I have officially been in St Andrews for a week! Classes have not started yet, but I have been very busy with orientation, learning how to get around the town, and getting everything situated.
It is very beautiful here, especially on a sunny day, but it is cold and very windy. There have been two days in the past week where I was almost blown over when trying to walk around outside. My mom came over with me to help me get everything put together and we were able to walk around a bit and go to some historical sites around town. The first thing that we quickly noticed was that the University is integrated into the town. There are academic buildings down the main streets of town, something that I found very unusual and a little confusing, but it was clear that this creates a very tight-knit community for students and people who live in the town. My mom and I went to the St Andrews Cathedral ruins, which is a large area with the ruins of a giant church that was once in St Andrews as early as the 1200s. With the ruins is a large graveyard with many recent and old tombstones. We were also able to walk by the famous Old Course golf course, one of the first golf courses ever created. It was surprising to see some people golfing brought their dogs and had their dogs run around the course while they were golfing.
There is a tradition at St Andrews where students, after church on Sunday, do something called a Pier Walk. Students are dressed in red robes and wear the robes in a certain way based on their class year. First-years wear the robes fully on, second-years wear them off both shoulders, third-years wear them off the right shoulder if they are part of the School of Science and off the left shoulder if they are part of the School of Arts, and fourth-years wear them off the shoulders, draped around their elbows. The students wear their robes to church and then after, all walk across the pier and back in their robes. I did attend church this Sunday for the very first time but did not participate in the Pier Walk because I do not have a robe and it was raining. I hope that I will be able to borrow someone’s robe and participate in the Pier Walk once the weather gets better.
My dorm is very large and is one of the newer dorms on campus. I have a single room with my own bathroom, and I have a TV in my room, since my dorm is used as a hotel in the summer. There are different sectioned corridors, where each share a kitchen. The dining hall is inside of my dorm and meals are served only on the weekdays, so I cook for myself during the weekends. You also have to pay for laundry, which is something that I have to learn to get used to. Luckily, the dryers are brand new and actually do a better job than I had originally thought at drying my clothes.
This is my first time being away in a foreign country and the furthest away I have been from home. The following are some of my observations after being here for a week:
Tea, Scones, and…haggis?
One of my favorite parts of being in the U.K. in general is the plethora of tea and scones! At almost any café, restaurant, or pub, you can find tea (traditionally English Breakfast Tea) and some variety of a scone. I am familiar with those foods, but was able to also try all of the traditional Scottish foods as well. Scotland is known for eating haggis, a mixture of sheep giblets, oats, and spices, all ground up and stuffed in the stomach of a sheep. The taste is fine as long as you do not think of what it is made of.
There are very little study abroad students from the West Coast of the U.S.
The majority of the study abroad students are from the U.S., but they are mainly from the East Coast. Many of them also came either with large groups from their schools or through a study abroad program. With being the only student from Whitman, it has and will be a challenge for me to make friends. I have been lucky enough to make friends with people down my corridor (section in my dorm), which has made adjusting a bit easier for me.
There is very little communication from the school regarding directions for modules (classes)
First off, the classes here are called modules. I was very confused on how to register for modules, who my advisor was, and how the modules work. I knew that there was a day during the week that we were supposed to meet with our advisors and choose our classes. I ended up never getting to meet my advisor and just had the head of the Economics Department approve my modules. Many other students were confused as well and some were not prepared at all to choose their modules. This may be the case because we are all coming in during the second semester and expect all students to already know what to do. This is a stark contrast from Whitman, which gives clear directions on how classes work and how to sign up for them.
My name confuses some of the locals
This is just a funny observation that I have noticed repeatedly. Since my name is Irish, when I introduce myself to people who are from the U.K., they seem to expect that I am from Ireland and are a little confused because I have an American accent. Most people do not find this odd, but I have gotten a couple of surprised expressions and questions about how to spell my name.
Overall, St Andrews is a very beautiful place, with rich history and very friendly people. I know that it will be an adjustment and I have already run into many issues in my short time here (understanding the currency, how to navigate a grocery store, language/phrases, laundry, etc.). I came to Scotland and St Andrews to experience a different culture and to immerse myself in that culture and I realize that it is also a learning experience as well to get accustomed to that culture. I am very excited for my time here and stay tuned for more posts on classes, trips and more!