The Final Days at St Andrews

I had about 4 days left in St Andrews after my last final before I had to go home. I tried to do as much as possible in those 4 days before I had to leave.

I decided to spend a day doing everything that I had not done yet in St Andrews, spend a day in Edinburgh, and had already had a korfball beach tournament scheduled for my last full day in St Andrews.

The day after my last final, I dedicated the day to exploring St Andrews. I started first by going to the St Andrews Castle, something that I had always walked by, but never gone into. You are able to explore the ruins of the castle and walk through some of the underground tunnels that had been carved underground. The castle was built in the 12th century and overlooks the North Sea. I also walked all over through town and visited some spaces of the University that I had never seen before. Later that day, my friend and I walked the length of the West Sands beach.

Inside St Andrew’s Castle

The next day, two friends of mine who were also study abroad students and I went to Edinburgh for the day. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and the most well-known city in Scotland. It takes about 2 hours by bus to get there and we were able to spend almost the entire day there. We walked the Royal Mile and saw the Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood, which is the Queen’s residence in Scotland during the summer. We also found Victoria Street, which is the street that inspired Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. We also walked through a graveyard where the author of the Harry Potter book series, J.K. Rowling, got some of the names for the characters and ate lunch at The Elephant House, a café where Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book. We then went to the National Museum of Scotland, where I was able to use some of my knowledge from Scottish Music and connect it with the historical artifacts of Scotland. Our final destination was hiking up a very large hill to what is called Arthur’s Seat. The hike was very steep, but the views were gorgeous.

Street that inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter

Highland Brose plants on the hike up to Arthur’s Seat

Inside The Elephant House café where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh

On my last full day at St Andrews, I participated in a korfball beach tournament. We set up the hoops outside on the beach and played korfball all day in the sand. There were many different school korfball teams and other korfball clubs that participated and it was a lot of fun. There are only 4 players per team in beach korfball, so the St Andrews korfball club broke up into smaller teams. I was on Team Rainbow, where we wore tie-dye shirts. It was a beautiful day at the beach, even though it was very windy and a little bit cold. It was a great way to end my time at St Andrews. Later on at night, all of the teams were invited to a ceilidh, or a dance, to celebrate the end of the tournament. I was able to go for a short while and say good-bye to everyone in the club. It was very sad, but I was glad to be able to see everyone one last time.

A lovely day for a korfball beach tournament

My last couple of days at St Andrews were bittersweet, but it showed me how much of a great experience I had and how much I have grown over the 5 month period. I was able to learn how to maneuver through a foreign country and understand and integrate into the culture of the country. The level of comfort I had in walking around St Andrews by myself showed me that I was able to adjust to a different culture and learn to live somewhere completely different for 5 months. By going to Edinburgh for the day, I was able to show myself that I could travel and maneuver through public transportation in a foreign country, something that I am not sure I can do well in the United States. By participating in the beach korfball tournament, I also was able to prove to myself that I can make friends and was able to integrate into the university as a student. While it was very sad to say good-bye to my friends in korfball, the fact that everyone was sad showed that I was successful in integrating into the culture of the students at St Andrews and was able to make and be great friends with the students. All of this made for a very rewarding experience and I am very grateful for my experience at St Andrews.

Lessons from Final Exams

This blog post depicts the events from May 12th through May 22nd.

Final exams started on Saturday, May 12th and run through Thursday, May 24th. This gives two weeks worth of finals and makes them pretty spread out. I had finals on Saturday, May 12th, Tuesday, May 15th, and Tuesday, May 22nd. I start on the very first day and finals and have a week gap between my second and last final. My finals are very spread out, but some of my friends have all of their finals in a row the first week, or in a row during the second week. Pacing myself in studying and trying to study as much as possible was hard, as there was a lot of information to memorize for each of my classes.

My first final was Scottish Music. Having never taken a final exam at St Andrews yet, going in was quite nerve-racking. I learned that final exams are treated like the SAT or a state test in the U.S. You have to have your ID with you at all times, are not allowed to wear smart-watches or Fitbits, are ID checked when you enter and during the test, can only have a clear water bottle, and tests are arranged in large rooms. The level of security for taking the finals was daunting, as this was not the same culture that I was used to when taking a final. You were only allowed exactly two hours for each final and could not go over at all, again something different than I was used to.

