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Education Outside of the Classroom: Exploring the City of Edinburgh for Free

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When I first arrived in Edinburgh to study history and political science at The University of Edinburgh, I was taken aback by my schedule. Each of my classes only met once a week plus one tutorial, and I only had classes on Thursdays and Fridays. This left me with a five-day weekend(?) or a two day work period. At first, I was a little worried about feeling like I had a schedule or having motivation to go out into the city. What I quickly came to realize was that Edinburgh is a city full of history, much of which can be accessed for free or extremely low prices for students. Once I began exploring the city with intentions of out-of-the-classroom or casual learning, I began having a lot more fun with my education and allowing myself to seek out only that which I enjoyed.  

Some of the top spots I enjoyed in this out of the classroom learning endeavor:

1. The Edinburgh Botanical Gardens  

The gardens are located just a ten-minute walk from Stockbridge (one my favorite areas with an incredible farmer’s market) and entry is free! I would recommend taking a book, walking around, and taking in all the incredible views, plants, and animals. There is lots of information available and free, so you can learn about the history of the gardens, as well as the plants and animals who reside there.  

2. The National Museum of Scotland  

The National Museum of Scotland is amazing because of the variety it offers- famous historical fashion pieces, scientific inventions of Scotland, art, animals including the first cloned sheep Dolly, and the list goes on. It’s a giant space so you could go for a few hours every day a whole week and still not have seen everything. My favorite part is the rooftop where you get an incredible view of the city- this is also great if you are or are with someone who cannot do the hikes of Arthurs seat or Calton hill but still wants a great view. Like the botanical gardens, admission is free!  

3. National Galleries of Scotland: Portrait  

The portrait gallery is great for those interested in history and the history of Scotland, and lets you look at an incredible collection of portraits of famous Scottish people and get a little more insight into the history of those people. Again, free! 

4. Calton Hill 

While Arthur’s seat is the most iconic hiking spot in Scotland, for an easier stroll Calton Hill is another great option for a breathtaking view of the city. At the top, there is also a free contemporary art gallery called The Collective Contemporary Art gallery, as well as the national monument. All parts of this are free! 

Honorable mentions: Parliament building, Arthurs Seat, Princes Street Fountain, and the Leith Farmers Market!  

Edinburgh is an extremely student-friendly city, and the more time I have spent here the more appreciation I have for these sorts of accessible free public spaces where you can learn about the history of Scotland. Being in a city catered towards the student population and full of such extensive interesting history, you must take advantage of all the free museums. I have had an incredible time in the city and would highly recommend the program!  

Ceci Crawford is a student at Kenyon University and studied abroad with IFSA through the University of Edinburgh Partnership in Scotland. She is an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.