A Little About St Andrews

Perhaps you have skimmed through my introspective reflections in ­­­From South Carolina to Scotland and wondered what the town and university are like. If so, this brief post is dedicated to you! I have also included some novice photos that were shot with the fancy camera gifted to me by my lovely family.

St. Andrews is a small town located on the east coast of Scotland in Fife county. St. Andrews, of course famous for its golf course, is full of various pubs, shops, cafes, restaurants, and many other delightful businesses. Although buses, cars, and taxis are viable modes of transportation throughout the town, many people opt to walk or ride their bikes on the ubiquitous footpaths and sidewalks that snake throughout the town. It takes me approximately twenty minutes to walk to my classes located in the center of town, and thirty or forty minutes to cross the two miles through town from my residence hall to my friend’s residence hall. The university buildings are spread out throughout the whole town, allowing for a lovely commute, albeit inconvenient if you only have to walk a ten minute mile to get to your next class on time!

The University of St. Andrews was founded over 600 years ago, earning the title as the oldest university in Scotland. There are approximately 8,000 students here, which is close to thirteen times the size of Erskine’s student body (Yikes!). However, my largest class consists of eighty students, which is much less intimidating than a potential three hundred student class.

There is an incredible amount of diversity in the town and university. One of my flatmates explained the phenomena to me in these terms: apparently the Scottish government will pay the tuition fees of full-time students from the European Union, and so the university of St. Andrews recruits students from non-members of the European Union in order to make a lot of money. Thus, Americans, Canadians, and Asians compose a majority of the international students, which comprise 30% of the total student population. One of my absolute favorite things to do is to face a window looking out on the town and observe all of the different people who walk by: students, families, retirees, couples, old friends, young friends, happy faces, lonely faces, sports players, tourists, workers, ladies with bags that say “much ado about mutton.” It seems like you can find any type of person here, and I absolutely love it.

If there is something I have left out about the town or the university that any of you lovely readers are interested in, please let me know! There is so much to tell in such a limited space, but I would love to share any and every experience I have with anyone who is interested. In the meantime, enjoy some photos of the town below.


From South Carolina to Scotland

For those of you who did not know, I have relocated to the University of St. Andrews this semester, thanks to Erskine’s study abroad program. I have always dreamed of traveling the world and the opportunity to study abroad through this program seemed too good to be true. As two other friends and I went through the application process, the dream became more and more tangible until suddenly, poof! We were getting settled in St. Andrews with the help of the grand Ross McEwan.


Our first day in St. Andrews

I have been in Scotland for two and a half weeks now, and every day has been filled with new adventures. For the past few months, I have wondered who I will prove to be outside of the comfort of a familiar home and school environment. Friends, family, and casual observers on the street know that I feel completely out of my depth when it comes to socializing and making friends because of my quiet, insecure nature hidden behind a smiling, chatty Korean mask. I am still not quite sure how I will turn out, but my prayer is that I will return to Erskine more confident and sure of myself. Fingers crossed.

It is quite daunting to be surrounded by peers who are highly energetic, better traveled, and more adventurous than I am. I almost always feel out of my element when I talk to people because I feel boring and lifeless in comparison to their thrilling lives. Yet, it is such a blessing to be loved and accepted by my friend group here in spite of my differences. I am so thankful that Daria and Rachel are studying here as well. Without them, I would feel alone in this town, despite my wonderful friends and flatmates. God has answered my prayers for friendship, a strong Christian community, relief from stress, confidence over fear, and so much more. I remember praying for similar things on my first night during freshman year at Erskine, and God went above and beyond in answering those prayers. My hope is that He will do the same during the next four months. I have taken great comfort in knowing that He is with me, calming my fears and rejoicing in my victories as life adjusts from South Carolina to Scotland.

You have probably had your fill of these initial reflections, so I will refer you to A Little About St Andrews if you would like to read about the town and university. I will try to keep up this blog throughout the semester as the pages of this chapter continue to turn. If you are willing to prayer for me, Rachel, and Daria while we’re here, please pray for success in our schoolwork, for safety and lifelong memories in our adventures, and that no seagulls poop on us (the birds here are way too friendly). Cheers!

