Have you ever dreamed of waking up and seeing a huge ancient castle sprawling outside your apartment window? Have you ever wanted to walk down the same streets where literary giants Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle found their inspiration? These experiences, and more, are waiting outside your door if you are living as an international intern in Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-burrah), the incredible historic capital of Scotland.
Edinburgh has long been a center of science, literature, and higher learning. It is home to the University of Edinburgh, a highly regarded institute with history extending as far back as 1583. Just outside the city, scientists cloned a sheep named Dolly. In 2004, due to the many gifted writers and scholars who represented Edinburgh through the years, UNESCO named it the world’s first City of Literature.
As of 1998, Scotland has been able to maintain its own parliament and executive government with both branches based in Edinburgh. Edinburgh also has the most stable economy in the UK outside of London, as well as the second-most popular UK tourist destination. In addition, Edinburgh is considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities, as well as a great place to live. Whether you are a student intern, or a recent graduate, this guide to internships in Edinburgh will serve as place to begin your explorations.
Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/robertotaddeofoto28.
Traditionally the home of industries such as printing and brewing, Edinburgh has grown into a significant force in various industries. It boasts a strong economy and ample room for growth and development for any intern, especially in the fields of business and finance, tourism, and science.
Business and Finance: Edinburgh’s banking industry has been thriving in the UK for over 300 years. Outside of London, Edinburgh has a stable financial infrastructure that stands strong with the rest of the world. It is the global headquarters for the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which expanded its portfolio and global influence when it acquired the National Westminster Bank in 2000. In fact, RBS offers great opportunities for interns through their website. For an opportunity to work in insurance, check out Standard Life, another business headquartered in Edinburgh with wide global reach. Standard Life has opportunities for a 10-week summer internship.
Tourism: Tourism is one of the biggest employers in Edinburgh, accounting for at least a tenth of the city’s workforce. And no wonder, with great historic landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle! Also, UNESCO has named Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, which preserve the city’s past from the medieval city plan to Reformation-era, all the way to 18th-century architecture, World Heritage Sites. Edinburgh is also home to some major festivals, such as the Edinburgh International Festival, Hogmanay and New Year Party, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Military Tattoo, and International Book Festival, just to name a few! It is possible to intern at the Edinburgh Festival, while getting experience and coursework in Business in the Arts. For a chance to help promote the mission of Edinburgh’s rich history as the city for books, writing, and literature, it’s worth looking at City of Literature.
Science and Technology: Edinburgh is also on the forefront of science and technology. Charles Darwin studied here, and the University of Edinburgh is well-known for its strong science and medical program. In 1977, the Rosslin Institute was the location of the first cloned animal, Dolly the Sheep. The Edinburgh Science Triangle is a great place to get information on the different scientific and research in fields from stem-cell research to electronics.
Planning Your Trip
Whether you are a current student or a recent graduate, there is a place for you in Edinburgh in many fields. How do you begin? If you are interested in any type of study or intern abroad experience, a great place to begin is with your advisers. Also, check out your college or university’s study abroad office; your institution may have partnerships with universities and organizations in Edinburgh. For example, Arcadia University in Pennsylvania has a study abroad/internship program in Scotland.
When and Where to Look for an Internship
Most internships in Edinburgh are offered year-round; however, that depends on which field in which you want to gain experience. Internships can last from 8 to 12 weeks, sometimes longer. However, do not wait until the last minute to apply; application deadlines can be a couple of months in advance of the actual internship.
You can find internships through direct searches of the company’s websites you are interested in, such as the Royal Bank of Scotland. You can also look through websites like Talent Scotland, which is full of information about living, working, and studying in Scotland in general. You can also visit the International Students section for the University of Edinburgh and Napier University.
Cost of Living in Edinburgh
As a bustling capital city, Edinburgh can be expensive, and there is so much to do! However, with a careful budget plan, interns can enjoy their life in the city. Be sure to use a currency converter.
Some internship programs provide shared accommodation for their interns; however, some people decide to strike out on their own. Like anywhere else, apartments vary in cost and quality, but generally a good 2-bedroom apartment can cost as much as $985 USD a month. Apartments are cheaper in areas such as Leith and Gorgie. You might spend as much as $60 USD a week on food, but again it depends on your lifestyle. Remember too that for food, transportation, and entertainment, you might get special discounts as a student.
Interns and students, including international ones, are able to work a part-time job on the side to contribute to their learning expenses. You can work as long as 20 hours a week during a semester and up to full time hours during breaks. Under British work and labor laws, you can make about $7.50 USD according to the National Minimum Wage if you are aged 18-20. If you are over 21, you can make about $9.00 USD. Some interns and students can work in the museums, cafes, pubs, restaurants, and other areas throughout the city.
Work Culture in Edinburgh
As in every workplace, interns do follow a certain protocol of behavior, depending on the company culture. Some are more laid-back than others. It’s best to take your cues from your colleagues, especially while you are navigating another culture.
- Etiquette: First of all, it is so important to never call a Scottish person “English” or “Scotch.” It’s either Scotsmen or Scots. Be prepared to see businessmen wearing their kilts to formal business meetings, and refrain from cracking jokes regarding them. Kilts are an important part of their heritage. They prefer light handshakes and low physical contact, as they build their trust of the new person. Politeness and punctuality are valued as well; try to arrive with time to spare before a meeting or work. Once you have built a Scotsman’s trust in you, their loyalty and commitment to you will be great.
- Language: Most internships do require a proficiency in English. If English is not your first language, you may have to take a test or provide proof of your ability in the language.
- Networking: There are at least 12 festivals in Edinburgh each year, ranging from different themes including science, books, and performing arts. These festivals are world-famous, attracting tourists and valuable contacts every year. Also, checking with your school and your company can give you some more opportunities. Manta.com has an extensive list of non-profit organizations to look at as well.
Work and Labor Laws in Edinburgh
All American interns are required to sign up through BUNAC for assistance with visas. As stated earlier, international students are permitted to work part-time up to 20 hours a week during the school year. The UK uses a Tier immigration system. Interns fall into two Tier categories: Tier 4 for students or Tier 5 for temporary workers. This system is also explained in-depth by the United Kingdom Border Agency. Canadian and Australian interns, fall under the scope of the Youth Mobility Scheme.