My Scottish Music module had the least number of people in the class, so we were in a smaller room. That final went relatively well and I felt good about it.

My next final was International Trade and we were in Younger Hall, where musical performances are located. There were three other classes in the hall taking finals as well, which was something I was not used to as well. My last final was Mathematical Modelling, a week later, which was located in the Sports Center, where I felt like I was taking the SAT all over again due to the size of the room. There were four other classes taking finals as well in the room and 4 of my friends were in the same room as me as well.

There is also a tradition at St Andrews that in your final year, after your last final, you get “soaked,” where buckets of water are dumped on you to celebrate your last final. Since it was technically my last year at St Andrews, my friends on the Korfball team included me in the soakings. Since my friends from my hall were also taking finals in the same room as me, they joined in as well. The only problem was that it was very cold and windy that day and getting buckets of cold water dumped on me did not feel good at all. Luckily, my dorm was near the Sports Center, so it was not too far of a soaking wet walk to change my clothes.

I started to run away to try and warm myself up after getting soaked

My Korfball friends after my soaking

I learned a very valuable lesson from taking finals at St Andrews: it is not expected that you get an “A” or a high mark on your finals. The final exams are not designed for you to do that and the way grades are marked are not designed for everyone to get high final marks. This was something that I learned after I did not finish all the way through my math exam. I am used to doing well on finals and finishing with enough time. Not finishing a question on a final exam was something unknown to me and made me start to worry and question my abilities. After speaking with some other students, I learned that I was definitely not the only one who did not finish and that the exam was harder than everyone had expected. From this experience, I learned that I have to be ok with failure and that not everything can go my way. I know that I am hard on myself and that failing after preparing for such a long time hurts, but it is something that I have to experience in order to learn and grow as a person.

Revision, May Dip, and a Little Extra Trip

This blog post depicts the events between April 29th and May 11th. I again apologize for the post being a little late.

Classes have now officially ended, and we are now on a two week “revision” period before finals. This spans from April 28th through May 11th and is supposed to give us time to study, or as it is called, “revise,” before our final exams. Many people decide to travel the first week and study the second week. Since I had a final on the very first day of exams, Saturday, May 12th, I studied for both weeks.

It was a little strange to have two weeks of no class. At the beginning, I was a little bored and did not know what to do, other than study. The weather has been getting better; it is no longer freezing anymore, and the flowers and trees had finally started to bloom! My first final is Scottish Music, which contains a lot of historical information that I had to memorize. I started to study for it on the first Monday of revision week. I have made a ritual of going to the student union coffee shop and studying in the mornings.

The large event that takes place during revision week is called May Dip. It is a tradition at St Andrews that occurs on May 1st of every year. May Dip is where students run into the North Sea at 4 in the morning in order to “wash away academic sins.” Academic sins include stepping on the stones that say “PH” for Patrick Hamilton, a Martyr who was burned at the stake in St Andrews, outside of the cathedral. If you step on the stones, it is said that you will fail all of your final exams. Many students stay up all night and then run into the sea, but my friends and I elected to get up at 3 am instead and at least get some rest. I am not a fan of getting up early, but it was worth it for the experience and the gorgeous sunrise! We were lucky that it was sunny, but it was very cold. Many people go fully into the sea in their bathing suits, but I went up to my knees and decided to go no further. After that, some of my friends stayed, but me and another friend ran back to go to sleep again before breakfast. It was quite a quiet day after that. May Dip was definitely a one-time experience, but I am glad that I got to join in.