To Ireland and Back Again

This January, a group of Erskine students is exploring Ireland with Professor of Psychology Robert Elsner.  So far they’ve kissed the Blarney Stone, tasted fantastic local cuisine, and explored castles that have stood for centuries.

If you’d like to follow along with their adventures, the class is posting regular updates to a blog:
There And Back Again

J-term is campus slang for Winter Term, a special 3-week term in January of each year.  Students select one course from among a wide variety of faculty interests and hobbies, or they can travel abroad or schedule an internship/externship experience within their major field.  Classes range widely depending on the year, giving faculty the chance to show off areas of expertise that otherwise might not fit the standard curriculum. And students benefit from sitting in class next to people from outside their discipline.  It’s a great way to kick off a new year of intellectual pursuit!

The castle in Limerick, Ireland, as seen by Erskine students traveling for J-term

The castle in Limerick, Ireland, as seen by Erskine students traveling for J-term

An AMAZING Academic Experience!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in one of the best academic experiences I have had as an Erskine student. And considering that Erskine is a highly academic college, and I have been here for four years and had a lot of academic experiences, that is a pretty strong statement!

So what did Holly do that was so fab???, you may be asking yourself. Let me tell you! Last weekend Dr. Elsner, another student called Christine, and I went to the Alpha Chi National Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. This is a three day conference for the Alpha Chi National Honor Society which takes place every year! Students from all over the country gather together to present their research, listen to speakers, and enjoy exploring the city together.


Ready to explore the city!

Ready to explore the city!

If you are ever experiencing low self esteem as a student, I recommend that you attend an academic conference. At a conference, all of the students are treated like serious scholars. While we were there, everyone wore nice clothes and dressed up all of the time. We stayed at an extremely nice hotel in St. Louis and were served fine foods. As Christine and I clicked everywhere in our heels, she commented to me exactly what I was feeling, I have never felt so professional!

I make weird facial expressions as a present my topic! :p

I make weird facial expressions as a present my topic! :p

Besides presenting some of the research that we have done in our majors (I presented on a paradox in game theory known as the Traveler’s Dilemma and Christine presented on a study she is conducting concerning the effects of seating on attention), we were given the whole of Friday afternoon to explore the city of St. Louis. What a fabulous time we had! Dr. Elsner is possibly one of the most fun college professors that has ever been! We spent the afternoon eating out at a nice restaurant, walking around downtown, and exploring the city! We even got to go to the top of the St. Louis arch!


Dr. Elsner at the top of the arch!

Dr. Elsner at the top of the arch!

I suppose that after we went to the top of the arch, we got stuck in picture taking mode. If you think about it, that makes sense. When you do something super awesome, like go to the top of the St. Louis arch, you tend to start taking a lot of pictures. And then when you get down, you think to yourself: that was really fun! I want to take some more really fun pictures! And then you end up walking around St. Louis attempting to pose next to random statues you find all around the city!


Duck lips??

Duck lips??


We pretended it was a chocolate bunny!

We pretended it was a chocolate bunny!


Christine's scary face is much better than mine!

Christine’s scary face is much better than mine!

One of the coolest parts of the trip took place on Friday night. Dr. Elsner, Christine, and I were invited over to spend time with two students who graduated from Erskine several years ago. They heard that we were in town and invited us over to enjoy some chocolate cookies and great conversation! One of the phrases that it often used to describe the Erskine Experience is Forever Connected. Having the opportunity to meet two awesome alumni simply because we were in town and they wanted to meet us, I think, is a perfect example of how this statement rings true.


Edinburgh Castle


If you have been reading my Erskine blog loyally for the past several months, you may remember seeing this sentence at the end of one of my not so recent blogs:

(NEXT WEEK ON HOLLY’s BLOG: Even more details on the Edinburgh Castle! Which famous Scottish king’s birthplace did the girls get to see?? And…. Up close and extended photo commentary!)

