Monthly Archives: May 2018

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!