Life around the world

Friday, 13 April, 2012 - 10:07

Saintly St Andrews

by James Penn

Whether it is the golf courses which rank among the best in the world, the proximity to the North Sea with waves ideal for surfing (as long as you don’t mind wearing two wetsuits!) or the buildings reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, St Andrews is a truly special place to go to university.

Located on the east coast of Scotland, somewhat protected by a natural curve in the coastline, St Andrews offers every student an excellent atmosphere to study, live and pass your undergraduate years in a place like no other. My first two years were spent on the golf course during the day, and then roasting marshmallows over a crackling bonfire on the beaches at night. These bonfires are an excellent place to meet new people, chat with old friends and try the famous Scottish whisky!

The student population makes up about one third of the entire town population; which means that everything is designed for student living; you are never more than 5 minutes away from your lecture halls, and never more than 10 minutes away from the beach! Whilst the weather is famously cold (especially from December- February), St Andrews students have taken this into account and come up with a quasi-uniform which consists of: a Barbour jacket (to keep that North wind off!), jeans and boat shoes (or Ugg boats for girls). Whilst that means that almost everyone looks the same, it is the only way keep warm!

There must be something in the St Andrews air as over one third of all students get married to each other, the highest rate of any university in the United Kingdom.  The clubbing scene is not very strong (there is one night club called ‘The Lizard’) so most people meet their boyfriend/girlfriend at dinner parties or the many formal balls during the year. St Salvator’s Church is a church specially reserved for St Andrews students; you can only get married there if both people were students at the University. St Andrews most famous couple is Prince William and Kate Middleton (now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) who got married in May.

St Andrews is almost 600 years old (it was founded in 1413), making it the third oldest university in the English speaking world. As it is so ancient, it has many traditions. For example; the ‘May Dip’ held on the first day of May every year. All the students have parties on April the 31st, and then run into the North Sea at dawn to celebrate the coming of spring and supposedly to get good luck for exams that will be taken at the end of May! I’m not sure if it brought me any luck in my exams, but I can tell you that it was the coldest experience of my life! Other traditions include the not stepping on cobbles which form a ‘PH’ at the entrance to one of the quads. ‘PH’ stands for Patrick Hamilton, who was a Catholic who was burnt at the stake for his beliefs! It is said that anyone who stands on it will have bad luck for their four years at St Andrews and will not graduate at the end of it!

The setting of the town is so beautiful and it is full of so much history that it is impossible not to enjoy yourself when studying there or visiting. If you want to really be like Harry Potter, you can even wear the traditional red gowns!


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