Now, you may have thought to yourself, surely a week has passed! Surely she has had the opportunity to write about her trip to Edinburgh by now! But, I am sorry to say that I have not written! The worst part of this whole thing is that I posted that statement on September 30, 2013! So I am sorry to say that I have been rather behind! 😦

Going to the Edinburgh castle and seeing the town was an amazing experience! When I signed up to come to Erskine four years ago, I never imagined that part of my Erskine experience would be going to the capital of Scotland to see the birthplace of James VI of Scotland! But, I did go, and I learned so much more history than I think I could ever learn in one day of sitting in a history classroom. I think that is one of the reasons why Erskine loves to see students study abroad: it gives us an opportunity to learn things we might never have really understood or appreciated, otherwise.

Approaching the castle!

Approaching the castle!


One of the buildings in the castle! :)

One of the buildings in the castle! 🙂

The Edinburgh Castle was probably first constructed by David I in the 12th century, and has been an important point in Scottish History ever since. During the Scottish wars for Independence, the Edinburgh Castle was one of the major points of contention. He who held the castle held Edinburgh, and thus Scotland. The castle has been sieged many times, both successfully and unsuccessfully.

Large cannons placed throughout the castle walls have been a good method of defense!

Large cannons placed throughout the castle walls have been a good method of defense!

Walking around the castle is not what I thought walking around a castle would be like. I typically tend to think of being in a castle as a primarily indoor affair, particularly in the land of Scotland! But the castle was actually a cluster of medium sized buildings which had served various purposes over the years. As we walked around with our tour guide, she would point to each one of the buildings and explain when it was probably built and what it had been used for in the past.

We also saw an exhibition on how to properly apply armor for a battle!

We also saw an exhibition on how to properly apply armor for a battle!

One of my favorite things to see was St. Margaret’s chapel! This chapel is actually thought to be the only part of the original castle remaining. It is believed to have been built by David I when he built the castle, in honor of his pious mother: Saint Margaret of Scotland. It was the oldest standing structure in Edinburgh and absolutely beautiful! What is amazing to me is that, in my small group here in Greenwood, there is a sweet couple who were actually married in St. Margaret’s chapel! Of all of the people I met in Scotland, it was actually an Erskine graduate living in Greenwood was married in one of the coolest places ever!


The inside of the chapel is so small that it can only seat about fifteen people!

The inside of the chapel is so small that it can only seat about fifteen people!

Thanksgiving in the UK

As an American sojourning in a foreign land, I felt that it was my personal responsibility to introduce my fellow students to the happiness and joy that a genuine spirit of thankfulness can bring to a person (especially when that spirit of thankfulness is expressed in a large turkey!) In other words, I really wanted to cook a whole bunch of food for my friends over here, and let them know what a real American Thanksgiving is like!

It makes sense that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving over here. After, Thanksgiving is a celebration of a first harvest in the new world, and Scotland is certainly part of the old world. It’s a little more surprising that none of them seem to know what Thanksgiving is about, and many seem to guess that is has something to do with Lincoln. (A fact that I find quite interesting, Lincoln was the first to declare Thanksgiving a national holidays, but US citizens are more likely to think of pilgrims.) What really got me, though, was my friend Rachel declaring that she had never even heard of Thanksgiving! I wondered to myself, what do they DO in Northern Ireland??

Every Thursday evening here in St. Andrews, I take part in a wonderful small group with some of the best people I have met here in Scotland. The group is diverse; we have two Americans, one person from Singapore, three Northern Irish, as well as a healthy blend of Scottish and English students! 🙂 And of course, because small group occurs every Thursday, the two Americans (Vannah and I) realized fairly early on in the term that we needed to introduce our small group to a proper Thanksgiving!