The beautiful sunrise over the North Sea

A couple of days later, I ended up going on a surprise trip to London. My high-school friend from home decided to do a summer abroad to Italy and came a couple of days early to explore London. Since I was close by, I went up to London for two days to see her. Since I had already been to London, we decided to go see some sights that I had not seen yet. We took a day tour to Windsor Castle (ahead of Harry and Meghan’s wedding), Bath, and Stonehenge. It was very cool to get to see Windsor Castle before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding and we were able to go into St. George’s Chapel where they got married. Bath is a city outside of London, where we got to see the baths that the Roman’s created thousands of years ago. We ended the tour in Stonehenge, which was good to see but still a mystery as to how and why the stones are arranged the way they are. I also had my first hostel experience in London. The hostel we stayed in was fine and basically felt like a giant dorm, complete with bunk beds. I met other people from Spain and France and it was interesting to talk to them for a bit.

My friend and I outside of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle

My friend and I at Stonehenge

The Roman Baths

The second revision week consisted of me essentially studying very hard every day of the week. I became a regular at the student union coffee shop, ordering the same pot of tea for 7 days in a row.

Revision week presented me with new and unexpected challenges. I am used to only getting about 2 days at Whitman to study for finals, where as I got two weeks at St Andrews. While I appreciated the long amount of time and the flexibility, it made it very easy to get distracted. My finals were a bit spread out as well, so I only focused on certain topics during revision week. Normally, I would take the entire time to study for finals, but I took a risk and traveled and participated in May Dip instead. Participating in these activities was a bit stress-inducing to me, as I like to feel prepared for finals and any type of distraction worries me. I am proud that I was able to have a little bit of fun during finals season, which is something that I have struggled with in the past.


The End of the Semester: Balls, Awards, and More

I again apologize for the very late blog post. Preparation and taking finals lasted almost a month. This blog post covers the time period of the month of April.

The month of April has come very suddenly and has gone just as quickly. Many assignments are all due in the weeks leading up to the last day of the semester, April 27th, and I have been very busy. In addition to stressing over assignments and papers, there are many year-end events that occur during this time period and that I was fortunate enough to participate in. April is the month of balls: there is literally a ball for almost every academic department, club, and residence hall. Balls are essentially a dance, with some consisting of a dinner, where you dress up and dance and have a good time. I went to two balls and an awards ceremony: the Economics Department Ball, my residence hall Agnes Blackadder’s ball, and the Korfball Awards Ceremony.

I went to the Economics Ball with one of my friends from korfball, as we both study economics and we are both in the same class. We had dinner at one of the hotels and there was an afterparty as well at the hotel. We essentially sat at a table with other economics students and ate dinner. I had a great time talking to my friend, as I did not know many other students. One observation that I made was that there were many American economics students and literally all of the students were very similar to the types of people who study economics at Whitman. It was a good experience and provided an interesting comparison and look at the types of people who study economics abroad versus at home.

My friend and I at the Economics Ball

A week later, I went to my residence hall ball. Almost all of my friends went and we had a good time. The ball was in a giant marquee, or tent, outside of the hall. We all dressed up and had a great time. There was free ice cream and popcorn with a live band and a DJ. I had to leave the ball a little early in order to register for classes for the fall, as the 8 hour time difference made it so I had to sign up very late at night. It all worked out, as going to the ball made sure that I was awake in order to register!

My friends and I before our hall ball

Lastly, the korfball club had their annual awards ceremony. It consisted with us getting dressed up and having dinner at Northpoint Café, which famously claims to be the place where Prince William met Kate for coffee. I was lucky enough to be nominated for “Most Improved,” even though I only joined this semester. I had a great time and it was nice to see the entire club all together.

The entire Korfball Club

Overall, going to balls and award ceremonies was a great experience. Everything is very formal here and the balls are very similar to a sorority formal at Whitman, but include dinner at most. Being able to go to multiple balls and an awards ceremony with friends showed me that I was able to integrate in with the students of St Andrews. The fact that I had friends to go with and was even nominated for an award showed that I was able to integrate into the culture of St Andrews. I came to experience St Andrews as a true student and I felt like I was able to do that.

The last day of classes occurred on April 27th. This now gives us two weeks to study, or revise, for finals and then two weeks of actually taking finals. Everything has gone by so quickly and I cannot believe that it is almost over!

Spring Break Week 2: London

For the second week of spring break, I spent a week in London with my mom. Coming from Germany, my grandparents and I met my mom in London. My grandparents spent a day with us and then went home. Being just the two of us, my mom and I saw a lot of sights in London.

