Study Abroad and Global Education

Andrea Mackey

Ask me where I've been: Scotland

Major(s) Neuroscience (Pre-med)
Hobbies Drawing, Painting, Photography, Scuba Diving, Hiking, Soccer, Swimming, Reading
Hometown Sherman Oaks, CA
Program/Study Site IFSA Butler: University of Edinburgh
Andrea Mackey | Scotland

Why study abroad?

It gave me a global outlook on academics, insight in European politics, and unique experiences that only studying abroad offer. I learned how to be independent and was able to be really immersed in the Scottish culture. It was also interesting talking to Medics being a pre-med.

Why did you choose Scotland?

I am a mixed Filipina-Scottish American, so I wanted to understand my Mackey heritage. Moreover, I wanted to look the changing the landscape of Scotland politically and socially and gain input from friends especially since I was there during the Brexit campaign. I am also a big Harry Potter fan, so I wanted to go to the birthplace of Harry Potter and walk along the same streets JK Rowling did as a student.

What courses did you enroll in while abroad?

  • Psychology: Mind and Brain
  • Controversies in Medicine
  • Technology and the Environment
  • Scottish History since 1914
*I accidentally took Controversies, which was a 4th year-post grad social science course. I happened to do well, but just a warning to make sure you look at what year the class is supposed to be offered since the system will allow you to add it.

What was your living situation?

I lived in a self-catered flat with 3 other students who I became friends with! I had my own room with two bathrooms and kitchen. (East Newington) When they ask you for housing, try to get a flat near George Sq. It’s where most activities happen. Even if you take most of your classes at the science campus, King’s Buildings, you can pick up free buses down. The best self-catered flat is Darroch Court, which is near the Uni and the gym. If you like nightlife, College Wynd and Robertson’s Close are great, but the noise levels go on all night. If you like the idea of having an average student room with easy access to meals since it’s catered, Pollock’s is the one for you. However, you may have fewer friends since it’s more like a hotel than a flat.

What did you do for fun?

I joined the Quidditch Team! It was a great way to meet friends and get active. I got really close to the team especially as we went down to England for the British Quidditch Cup. I got to meet other students from the different UK universities and play against them. The best feeling was running around the field with the Scottish flag anytime a Scottish Team would face off an English team. I also had the chance to travel. Traveling around Europe is cheaper than traveling around the US thanks to cheap airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir. Besides traveling around Scotland, one of my favorite experiences was road tripping around Iceland with fellow Scripps friends. I got the chance to scuba diving in the Silfra Fissure where I touched two continents at once with amazing visibility.

Highlights of the program:

IFSA provided unique opportunities to travel around Scotland and do activities that you couldn’t do on your own. I got to hold sheepdog puppies and lambs in the Highlands, I got a tour of Edinburgh, I kayaked on a Highland loch (lake), I went caving in the Highlands, I got to visit the beautiful fairy pools in the Isle of Skye, and visited most of Scotland (like Glencoe, Loch Ness, and Eilean Donan) through the program. Moreover, they had an amazing orientation program/ staff to help give advice for cheap restaurants, stores, and about the University.

The most challenging aspects of your experience:

Since I came in the spring semester, it was harder to meet students. Most of the Fresher’s activities happen in the fall and most students already had their friend groups established. The best thing I did was join societies like the Quidditch Team or swipe on Tinder. I also hear Bridge Society is fun. Moreover, I am from LA so I have never experienced rain. It was a struggle in the beginning getting used to cold weather, but I am glad I got the chance to experience it. Be sure to waterproof everything! Do not bring an umbrella since it will be wrecked in seconds.

Final comments or suggestions for future participants:

Take advantage of the fact that the University is ranked one of the top in the world. I ended up going to a Neuroscience conference abroad! Moreover, the Scots are incredibly friendly and boisterous (especially if you find them in the pub which is incredibly likely as there is at least one on each block), but they are British so they still are reserved. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and meet new people! I highly recommend going to a ceilidh (Scottish Square dancing), a ball, drinking Irn Bru (the only place in the world where it’s a soft drink ranked higher than coca cola), eating Haggis (really just tastes like a hamburger), drinking whiskey at the Holyrood 9A, and climbing Arthur’s Seat at sunrise. Follow the University on FB since they offer cool excursions around Scotland, like a Harry Potter sights one! Do not quote Braveheart. Fun Scottish songs to check out are “The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond”, “Caledonia”, and “500 miles” by The Proclaimers (this is essentially the unofficial national anthem of Scotland). Blog or record your adventures to share your experiences with your family. The ultimate Edinburgh student experience is going to Hive so be sure to go at least once!


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