Our Thanksgiving actually happened the day before Thanksgiving, on Thanksgiving eve. Vannah was super amazing, she was the one who really made it happened and organized everyone! She invited all of the guests: all I had to do was show up and help prepare. She and I spent almost the entire day in the kitchen! We made homemade pies, chickens (since most people don’t like turkey 😦 ), green bean casserole, dressing, and sweet tea. The kitchen was exploding with ingredients! I think the best way to describe to you how messy our kitchen was is to tell you there was a point where we LOST an ENTIRE CASSEROLE! That’s when we knew we needed to think about straightening up! J

The most hilarious thing was watching all of the British students see all of our food for the first time. None of them had ever had green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, or even heard of dressing (stuffing!) They wondered at sweet tea and asked if they were supposed to add milk, or if it was alcoholic. They stared at their plates and made comments about how they had never had so many strange foods on their plate at the same time! It was basically hilarious! J  One of the best parts of the evening occurred at the end, when everyone around the table shared what they were most thankful for! It is always amazing to take time to give thanks to the Lord for all of His amazing blessings, and I certainly know I have MANY things to be grateful for!

A wonderful meal with wonderful friends! :)

A wonderful meal with wonderful friends! 🙂

The BEST Foam Fight EVER!

The day after Raisin Sunday is Raisin Monday.

Read the BLOG about RAISIN SUNDAY!

After Raisin Sunday, Tiffany and I were exhausted. We were covered in paint, whipped cream, cheese puffs, and sand and we were ready to take a shower. We crawled into our beds and vowed that we would never move again.

Unfortunately, we had to move again. The alarm clock rang on Monday morning. We rolled over and looked at each other. We knew that we were going to have to get out of bed, and neither of us wanted to do it.

Once we did get up (an hour after the alarm rang, shockingly!) things got a whole lot better. The traditions for Raisin Monday are just as interesting for Raisin Sunday at St. Andrews. Every year on Raisin Monday morning, students go over to their mum’s house. The mum can then dress the children as WHATEVER SHE WANTS before sending them off to their dad’s house. The dad then gives them a “raisin receipt” which is usually the most ridiculous item he can think of. All of the dad’s children then carry the receipt off to St. Salvador’s quad, where they turn it in for entrance into a school wide massive foam fight..

Make sense to you? Yeah, me neither! 😛

On Monday morning, Tiff and I went over to our mums’ house to see how they would dress us. They were really sweet and made all of their children a delicious breakfast of bacon rolls and fresh fruit. They then dressed us up! My mum, Elisabeth dressed me up as Donald Duck. My siblings were dressed up in all sorts of random costumes, my favorites were Mario and Shrek! Tiffany’s mum dressed her and all of her siblings as teletubbies. (Tiffa was the yellow one, La-La!)

Elisabeth dressed me as Donald Duck!

Elisabeth dressed me as Donald Duck!

After getting dressed we went to our dad’s house (TIff and I have different mums, but the same dad!) James gave all of his children a joint gift: a HUGE block of ice that we had to carry for 20 minutes across towns with our hands! It was very cold, and he put green food dye and sugar in it to make it sticky 😛

A family photo: My mum and her six kids :)

A family photo: My mum and her six kids 🙂

Walking to the foam fight was hilarious! Mums dressed up their children as all sorts of things, we saw bees and flowers and monsters and babies wearing only a diaper. We saw one dad who dressed up as Aladdin and made all of his kids carry him along on a huge mattress through town. Most of the mums went ALL OUT on their costumes!

Tiff was a member of the teletubby family! :)

Tiff was a member of the teletubby family! 🙂

Once we got to the foam fight, we got in the queue. My family was the FIRST FAMILY in line for the foam fight! I think that we must have skipped the queue to turn in our receipts, because I know lots of people had been waiting there a lot longer than we had! But when they opened the gates to let us in the quad for the foam fight, we were the first ones in!The foam fight was CRAZY! Imagine everyone you know at Uni running around in a quad wearing Halloween costumes. Then imagine that they all get out cans of shaving cream and start flinging it at each other. EVERYONE was covered in foam and attacking everyone and yelling and running and screaming! This is Scotland, so it was about -100 degrees outside, but it was absolutely hilarious!
Foam Fight!

Foam Fight!

