Shinjini Basu, a BSc medical science student at Edinburgh University, on funding her studies by working part-time, grappling with the Scottish accent in class, hating the gloomy weather and being a columnist for the student newspaper
I chose Edinburgh for my undergraduate studies as I'd visited it before and fallen in love with the city and the campus. Also, Edinburgh ranks very high both in the field of medicine and biomedical sciences. I had applied to other universities in the UK and the US but since I had already set my heart on Edinburgh, I decided to study here.
I'm currently studying medical sciences and the most common question I face is whether I will receive the bachelor's degree in medicine and surgery (MBBS) after the completion of my course. My degree — BSc in medical sciences — is more focused on medical or clinical research (for instance, cancer research), unlike an MBBS.
Before I came to Edinburgh, I studied in a boarding school called Hopetown Girls' School in Dehradun. I topped the ICSE examination and secured the highest marks in biology. While in school, I played the tabla, the piano, learnt Kathak for five years and played for the school basketball team. I was also the school discipline captain and part of the school quiz and debating teams. Though I did not get any scholarship, there are quite a few scholarships for international students. To fund my study at the University of Edinburgh's College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, I have to work. In the three years that I have been here I've held three part-time jobs — two on campus and one outside.
My first campus job was in the first semester of my second year, which entailed working with the Edinburgh University Student's Association (EUSA). I worked there as an assistant and helped organise a big conference (the Inspiring Teaching conference). This was a fixed period job that lasted for four months.
Following this I started tutoring students — outside the campus — in physics, chemistry, maths and biology. In the third year, I started working as a resident assistant (RA) with the University Accommodation Services. But after entering the honours year, I had to quit tutoring. I still work as a RA and have been rehired for the next academic year.
Edinburgh is a city campus — it's woven with the normal city landscape. This provides the opportunity to live in a capital city without remaining isolated or having to travel long distances to study or meet friends. There are quite a few Indians as well as South Asian students here. The Edinburgh University South Asian Society is very welcoming and it organises Diwali, Holi and Bollywood nights along with a plethora of other events from movie trips to political talks.
In my first year, I lived in David Horn House, a massive university-provided accomodation with 50 students. In my second year, I moved into a private flat with four girls on one of the busiest streets in Edinburgh called South Bridge. After I became a research assistant in the third year, I was back to university accommodation — this time at Kincaid's Court — a stone's throw from my flat at South Bridge. The people here are quite warm and helpful (I'm tempted to attribute some of that loveliness to the scotch whiskey), though it takes some time to get used to the accent. In my first month, I did not understand a word in the biochemistry class and mustered courage and told this to my professor. Far from getting annoyed, he laughed heartily and handed me a textbook which had all he'd taught. He also asked me to send emails if I had any queries.
The food choice, if you're vegetarian, is limited. Within campus, EUSA has quite a few outlets for food and the main student union building, called Teviot Row House, has four bars serving food till 1am. But there are enough outlets of every cuisine dotted around the city that fit almost every budget — from chippies (Fish ' Chips places which stay open till 3am) to Shawerma and pizza places to Korean, Indian, Thai and traditional Italian restaurants. The weather is the only thing about Edinburgh I hate. Most of the times it's rainy and gloomy. In winter, it's usually dark by 3pm. The summer is fantastic with a lot of sunshine, but it doesn't last for more than a month.
I've been part of quite a few student societies, my favourites being Create Soc (a creative writing society), Edinburgh Global Partnerships (EGP) with which I went on a project to Kenya in the summer of my first year, The African Drum Soc and BioPALS, which is a peer assisted learning service run by the School of Biological Sciences. I also write a column, Kitchen Chemistry, for The Student newspaper and go running around the city (I did the Edinburgh Half Marathon in my first year).
HOW I MADE IT
• I started my preparation while in the penultimate year of high school. I had to find out when the UK Clinical Aptitude (Test) UKCAT takes place (it takes place only once a year) in India and started preparing for the exam earnestly
• The exam doesn't appear to be difficult at first but requires rigorous time management
• One needs the guidance of a career counsellor in making the right choice of university and writing the statement of purpose. I took advice from Shivani Manchanda (You columnist, refer Ask Shivani)
• Also, I had someone take a look at my visa documents before submitting them
• Edinburgh Global Masters Scholarship is offered to 40 students for postgraduate studies in the UK. For the 2013-2014 academic session, 15 scholarships worth 5,000 (around Rs 5.28 lakh) each and 25 scholarships worth 3,000 (around Rs 3.17 lakh) each were offered, tenable for one academic year. The scholarships are awarded to students outside the European Union (EU). The announcement of the scholarship is usually made in March-April and the names of the winners are announced in early June.
Edinburgh Global Research Scholarship is awarded to 30 research students. Each award covers the difference between the tuition fee for a UK / EU graduate student and that chargeable to an overseas graduate student. The awards do not cover maintenance expenses and are tenable for up to three years. Applicants must be of outstanding academic merit and research potential. The deadline for the scholarship is usually early February and the results are declared in April.
Principal's Indian Masters Scholarship is offered to 15 students from India for postgraduate study in any subject. Each scholarship is worth 3,000 (around Rs 3.17 lakh) and is tenable for one academic year.
Eligibility: Candidates must have the overseas equivalent of a UK first-class honours degree
Contact: For details, log on to www.ed.ac.uk/ schools-departments/student-funding.
• International students who would like to study at Scottish universities must comply with the UK immigration regulation. Sponsorship must be obtained from a licenced education provider in the UK. More details about this can be found in the visas and immigration section of the TalentScotland website (www.talentscotland.com/workers.aspx). TalentScotland offers a relocation advisory service (RAS) to international students relocating to Scotland. This includes help with student visa application and immigration, as well as information about what needs to be done if the applicant wants to work in Scotland during the period of study or after graduation. To come to Scotland to study, students must satisfy the UK immigration rules. This entails applying under Tier 4 of the points-based system for immigration.
Contact: For details, visit www.scotland.org/ study-in-scotland