On the first day in London, we all went to Westminster Abbey, walked through Trafalgar Square, St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, and Covenant Gardens. Westminster Abbey was one of my favorites, as it was very interesting to see all of the famous royals, scientists (ironically), poets, and more who are buried there. Thanks to my Scottish Music class, I got to see up close some of the historic royal figures and their coffins. While a little morbid, the exquisite detail in some of the coffins was amazing and having a good historical context made it even more interesting. The fact also that royal weddings take place there makes it even more fascinating. We also saw Big Ben and the London Eye, but sadly Big Ben is undergoing refurbishment and so it was covered in scaffolding.

Westminster Abbey

Big Ben

After my grandparents left, my mom and I spent the next 6 days exploring all around London. We walked through Hyde Park, went on the London Eye, saw the Tower of London, had afternoon tea, visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, went to Harrods’s, walked around Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, and Leicester Square, and ended with taking the Harry Potter Studio Tour. We also mastered using the London Underground, or as it is called, “the tube.”

Some of my favorites, other than Westminster Abbey, were the Tower of London and of course the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The Tower of London was the old palace of the royal monarchy in medieval time. The Queen’s jewels are also located there as well. It was very cool to be able to walk around and see the areas of the castle during that time period. It looked like a little village encompassed by a large castle.

Inside of the Tower of London

The Harry Potter Studio Tour was amazing. You were able to walk through all of the sets from all of the Harry Potter movies. Being a big fan of both the books and the movies, it was very cool to see the costumes, props, and how the special effects were made for the movies. We were also able to try the famous butterbeer! I was a little skeptical at first, but it was surprisingly good, although very sweet. We deduced that it is essentially cream soda with butterscotch syrup and whipped cream, but it was very good.


Diagon Alley set

The Hogwarts Express!

My mom and I also were able to try the popular pastime of afternoon tea. We went to an Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea, which was very cute. It consisted of small finger sandwiches and many small pastries all themed to Alice in Wonderland. Overall, the amount of pastries was a bit much and it definitely was a try-only-once-for-the-experience sort of ordeal.

Our Alice in Wonderland-themed afternoon tea

We covered quite a bit in the time we were there and I now feel like an expert on London! Mastering taking the tube was an interesting experience, as everyone moves very fast and the trains themselves are very fast as well! While the tube is very efficient, the only downside is how filthy it is.

One thing that I noticed after travelling around Europe and then coming back to the U.K. was that I felt a sense of relief, as though I was returning home. In London, all of the grocery stores, shops, brands, restaurant chains, and language is all the same as in Scotland. The fact that I felt this sense of familiarity and hominess in London proved to myself that I had adjusted to living abroad. I became aware that I have embraced and adapted to the culture of the U.K. and that it has become like a second home to me. This is the type of experience and the goal I had for studying abroad. This proved to me that I have achieved one of my goals for living and studying abroad and it is one that I am proud of.


Spring Break Week 1: A Tour of Europe

I apologize again for such a late post; it has been very busy time here at St Andrews. But, I will leave that for another blog later.

St Andrews has a 2 week spring break in March, just as Whitman does. My grandparents and my mom all came over during this time: my grandparents the first week and my mom the second week. This post will be only on the first week with my grandparents.

My grandparents spent a week in Edinburgh before coming to St Andrews. It was great to get to see them, but unfortunately the weather was not so nice. During the end of the week prior to spring break, another smaller “Beast from the East” came through and the temperatures dropped. It was also very windy, meaning we could not be outside for too long without getting blown away! I was able to show them around, specifically the golf course for my grandpa, and we got to eat some of the local cuisine, and they got to meet some of my new friends as well.

We then went off on a week long tour to 3 different European cities: Amsterdam, Brussels, and Cologne located in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

We started in Amsterdam and I have to say that I was very surprised about how gorgeous the city was! The buildings are all very pretty and some lean due to their unstable foundations. I was not expecting Amsterdam to look like that, but it was a great surprise! We went on a canal cruise, went to the Anne Frank Museum, and went out of the city and saw the famous windmills. While there, we also saw how clogs were made, tried many different cheeses, and saw how the windmills worked. What also surprised me was the amount of bikes in the city! They were everywhere! You had to be careful or else you might get run over. Overall, it was a very fun city and I hope to go back someday.