Family photo AFTER the foam fight! :)

Family photo AFTER the foam fight! 🙂

After it was all over we went back to our hall for a shower. Our wardens decided to add one extra surprise to the day: before girls could enter the hall they had to have a freezing bucket of water dumped on their heads. The guys had it worse, they had to run a lap, wearing only boxers, around the hall! Once they finally let us inside we made a beeline for the showers. I got warm in my shower, put on my pajamas, and didn’t get out of my bed for the rest of the day! 🙂
I love my mum <3

I love my mum ❤

Paint Fight on the BEACH! (Raisin Sunday)

Last weekend I completed a photo scavenger hunt around town while tied to five other people, had a paint fight on the beach, was thrown into the sea, ate an almost an entire chocolate bar in two minutes (and had to drink an entire wineglass full of random kitchen ingredients because I did not finish on time!), and dressed up as Donald Duck to participate in a school wide shaving cream fight.

When I saw everyone participated in this foam fight, I mean EVERYONE!

When I saw everyone participated in this foam fight, I mean EVERYONE!

            Before you start wondering if I have gone mad and need to be rescued from this foreign land, let me remind you that this past weekend was Raisin Weekend at St. Andrews: one of the best and most fun traditions of the 600 year old university. The tradition goes something like this: every year new students are adopted by older (usually third year) students who become their “academic parents.” Academic dads and mums usually are not married and may have anywhere from two to fifteen children. These “academic families” usually meet several times per semester with their children to spend time hanging out, eating, and playing games. Academic families are not only fun, but a great way to make new friends! Keen students will even go around and find/meet their academic uncles/aunts/cousins/grandparents/etc. in order to build up their family tree!

I wrote a better explanation of academic families and St. Andrews traditions in this blog post 🙂

The biggest responsibility academic families have to their children to help them have a fabulous Raisin weekend. (The weekend is rumored to be called “Raisin Weekend’ because academic children would thank their parents for their hospitality by bringing them a pound of raisins.) Raisin Sunday starts as all of the academic children go over their mum’s house in the morning or early afternoon for a party. Usually they play games and have to complete challenges in order to avoid “forfeits.” (If, at any time, during Raisin weekend your parents decide you are not behaving to their standards or did not successfully complete a challenge, they can give you a drink called a forfeit which you MUST drink and can contain anything the parents decide sounds good.) After their mum’s party, children go over to their dad’s house for another party and more challenges (and forfeits!)

On Raisin Sunday we all had to be at our mum’s house at 1:11 pm. A minute early or a minute late, and we would have to drink a forfeit. Like total dorks we stood outside of their house right around the corner until exactly 1:11 (we didn’t want to start the day with a forfeit!) My academic mum, Elisabeth, had adopted five other children so she could have a family of six. She and four of her friends held their parties together so that we would all be sure to have plenty of siblings AND extended family at the party!

We started with a relay race. Members of the team had to complete challenges (eating a donut off of a string, carrying an egg around on a spoon with your mouth, smashing an egg on your forehead, etc.) Our parents then surprised us by dividing us into three teams and tying us together! Each team was given a list of fourteen things they had to find around town and photograph or film. We had to propose to strangers, dance in front of strangers, and plank in the most interesting places. After completing the checklist we had to rush back to the beach in time for a version of twister and a gigantic paint fight on the beach! After a little rest and warming up from being thrown into the sea, Tiffany and I started the process all over again with games and challenges at our academic dad’s house!

I could try to tell you all about these experiences, and how much fun they were, but everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand words! I definitely do not think I could have asked for a better academic family, or a better Raisin Sunday!

Part of the scavenger hunt was to take pictures of yourself doing silly things around town!

Part of the scavenger hunt was to take pictures of yourself doing silly things around town!


Another challenge was to do a blank in the most daring place possible!

Another challenge was to do a blank in the most daring place possible!


For losing the relay race everyone on our team had to drink a forfeit... we decided to take it as a team....

For losing the relay race everyone on our team had to drink a forfeit… we decided to take it as a team….


