Alumni Services

I wish I'd known…

In August we asked what students should know before arriving in Edinburgh. Your suggestions were funny, wise and numerous and we have compiled a top ten list from the best suggestions.

Salt and sauce
Haggis supper with salt and sauce. Photo by Rod Begbie.

Advice and guidance is at a premium when new students arrive in Edinburgh in September but nothing beats the experience and wisdom of those who have been there and done that. We asked what you wish you'd known and you answered sagely.

Thanks to everyone who sent through advice and congratulations to our competition winners Laura McClurg,  Mariaveronica Barbuto and Elizabeth Aitken.

10 things you should know

Alumni advice for new students at the University of Edinburgh.

To ask for help

Being American, I was used to a different way of writing and didn't seem to get the hang of things for a long time. My marks increased over the years, but it'd have been much quicker if I'd thought to ask for help more and admitted I had literally no clue.

Lindsey AskinDivinity (2010)

About regionally specific condiments

That when they say "salt and sauce hen?" they're offering to douse your chips in an evil corrosive mix of vinegar and brown sauce.

Elizabeth AitkenScience (1984)

To research the climate

I wish I had known that Edinburgh is a windy and cold place. I wasn't mentally prepared for that.

Talat Raza KhanTESOL (1991)

To be yourself

I wish I’d known that it's okay to not want to get drunk and go clubbing in Freshers' / every weekend. You will find like-minded friends if you have the confidence to be who you are.

Laura McClurg

That there is always time to explore

Though I left the University with extraordinary memories, I wish I had emerged from the libraries and archives a few times more to wander Edinburgh's nooks and crannies (and the country beyond). Advice to UoE newbies - leave no (cobble)stone unturned!

Miss D. Alexi OliverHistory, Theory and Display (2010)

I wish that in the midst of my master’s degree that on those few occasions when I had a spot of free time that I never would have slept in or spent the afternoon on the internet instead of being out soaking up the city.

Angela CunninghamGeographical Information Science and Society (2009)

I wish I'd taken more time to study Scotland and soak up the history of our beautiful university and its founding city.

Mariaveronica BarbutoGlobal Crime, Justice and Security (2012)

That student societies can provide experiences you will value for life

Take advantage of the plethora of societies at Edinburgh as well - I'm working in SEN education now thanks to my work with Children's Holiday Venture (CHV) and will never forget my time there.

Laura McClurg

Of course studying hard to achieve your degree is important but don't lose your sense of perspective and make the most of the time you have at Edinburgh to make lifelong friends and fun memories, also learning skills that will set you up for what life after university will throw at you.

Charlotte JordanClinical Veterinary Medicine (2010)

Another project that I joined in my second year, but wish I'd gotten involved in sooner, is the Tandem programme. As a student of French, this really helped me improve my language skills before my year abroad, and to maintain them after, through conversation practice with a native speaker.

Heather BoydModern European Languages and Classics: French (2010)

That there are people you can talk to when things get difficult

I became quite stressed and somewhat depressed as my degree went on, and it was only in my final year that someone suggested I should take advantage of the counselling service. I'm glad I did and I believe it helped, but I'm sure it would have been more useful if I'd sought help earlier.

Alasdair MurrayPhilosophy (2010)

I wish I'd known about the counselling service earlier on than my last year, but when I did use it in my fourth year I found it incredibly helpful. My counsellor was a very lovely helpful person.

Lindsey AskinDivinity (2010)

That a healthy body is a healthy mind

I wish I’d known to sign-up for the amazing fitness classes at the Pleasance gym from day 1! The whole complex is wonderful - a great stress relief and fun way to keep healthy.

Karinna HurleyEvolution of Language and Cognition (2006)

That fun can be simple or it can be complicated

I wish I’d known how much fancy dress expertise I would require!

Brigid HartyArchaeology and Social Anthropology (2008)

That time passes quickly but friends are for life

I came to the University as an international student to undertake a year-long postgraduate programme; in the blink of an eye, graduation was upon me.

Miss D. Alexi OliverHistory, Theory and Display (2010)

I wish I'd known that time would fly by so fast, so I would make sure to enjoy every moment!

Emma LindsayBiological Sciences (Plant Science) (2010)

I wish I'd known what a fantastic time I was going to have, what amazing opportunities and experiences I would have and that I would meet some fantastic people, some of whom are still my best friends. 

Sarah InglisPhysiology (1990)

I wish I had known how many amazing lifelong friends I would make, as then I wouldn't have felt so nervous or so sad when my parents left me in my room by myself in halls.

Kirsty Keys (née Balbirnie)Psychology (2010)

Your suggestions

We will be forwarding all of your suggestions to our colleagues in Student Recruitment and Admissions so, if you have any further advice, please send it to us at and we will pass on your wisdom and insight.