Canals of Amsterdam

Making clogs

We then went by train to Brussels, Belgium. Of the cities that we visited, I think that I liked Brussels the least. It was a typical city and we saw the City Center and visited the small town of Bruges for a day. Bruges was very pretty and a lot larger than I had realized. It is a mixture of a quaint town and a larger small-town tourist hub with canals and small shops. I of course bought Belgian chocolate and had a Belgian waffle. We stayed for 2 days and then went by train again to our next location.

My Belgian waffle! It was quite good

Town of Bruges

City of Brussels

Our final location was Cologne, Germany. It is a small town that is famous for its Cathedral. The Cathedral was one of the largest in the world and it was massive! Our hotel was right outside of the Cathedral, but it was easily visible from every part of the town. It was hard to get the entire thing in one picture! We were only in Cologne for a day, but we were able to see some good sights. We went to the Lindt chocolate museum, situated right on the Rhine River. It was fascinating to see how the chocolate was made and the history behind the Lindt company. Even though Lindt is a Swiss company, it was still fun to go to. The was a large chocolate fountain that we got to dip wafers in as well! Also, as the name implies, we went to a cologne shop, or perfume shop, which claims to be the makers of the first perfume in the world. Famous figures such as Napoleon, Princess Diana, and even Bill Clinton have been said to have bought the perfume. We got free samples as well and it is a very subtle scent. For dinner, we went to a Brauhaus which claimed to have opened in 1317 and I was able to get my fist German beer. To be quite honest, it was not that good, but it was all for the experience.

The massive Cologne Cathedral. I could not get it all into one picture!

After Cologne, we flew to London to meet my mom.

Overall, it was a great experience and I was very glad that I was able to go to the cities that I did. Each had a different culture and learning to adjust to the culture shift with only being there for a short time was hard, but I gained a new appreciation for each culture as well. It was always a bit overwhelming when going to a new city every couple of days, but it taught me how to quickly adapt to change in a short period of time. I also learned how to travel by trains and accept that there will always be challenges when travelling. We had a couple of hiccups, including some lost possessions, but learning how to deal with these problems is a good life lesson that I was able to learn. It was time well-spent with my grandparents and I am very grateful for them taking the time to come out and travel with me.

Facing Challenges Abroad

I would like to apologize for the delay in this post. Midterms and spring break proved to be a very hectic time and I was unable to post this when I wanted to.

This post is dedicated to the challenges and lessons I have learned so far from attending St Andrews and being in a foreign country in general. While I have been having a great time at St Andrews, I have face challenges that I had to overcome.

The first challenge was making friends. In the beginning, I was very lonely. I initially gravitated towards trying to make friends with the other study abroad students, but it quickly became apparent to me that my interests did not align with theirs. They wanted to go out and party every night, something that I do not enjoy doing. After being ignored, I decided that I needed to reach out to the other students in my corridor. I have been extremely lucky that the students in my corridor (hallway of my dorm) are so friendly and nice. After reaching out to them, having conversations in the kitchen when making meals on the weekend, and being invited to sit with them at meals in the dining hall, I quickly became friends with many of them. They have all become my close friends and I am very thankful to be meeting students from different countries who are kind and include me. My friends come from England, Scotland, Malaysia, South Korea, Germany, Ireland, and the U.S. I have been able to learn the customs of each of their countries, in addition to the customs of St Andrews and Scotland as well. This has enhanced my experience and allowed me to become integrated into the culture of St Andrews, along with having a better understanding of different cultures.