... I think it is easy to tell how much we enjoyed this mixture! (Curdled milk, pesto, and lemon juice!)

… I think it is easy to tell how much we enjoyed this mixture! (Curdled milk, pesto, and lemon juice!)



We started the beach party with a new, food based, version of twister!

We started the beach party with a new, food based, version of twister!


Our mothers lined up a huge row of paint bottles along the beach!

Next, our mothers lined up a huge row of paint bottles along the beach!


We stood in a long line and then SPRINTED towards the paint!

We stood in a long line and then SPRINTED towards the paint!


War broke loose on the beach!

War broke loose on the beach!


Most of us took the paint fight quite seriously! :)

Most of us took the paint fight quite seriously! 🙂


Tiffany and I were certainly having a good time!! :)

Tiffany and I were certainly having a good time!! 🙂


Tiffany and I with our academic mums! :)

Tiffany and I with our academic mums! 🙂


We finished with a refreshing dip in the North Sea!

We finished with a refreshing dip in the North Sea!







The Best Daddy in the Whole, Wide World!

Last week was one of the most difficult weeks of my entire life. A giant monster with sharp claws and a strong bite, formally known as the GRE, came down expectantly to attack me when I was least expecting it. The giant beast attacked from the right and the left throwing all sorts of touch math and vocabulary questions which I needed to overcome in order to save me life! Fortunately, I survived, although it was a rough 5 hour long battle which wore me out completely!

Taking the GRE was a CHALLENGING experience… I wrote an entire blog about it! (In case you wanted more details! 😛 )

This is the part of the story where my wonderful Daddy comes in. Knowing that I would have a hard time saying no to fun in Scotland to study, he told me that if I were to have absolutely no fun for a week before the GRE, and just study, he would take me and a few friends out to dinner. He tasked my roommate, Tiffany, with the task of ensuring that I was actually having no fun and reminding me to study for every possible second that I was awake. And Tiffany rose to the challenge! Every time I would start to talk on the phone, or text, or get comfortable in bed she would tell me that I looked like I was having too much fun and that I needed to get back to work, now!

The night before I took the GRE my daddy called me on Skype to wish me good luck and give me a few last tips before the test. After we chatted for a bit, he asked me if I had my suitcase nearby. And I think to myself, what on earth? What does my suitcase have to do with the price of tea in China??? I told him that it was on top of my wardrobe and pointed my camera at it. He asked me to get it down. I was really confused, and speculated that he had seen the mess all over my room while Skyping with me and wanted to remind me that I only have one suitcase to lug all of my stuff home…. But I got the suitcase!

But the inordinate amount of stuff lying all over my dorm room floor was not what my dad was trying to point out, at least not in that instance. He had me unzip the main compartment, unzip the inner lining, and look under the plastic on the side. And there, taped to the inside of my suitcase, was a one hundred-dollar bill! My dad had put it in there a week before I left for Scotland, as a surprise to remind me that he had been planning a surprise for me long in advance! He told me it was a present from him to reward me for all of my studying and to allow me to take a few friends out to dinner as a treat from him!

Naturally, I was quite excited! Can you imagine a daddy doing anything nicer for his daughter?? I quite happily scheduled a dinner date for Tiffany, Elisabeth, Naomi, and I because I love them, and I also REALLY APPRECIATED all of the hours they spent helping me to prepare for the big day!

Tiffany and Naomi were excited for dinner, too! :)

Tiffany and Naomi were excited for dinner, too! 🙂

And what a fantastic dinner we had! We all went to the grill house in town and ordered a delicious meals. Elisabeth and I ordered Mexican fajitas, which came out on hot plates still sizzling! (We knew they were coming before we could even see the waiter approaching…. Naomi announced, ~I hear your dinner coming!” and cracked us all up!) Naomi and Tiffany had delicious burgers and chips. And we all had a FANTASTIC TIME! This goes to show, I really do have the best daddy in the whole, wide world! ❤

We had such a FANTASTIC time!

We had such a FANTASTIC time!