UCI student Yasmine arrived in January of last year to do a winter semester abroad at St Andrews University. She fell so deeply in love with the city and the university that she decided to return for the following full academic year. Read on about what she came to love so much about the city, why she chose to return, and how her experience has changed her life!
“As soon as I arrived at St Andrews, I felt like I had entered a real-world fairytale. As the Old Course spread out before me with the famous Swilken bridge resting on top of the bright green grass, and [I saw] the St Salvator Chapel Tower peaking through the neighboring stone buildings, I was immediately enamored with this charming town. My initial impression of St Andrews University was only enhanced as I discovered in addition to being situated in an extremely picturesque town, it also offers amazing academics, and has a really wonderful community. From the moment I arrived, I considered St Andrews my home away from home, and it felt like I had discovered the exact sort of place I had always hoped to find myself in. Since my experience abroad last spring semester was so incredible, I decided to extend my stay and am now studying at St Andrews for an additional academic year.
As someone who has always lived in Southern California, I was born, grew up, and went to University all within 30-miles of each other, so living in a new country has been an exciting change. I have loved traveling as long as I can remember and when I saw the opportunity to get out of my Orange County bubble and study abroad across the world, I grasped the opportunity. I did not know much about Scotland before I arrived, having never visited the United Kingdom previously, so learning about the country and experiencing its culture has been an enjoyable aspect of my time abroad. Through activities like ceilidh dancing, exploring the Highlands, visiting national monuments and historical landmarks, learning about Scottish history, and much more, I have been able to learn a great deal about a country I knew relatively little about. Immersing myself in a new culture has really added to the quality of my study abroad experience, and has given me a deep appreciation for this amazing country.
St Andrews University was established in 1413, so there is a very rich history to say the least. As a result of this, many unique traditions have developed over the centuries that have been continued and embraced by the current students. Among these traditions are wearing red woolen robes, typically for Sunday pier walks and special events, but also as a fashion piece by a few school-spirited students just adding some color to their daily outfit. The University also throws many formal balls, often held in beautiful venues with some sort of theme and a live band, which provides an excellent occasion to get dressed up, often with men wearing traditional Scottish attire, kilt and all. There is also an event at the beginning of the school year called Raisin, where new students get adopted into an “academic family” by third year students, who become their “parents,” and they partake in many fun activities together, including a huge foam fight in the quad. These are just a few of the many unique traditions that have become my favorite aspects of life at St Andrews.
Though there are many nonacademic aspects to life abroad, as should be expected, the main part of studying abroad is the studying itself. Luckily I found my classes at St Andrews to be some of the best classes I have ever taken. As a political science major, studying in St Andrews’ renowned international relations program has been among the most beneficial experiences. The classes I have taken and the ones I am currently taking are so in depth and intellectually stimulating. I have found that studying in a different country can provide a unique approach to a subject, which can encourage a deeper understanding in one’s field. I also notice I prefer the structure of the classes to what I am accustomed to, since they provide more time for independent work in between classes which allowed me to take the information taught in lecture and expand upon it in my own time through the readings. In addition, the intimate class sizes in discussions provided me with greater personal time with my professors, which was extremely helpful. I felt like studying at St Andrews has made me a more diligent student outside of class, and has encouraged me to develop effective time management skills.
St Andrews has a very international community, which has enabled me to meet and form friendships with people from all over the world. The St Andrews community is very close and I have met some of the people I now consider to be my closest friends at this University, some of whom I know I will remain friends with long after college. Not only does living internationally provide the opportunity to meet people from many countries but it also provides the opportunity to explore new countries yourself, since it is much easier and more affordable to travel abroad than in the States. I have not only been able to travel around Scotland and the rest of the UK, but I also got to visit many other European countries. In my first semester at St Andrews, I traveled to Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary, and they were some of the most exciting trips I have ever taken. Visiting foreign countries with different histories and cultures is a very eye-opening experience and some of my favorite memories have been from the trips I have taken while abroad. Living internationally is such a life-changing experience, which has introduced me to so many new people and places and undoubtedly broadened my perspective of the world.
Though living in a foreign place thousands of miles away from home can seem daunting, I think a change of environment is really beneficial to personal development. To anyone who is considering studying abroad, if it is possible, I would highly recommend you embrace the chance. I have found the key to studying abroad to be adaptability and open-mindedness, since things will not be exactly as you might expect them to be or how you would be accustomed to, but those differences are what make the experience so enriching. I came to Scotland with very little expectations, but was met with everything I could have ever wanted from an abroad experience. The charming environment, the intriguing classes, and the thriving student community are just a few of the reasons I fell in love with St Andrews, and why I consequently decided to extend my stay. My first semester at St Andrews flew by and I was not ready to say goodbye by the end of my term. Returning to St Andrews this year has been a completely new adventure and I am so grateful to have this additional opportunity. There is so much of the world to see and if you take the chance to explore, you might find yourself in a place that means as much to you as where you have lived your whole life. That is how I feel about St Andrews, and I can whole-heartedly say deciding to study abroad has been the best decision I have made.”