School in general has been a large challenge as well. Understanding how the grading system works, what the expectations are for assignments, and contacting professors are all issues that I have to deal with. The grading system is on a 20 point scale and the conversions to A B C grades are a little complicated. Expectations on assignments have been one of the biggest challenges. Since I am considered a “third year,” many of the classes I am taking are upper-level. This means that the professors expect that, since you are an upper-classman, you know all of the rules and expectations regarding assignments. It also means that you have been taught certain curriculum before that carries over into the upper-level classes. I found that out through my math class. I did not do well on an assignment because I solved a problem using the wrong method, despite getting the right answer. Most students knew the method because that is what they had been taught in previous years. I, on the other hand, had no clue that the directions implied a certain method. After talking with the professor, I learned that nothing could be fixed. Being a perfectionist, this frustrated me. There was nothing that I could do about it and I learned a valuable lesson from the experience. In order to provide clarity on expectations, I was going to have to ask questions. This has always been a struggle for me, but I have had to go outside of my comfort zone in order to be successful and get the answers I needed.

I of course miss my family and friends back home as well. Thanks to technology, I am able to keep in contact with them very easily. My grandmother has also continued to send me care packages just as she does when I am at Whitman! These always make my day when they come.

St. Patrick’s Day-themed care package from my grandma!

Moving to a foreign country always has its challenges, but learning how to deal with the challenges has allowed me to grow as a person. By learning the culture of St Andrews, making new friends, and stepping out of my comfort zone, I have been able to better myself and gain an understanding and new perspective of the world around me.

The ‘Beast from the East’ and Professor Strikes

It has been quite a busy time here for the past two weeks. In addition to midterms, where I had a test, presentation, and paper due all in a row in the same week, some other disruptions decided to make an appearance as well.

To start off, for the past 3 weeks, there has been a professor strike across campus. The strike was a result of a decision by the University and College Union and Universities UK disagreement on a new pension scheme, where some professors’ pensions were to be cut drastically. As a way to show their frustration, some professors have gone on strike. Professors who are on strike have cancelled all classes as a result. None of my professors decided to go on strike, but many of my friends have not had lectures, tutorials, or labs for weeks due to it. Some people are leaving a week early for spring break because they have no class! It is interesting for me to experience this and compare it to my own experience with school strikes. When I was just starting middle school, all teachers in my district went on strike over salaries and the first day of school was postponed for two weeks, much to the delight of my anxious pre-teen self who was scared to start middle school. The nature of the strike then is essentially the same thing as what the professors are doing here. They are teaching to educate the talented youth, but need the proper pay in order to be financially stable. Hopefully this will be sorted out soon and a new proposal will be made so that everyone can get back to class.

A flyer that was handed to me by a striker as I walked to class

The second big event was the great ‘Beast from the East’ winter storm. You may have heard about it on the news, but essentially the UK got hammered with snow. To be honest, it really was not THAT bad of a storm here in St. Andrews, but the wind was another story. Other places around the UK were hit a lot worse, but we had wind storms of up to 35 mph. We got about 3 inches of snow total over the course of 4 days. Compared to the foot of snow that lasted from December to March last year at Whitman, this was a piece of cake. It was very pretty, until you had to walk to a class that was 20 minutes away and the sidewalks were not cleared. Thankfully, the weekend before the storm, I realized I had no good shoes for walking in the snow or hiking and decided to go buy a pair downtown. I apparently had very good judgement, because the hiking boots I bought literally saved me during this storm! I was able to walk to all of my classes with ease.

The snow-covered streets of St Andrews

St. Sallies Quad covered in snow

View from my economics tutorial room. See the huge waves in the distance from the wind

The school on the other hand, literally shut down. Classes were canceled for one day and all facilities were closed. This is unusual weather for St Andrews, so people were scared to drive and did not know what to expect. Even Tesco, the grocery store, ran out of food because everyone was in a panic that they would be snowed in! It was a madhouse trying to go grocery shopping. Thankfully, the snow melted within a couple of days and everything was back to normal.


From the events that have happened in the past couple of weeks, I have learned the following points:

  1. Strikes here are the same as in the U.S. and shows that the education decisions around the world need to be reexamined and improved.
  2. Unexpected snow storms happen and you just have to be prepared for anything (even if no one else is).

The unexpected nature of these two events have allowed me to see how a different country reacts to similar problems and has enhanced my cultural experience, although not in the way that I expected.

Hopefully the strikes will end and there will be no more snow soon!

