exploring Culture. I have lectures from Tuesday to Thursday and a 4 days long week-end (not sure if it can still be called a week-end though when it’s longer than the working week eh).
Scottish Culture and Society takes places in the biggest amphi, and two Scottish ladies from the clans Campbell and Macdonald present the history of Scotland throughout the wars, uprisings against England, Jacobites, failed colonies in America and historic friendship with France… They are also the organizers of the Edinburgh Castle tour and later, in March, we will have a day-long trip to Glasgow. In this lecture the class is exclusively composed of international students, mostly North Americans, Canadians, Germans, French and Honk Hong students.
Intercultural Organizational Management (IOM) takes places twice in the week, with a lecture in amphi and a tutorial in small groups. It’s about comparing cultures as objectively as we can, using dimensions like though/tender society, Hierarchical/egalitarian societies etc. and using the stereotypes to find a better way to do business all around the world. I’m working with my two German friends and it’s really interesting to confront our points of view on each other cultures with an open-mind!
Exploring Culture, in the continuity of IOM, is about understanding our own frames of references, how knowledge and truth works, and how we construct those ideas in a philosophical dimension. To put it clearly, the main goal of the course is to make the students understand that the way they see the world is not an objective reality, but the result of their own cultural construction. It is clearly the most difficult class I took, and to be honest I’m not a fan of my teacher, but the contents are really interesting.
The conduct of the classes is not much different from France, but I still noticed some small but interesting differences: for example, teachers allow a lot of breaks and are more tolerant to the noise, students can drink coffee during class, and students are supposed to call the teachers by their first name. In France, students would always use really polite and respectful tone and words towards teachers, and any other drink than water would not be allowed during lectures. Moreover, I was surprised to see some students keeping their hat during lectures: In France, teachers would be offended by this behaviour and would ask the student to take it off, as it is considered as very rude. In High school, hats were also forbidden in all the school buildings!
Classes seem to be a bit more relaxed, and there are a lot of interactions and debate between students during tutorials when in France, students would probably be more passive and wait for the teacher to explain his point before asking a few questions. Students are also more enthusiasts towards the courses, probably because they chose them, when in France the majority of courses are imposed and students are not always interested in all of them. For example, I am a second year in Business School, and I have around thirteen imposed courses.
I also noticed that because of the very little amount of lectures we have (8h per week against 28h back in France) teachers give more homework, and except us to think about the subject before to be able to check the answers during the tutorial; when in France lectures would be used to explain concepts and theory and tutorials to do the exercises with the help of the teacher.
One last point : I live with four scottish freshmen, and I have been observing their behaviour towards uni. They tend to miss a lot of lectures for no reason, and one of them said he was probably going to drop out at the end of the year... Of course my observing scale is too small to draw any conclusion, so I am not sure if it is a common behaviour among firstyears, maybe because of the contrast between the highschool stricter frame and college new freedom, as it is their first year living on their own without anyone watching them... I did not notice that kind of behaviour after the end of highschool in France. I will keep my eyes open and try to find more about this !
Napier University as a lot of clubs but I did not subscribe in any. The international club plans bus journeys around the country and as I wrote earlier, I will join them on Saturday and probably in March too for a trip to the Loch Ness. I also have the possibility to assist to English courses to improve my writing, spelling etc… Finally the NSA, aka the Napier student association, organizes the student nightlife, and I occasionally join my flatmates.
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