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.

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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

Hello!

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! 🙂