What Even is Korfball…and More Activities

One of my goals that I wanted to achieve during my time abroad was to try activities that I could not do at home. I want to have a memorable experience at St Andrews and the best way would be to step out of my comfort zone and try new activities. The university has so many clubs, or as they are called, societies, and activities to offer, something that I was very excited about. During the second week of school, they have a “Refreshers Fayre” which showcases all of the societies that the school has to offer. After walking through 3 floors worth of societies, I ended up joining 3: Wind Band, Disney Society, and Korfball.

The Wind Band is part of the St Andrews Music Society and is the largest in-auditioned music group that the school has to offer. I play the alto saxophone and am part of the Wind Ensemble at Whitman, so continuing with music here was a must. I unfortunately was unable to rent an alto sax from the school, but a very generous member, and one of the student leaders, of the Wind Band has allowed me to borrow her tenor saxophone to play. It has been an adjustment, but each week I am getting better. There are a wide range of players, some who have played for a long time, like me, and some who have just taken up the instrument. Overall, it is great fun. We meet Thursday nights in the music hall, named Younger Hall, which is a historical and beautiful building. We are also playing entertaining music, such as the theme to Back to the Future and, with some Scottish flare, highlights from the movie Brave.

The inside of Younger Hall before Wind Band rehearsal

The Disney Society is just a fun club that brings together people who love Disney. We have film screenings, as we watched the movie Dumbo one night, and we also do Disney-themed Pub Quizzes. Pub Quizzes are quite popular in St Andrews and basically consist of answering trivia on Disney in a pub. I have met many people who share the same love for Disney as I do and some, especially those from the U.K., are in awe that I have been to Disneyland the number of times I have.

I, as many people have, have never heard of the sport of Korfball. To be clear, I was never intending on actually joining a sport club here; I mainly just wanted to use the gym facilities and maybe just try a couple of sports for fun. When I went to the Refreshers Fayre, the Korfball team successfully persuaded me to try out a Korfball practice. I was very hesitant at first, but let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions that I have made here. Korfball is essentially similar to basketball; you play on a basketball court, there are two hoops on each side of the court, and the object is to outscore your opponent by making the most baskets. But, there are multiple differences: a) it is a mixed-gender sport, b) you cannot dribble the ball, only passing is allowed, c) the hoop is a couple of feet taller than a basketball hoop and it is situated around where the free-throw line is in basketball, and d) one side is offense and one side is defense, so there is no running back and forth on the court. The game is a lot of fun, especially since I have played basketball in the past, but what makes Korfball so great is the team. They are very friendly, encouraging, and overall great people. They included me from the start, added me to the Korfball Facebook page, and even added me to the group text message. Even though I can only make one practice a week, it is still a lot of fun. The girls on the team had a movie night and it was a lot of fun.

The main Sports Arena, where we practice

A korfball (looks like a soccer ball, but bounces like a basketball)

Overall, getting involved has been a great way to make new friends and to share and bond with others that share the same passions. Trying new activities, such as a new instrument and sport, is essential in growing as a person and creating memories that will last a life time, while also having fun in the process. I wanted to make sure that I integrated into the culture of the University of St Andrews and not just stick with the other study abroad students. By taking a risk and stepping out of my comfort zone, I was able to make new friends and learn more about their culture in the process. I hope that this blog post answers the title, as it is a universal questions that I, and many others, have been asked about a many number of times!

The First Week of Classes

This past week was my first week of classes. It was probably the very first time in the past three years since starting college that I was not stressed out about homework. I truly mean the first time ever. It was so strange that I started stressing because I did not have much to stress out about. The first week back is called “Refresher’s Week,” as the first-years here are called “Freshers” and they need a refresher on how to get back into the routine of school. There are nightly activities all leading up to the Refresher’s Fayre on Sunday, which is an activities fair where you have a chance to see and sign up for all of the different clubs, called societies, that the school offers.

