This is easily the question I am most asked both from friends and family back home in the United States as well as by people here in Edinburgh. Followed by various questions or comments: But the rainy, grey, unpredictable weather? I come from Michigan, where our weather fluctuates in a single day more often than many countries experience in a single year. I have heard the food is terrible? Umm lies I tell ye, haggis is delicious and I now prefer only vinegar on my chips. It is so far away from your family. Aye, it is, but technology helps to make the distance seem much shorter.
So why Scotland, and even more specifically the University of Edinburgh, indeed?
Well, my path to grad school was circuitous. I had always intended to attend graduate school following uni, and by graduation I was already admitted into a program. However, after being both a full-time student and working full-time for several years, I decided instead to keep working and postpone graduate school. Frankly, I was knackered and knew that a break for me meant that when I returned as a postgrad student, I will have gained valuable experience.
Each year I would research multiple universities and graduate programs. I often looked at universities based on my familiarity with their location, their academic recognition, and their program titles. I visited their postgraduate open houses, and even applied to a few, but when it came to decision time I never felt comfortable committing myself to the programs. However, the effort wasn’t all for naught, as with each visit and application, I began to create a master list of what I wanted out of a graduate program, knowing that eventually I would find the one for me: high academic rigour, flexibility in course work, small program size (under 20 students), interesting location, possibility of international travel, and providing an opportunity and the skills to either continue in academia or increase my options for employment.
Eventually, after years of perusing programs, professors, universities, I came across multiple research projects that interested me. Lo and behold, much of this research was coming from the University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences. I knew that I had finally found my program.
I can still recall the moment I received my acceptance as I had never been so excited with any of my previous offers: I leapt out of my chair, exclaimed that I was going to Scotland, grabbed my office mate, and jumped for joy.
Oddly enough, the one for me ended up being the only university I didn’t visit and in a country to which I had never been.