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!

Candlelight: An Erskine Tradition

In my opinion, no college or university is complete without its share of strange and sometimes incomprehensible list of bizarre traditions. Clemson students rub their ancient rock before football games, students attending the University of St. Andrews walk up and down the pier on Sundays wearing red robes, and Erskine College girls hold candlelights.

Arriving at Erskine my freshman year, I had never heard of a candlelight. I was walking around campus in my innocent freshman-in-her-first-week-of-college state where I constantly imagined that there could not possibly exist anyone as mature or independent as I currently was. And then, bam! I am assaulted on the front steps of my own college with three posters! Come to the candlelight! And I thinking, come to whaaaaatt?? I figured that they must be very popular at Erskine (whatever they were) because three of them were being held that week, with one being that very night! I decided to go along and figure out what it was all about.

I probably would have been lost and not made it to my first candlelight on time except for the fact that all candlelights are held right outside of the women’s dormitories. I made it just in time for what appeared to be the beginning of a strange ritual: girls standing in a circle in the dark and passing around a lit candle while singing some sort of song that everyone magically knew the lyrics to. The entire thing was rather enchanting and beautiful until one of the girls suddenly blew the candle out and everyone stopped singing and starting dumping water on her head! (And I am just standing there thinking…. WHAT on EARTH is going on around here???)

But once I had stuck around for the rest of the event, I got the basic idea of what was going on, and over the past three years at Erskine my love for the tradition has only grown stronger. The Candlelight is simple: whenever an Erskine girl gets engaged, she attempts to keep it a secret and only tell one or two of her closest friends (I say ‘attempts’ because we need to be real here: girls, especially the recently engaged sort, have a very hard time NOT talking!) That day or evening her friends plan a candlelight for her to help her announce her engagement to the world; they put up posters all around campus announcing that an Erskine girl has been engaged recently and will be having a candlelight some time that week. They usually include a picture or a quote or something which gives you a clue about who the girl might be: but ideally only the one or two girls planning the candlelight know who is engaged.

Girls love to talk about candlelights! It makes a very fun game: sitting in your room with your friends talking about who could possibly be engaged. People will guess random couples and discuss how likely they think it is to be each certain person. “Oh no, it could not be her because I am pretty sure she was studying all weekend” or “It could be her! Didn’t she say this weekend was her two year anniversary???” Girls will keep on guessing right up until the candlelight starts, when everyone will gather outside of the women’s dorms in a huge circle. One of the girls who planned the candlelight will light a candle and begin singing. We sing a song about love (the same one every time) while passing the candle from person to person in the circle. And we stare at each other. We wonder who is going to blow out the candle.

And suddenly, one girl blows out the candle! She is the one who engaged! Usually everyone shrieks in their excitement and then celebrates her new life of engagement by pouring a cup of water over her head! The girl who is engaged then stands in the middle of the circle, dripping wet, and shares the story of how her fiancé proposed to her. Everyone listens with fascination and then celebrates the fantastic story by picking the girl up and then carrying her over to the nearby fountain to drop her in! It is one of our favourite ways of showing love to our fellow sisters in Christ at Erskine 🙂

And now this story comes with a twist. As you know, there are six students (5 girls, 1 boy) from Erskine studying abroad at St. Andrews this semester. Two weeks after we get here the sole male traveller, Robert, decides that he is ready to propose to his girlfriend, who is also studying abroad. He and his girlfriend, Angel, went to the beach with two other girls from Erskine to do a “photo shoot” when he suddenly bends down on one knee and proposes!

Robert planned the engagement very well: on the BEACH in Scotland!?? How awesome is that?? :)

Robert planned the engagement very well: on the BEACH in Scotland!?? How awesome is that?? 🙂

We are all very excited for Angel, and the four of us other girls who are here decide that Angel ought to be able to have her very own candlelight! But how can we do it? There are only five Erskine girls here total… and there is no way Angel can wait until we get back from Scotland to tell! So Angel decided she will not be able to have a candlelight after all… but the four of us had other plans!

Out plan was fairly simple but surprisingly fun. We told Angel that we all wanted to meet for some ice cream. We convinced her to come outside her dorm and come with us, even if she had not eaten her dinner yet (everyone knows it is the new thing to eat dessert before dinner, Angel!) We all secretly brought a cup of water with us and met her outside on the steps. And just when she had begun to suspect that something was up… surprise!! We dumped water all over and began to sing the song!! We all had a really fun time bringing a little bit of Erskine tradition to St. Andrews to celebrate our friend’s engagement! It was super hilarious because while we were all standing in a circle singing several people walked by and looked at us like…. What on EARTH is WRONG with these people??? But we just kept on singing!

 

Angel thinks she can get away!! :)

Angel thinks she can get away!! 🙂

And then we went and got our ice cream 🙂

 

 

The First Day of School

This Monday was the first day of classes here at the University of St. Andrews.

As I have been waiting about 100 years for classes to start, I was quite excited. I went to bed early and I got up early (7:30 am). I took a shower, I dried my hair, and I agonized over what to wear. I packed my backpack.

(I had to be fresh. I had to go downstairs. I had to have my bowl of cereal.)

My class started at 9 am. I arrived at 8:45 and waited for Elisabeth and Mairi to get there, and we walked inside. I sat in my seat and got out a sheet of paper to take notes. I opened a new pack of pencils. I was ready for my first day of school!

And…… Class was over by 9:45. So that was pretty much the most anticlimactic first day of my entire life. I had about 45 minutes of lecture, and that was my only lecture for the day. However, don’t feel too bad for me! My professor realized that he would be missing several lectures during the 8th week of the semester, so he decided to schedule an extra two hour lecture on Friday afternoon. This was the first time that this has ever happened to me: at American Universities professors do not typically walk into class on the first day and announce that they will be holding extra lectures!

It is actually quite a common thing here for students to have very little contact with their professors. Students might attend only 1-3 hours of lecture per class, per week and then be expected to do a large amount of reading and studying on their own. I have 3 classes that only meet once per week and this week so far all of the professors have let me leave early.

On the plus side, we have a cleaning service here in my hall! No, I am not kidding!! Every morning someone comes in to take out our trash and once a week she comes in to vacuum the floor, clean the sink, and dust! At Erskine they always say to freshman “you better be neat, no one is going to clean up after you in college!” But here, someone actually does help us out a little bit! It is the strangest thing!