I chose to study at the University of St. Andrews for a semester because I had taken a day trip to St. Andrews with my family when I was about thirteen and saw the students in their red gowns and I knew I wanted to spend more time here. And I mean… if it’s good enough for the Royal Family… it’s good enough for me.
My semester at St. Andrews was really phenomenal; in the first few weeks of my arrival in St. Andrews, two significant events happened: Queen Elizabeth II died in Balmoral and gave a mourning procession through Scotland and England, and the University of St. Andrews was named the top university in the UK. Both of these events simultaneously rattled and excited me. I feared my classes would be too difficult for me and I feared that as an American, I would not be able to grasp the gravity of the death of Queen Elizabeth. Starting off on a shaky foot with these major events, it never really stopped me from going and doing. St. Andrews is a bustling university town and there is always something to do. Even when there wasn’t something to do at all times, I was able to go to other European countries during the weekends. Because of these budget airlines, I was able to visit Lisbon, Brussels, Madrid, Barcelona, and Milan. For me, the biggest positive about studying in St. Andrews was being able to feel a part of the university community during the week while attending classes and going out with friends, but also being able to backpack Europe on the weekends.
While I would love to ramble about my amazing semester in Scotland, I think as the first UTC student to go to St. Andrews, I want to give a bit of advice. See below for some unsolicited, but what I would consider handy advice.
Little Things That Have Made a Huge Difference:
- Travel Advice:
- Buy a railcard: Before you buy it, sign up for trainline’s email system because they often run deals on railcards and they last 3-5 years, so even if you purchase one well before your trip, it will still be valid when you are there. Even if you can’t get the railcard while it is on sale, it will save you a significant amount of money.
- Get a Tesco Club card: the Clubcard is free and will save you a ton of money. I checked my Tesco account and it saved me £302!
- If you are planning on jet-setting every weekend, St. Andrews might not be the place for you. By train and tram, it takes about 2 hours to get to Edinburgh airport and by bus alone, it takes about 3 hours. If that doesn’t bother you, then no worries, but it is extra time and money when you are actively traveling.
- Go to Freshers Events: I met so many people during “Freshers Week” which was so great, but I also befriended some other study abroad students who I ended up traveling with because they were also here for a good time and not a long time.
- Book a few trips: If you find yourself in a rut as I did (changing seasons innit) suggest you book a weekend trip. It doesn’t have to be crazy–there are so many cool spots via bus or train in Scotland and Northern England that are worth seeing–but just getting out of the small town can help you remember that you’re only here in Scotland for a short amount of time and to savor that.
- Join an Academic Family: I know that USAC says you can’t, so I didn’t, but most academic families don’t care if you’re only there for a semester. Academic Families are really there to be a group of people you can count on and have a good time with, so just go to adoption day and feel it out for yourself!
- Take tons of pictures, make playlists, and write a journal (even on the hard days)
- My Favorite Spots:
- For a drink: The Rule, The Vic, The Student Union, and Aikman’s Pub
- For a bite to eat: Brewdog, Shwarma House, St. Andrews Brewing Co. and the good ole Tesco Meal deal
- For a coffee: Old Union Cafe and Rectors Cafe (get a punch card and try and save a buck)
- Dorm Advice:
- Get a Catered Meal Plan: On the downside, the meals are served at your hall at specific times; however, it is a great and simple way to meet people and it really builds a community. The halls will do “High Tables” about twice a term where students dress nice and wear our red gowns and the hall provides wine and proper table settings which is great fun. Another plus of the meal plan it is a surefire way to get a nutritious meal so you don’t have to worry about it while you’re exploring a new country.
- Bring a pair of shower shoes: I specify to bring these because there is one store in town that sells slides/flipflops and they run about £5-10 when you could easily buy a pair at Walmart for $3, slip them in your suitcase, and be able to take a shower the first night you arrive.
- Get a pair of slippers: you are likely going to be in a hall and will have to use a communal bathroom. The windows stay open in the bathrooms for ventilation and it is cold at night almost year-round. I never wore slippers before coming here.
Okay, so that is probably a lot to take in. But, my goal for this post is to show you that there are things that make travel accessible even when it feels impossible or unimaginable. It will be uncomfortable and there will be culture shock and bad days, but studying abroad is one of the easiest ways to integrate into an experience–into a life, really–that you would maybe never have considered before.
Jane Dodge (BA English) spent Fall 2022 studying abroad in St. Andrews, Scotland through USAC. Jane had the following to say about studying abroad, “Studying in St. Andrews was such a unique experience and one that will stick with me forever.”
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