Much of my week was dedicated to figuring out how my classes work and getting a feel for what a typical school week will be like. To start off, I am taking three modules: International Trade, Mathematical Modelling, and Scottish Music. International Trade is a typical economics class that analyzes the way trade is conducted around the world. Mathematical Modelling is similar to differential equations, but using the ideas from that subject and applying them to real-world problems. Scottish Music could potentially be the hardest module I have, which was a little shocking to me. It is treated more as a history class than a music class, but we do get to learn how to play the penny whistle! The module focuses on analyzing the history of Scottish music and the influences that helped create it. Each of the modules are broken down into a series of different classes called lectures, tutorials, and in math only, computer lab and examples classes. Every week, for each class, there are lectures. They vary in frequency and length, as I have 2 or 3 math lectures a week (all depending on the week) for 50 minutes, 3 lectures for Scottish Music for 50 minutes a week, and 1 two-hour lecture for International Trade a week. It is a bit strange to only have 1 economics class all week, but it does give me time to prepare for the lectures. Lectures are where the professor teaches the material. There is no homework assigned or turned in during lectures. Lectures are just there for everyone to learn the material. There are many students in one lecture. My largest class is International Trade, which has about 70 students in it. Math is about the same and my smallest is Scottish Music, which has around 30 students. This is something that I am not used to at all, since Whitman tries to keep the number of students to less than 40 in a class. It was a little intimidating, but since all lectures are designed to just go over the material, it was not as bad as I originally had thought.

Tutorials are where the class is broken down into groups of 10 to 20 students and typically meet every other week, except for Scottish Music that meets every week. This is where we are assigned homework and are expected to complete it before class. It is designed to be a time to ask questions and look deeper into the material. I will have my first set of tutorials in the next two weeks and I am eager to see how they work.

Unique to math classes are computer labs and examples classes. Math has tutorials as well, but the computer lab and examples classes have around 45 students in each and are designed more as a peer-collaboration time than tutorials. Examples classes allow you to work with other students on problems and ask for help when needed. The computer labs only occur from weeks 5-9 during the semester and will be used to work on a computer assignment for the class.

The way that grades are determined and the number of assignments per class are a lot different than I am used to as well. For all of my classes, the final exam is worth at least 50% of my grade, with the most being 70% of my grade. There are very little assignments as well. International Trade has one class test, one essay, and the final. Scottish Music has two essays and a final. Mathematical Modelling has 4 assignments and the final. This is the first math class that I have ever had that does not have any tests throughout the semester. It is a little daunting that so much is weighted on the final, but they do have good resources in order to help you prepare for it.

My class locations are also starkly different than I am used to. At Whitman, all academic buildings (with the exception of the Music building), are circled around Ankeny. Here, the school is split into multiple different areas. There is St. Salvator’s College, which is the considered the “main” campus, is home to English, Classics, Economics, Art History, and Music departments. There is St. Mary’s College, which is home to the Psychology, Sociology, and Philosophy departments. Both St. Salvator’s and St. Mary’s Colleges are located in downtown St Andrews. The Math and Science departments are all in the North Haugh, which is also where my dorm is located. This is about a 20 minute walk from downtown St Andrews. Because I am taking a mix of subjects, I have two modules in St. Salvator’s and one in the North Haugh. This means that it takes me 20 minutes to walk to my classes in St. Salvator’s, or Sallies as it is known. This is a lot different than the 5 minutes it takes me to walk to class at Whitman, but the view is great. My economics tutorial class is in the Economics department building, known as Castlecliffe. The building is literally on a cliff, overlooking the sea. It is very beautiful. My lectures for International Trade and Scottish Music are in St. Salvator’s Quad, which is what is used for many of the promotional pictures for the college. I then get to walk back to the Mathematics building, which is right next to my dorm.


The Maths Building (it is actually very nice on the inside).



The Quad is the central hub of the academic buildings and St. Salvator’s Chapel is to the right as well.



Castlecliffe on a gorgeous day (and the view of the water from the inside is amazing!)


Overall, the first week of classes went well, but there is still much more to come. I will still need to get used to my ever-changing schedule each week and factor in the length of time it takes me to walk to my classes. The subjects that I have chosen to take are interesting and exciting and I hope that I am able to learn more about topics that I do not have the chance to learn about at Whitman. Understanding the new system is my next challenge, but I am eager to see what opportunities it gives me.