The festive season is here! The décor and themed events are out in full force. The fact it gets dark at 3.30pm now definitely makes the Christmas lights welcome and acceptable this early in the season. The St Andrews study abroad coordinators organised a day trip to the Edinburgh Christmas Market this weekend with a free coach service there and back. It was nice to get out of St Andrews for a bit and absorb some hardcore festivity. Edinburgh is also a really beautiful city; the buildings are all so old and fancy looking and there’s loads of interesting streets to explore.
The Christmas market takes place near Waverley train station, just off the main shopping street, with Edinburgh Castle looming in the background. The whole place was quite hectic because the Black Friday sales were still happening (American culture has successfully infiltrated Scotland). It had quite a carnival feel with lots of fun fair rides and street theatre. There were also lots of outdoor bars selling mulled wine and hot chocolate. The hot drinks were very welcome because it was about 5 degrees and drizzling.
I planned on getting some bits and pieces for Christmas gifts but ended up just buying a lot of food as everything looked so yum. (I 100% recommend the fudge from Fudge House in Edinburgh). There were also some great mini pancakes with a 1:5 pancake to Nutella ratio.
This market runs for basically the whole of December, so I can easily visit again, maybe as a break during exams! Edinburgh is about an hour from St Andrews by train and the tickets are usually around £10 so a day trip is pretty doable.
St Andrews also has its own Christmas market later this month so there’s no shortage of these cute as events.
The thing I’m missing most about Auckland is the food. Compared to this little town, Auckland is the culinary dream, with its top-notch brunch spots, delicious noodle bars, and of course, the legendary Dominion road.
St Andrews does know how to do a great pub however, with over 15 scattered across this 3-street town. There’s definitely something lovely about squeezing into a low-ceilinged, cosy wee pub on an autumn evening when it’s blowing a gale outside. Getting some excellent hot chips and maybe even braving a scotch egg.
I’ve been missing ramen, bibimbap and dumplings so much though (to name a few). In fact, I was craving bubble tea so much that I actually ordered some from eBay. They came about 3 weeks later and were on the same level as instant noodles – just add hot water. Although very average, it satisfied my tapioca pearl needs and the pack was finished off within the week.
My saviour, in terms of Asian food supply here in St Andrews is a little shop called CombiniCo. Set up by a couple of Korean and Japanese students, this place does amazing Bini Bowls – a mix of donburi, bibimbap and poke bowls. It’s now my go-to every weekend.
I’ve been really busy with essays and assignments recently, so I decided to organize a little break to get out of town for a bit and do something fun. After I’ve handed the last essay in on Monday, I’ll be heading down to London for a few days to attend a BBC music careers expo and hang out with some family. I’m taking the train (even though it takes over 5 hours) because the landscape in Scotland and northern England is so beautiful that I think it’s worth the long journey.
The other thing I’m looking forward to about London is that I’ll be able to take a cheeky visit to Chinatown and stock up on snacks. I might take an entire spare bag just so I can get enough to last me through exams.
A quick tip on the trains here – you need to book about a month in advance to get a good deal as the tickets can be really expensive.
I’ve been here in St Andrews for five weeks now, enough time to have generally gotten the hang of things and be able to start reporting back on the ins and outs of St. Andrews student life!
One of the great things about St Andrews is the multitude of traditions that exist here. I’ll give you a quick run through of two of my faves – the Academic Fam and the Rad Red Robes.
Overhearing people chatting about hitting the town with their mother or complaining that they’ve now only got nine siblings because one’s joined another family would sound a bit odd to your average student. But here in St Andrews, its commonplace conversation! Welcome to the concept of The Academic Family. Usually third year students adopt a bunch of first years who become their academic children, however, my academic father graciously said it didn’t matter that I’m a 4th year and older than him and so I now belong to a happy family of 11! Academic families are essentially just a cool bunch of people to hang out with. The parents are there to host events, give us advice on the best study spots/cafes/shortcuts to class, and to generally make the transition into Uni easier for first year students. I really love that this is such a prominent tradition as it gives some great support and definitely adds to the St Andrews vibe.
Another prominent tradition is that of the red gowns. The university sells these to new students and encourages us to wear them at any formal occasion. During the first week we had the introductory pier walk (another tradition) and all the students rocked up in their red gowns – it looked very cool, although a little Twilight-esque…
As well as the old-school traditions, a lot of the university’s buildings are historical and full of character. The hall of residence I’m staying in is University Hall (UH represent!) and it’s quite different from Uni Hall at UoA. As the oldest of the current day Halls, it comes complete with two libraries, a range of room sizes (from cupboard under the stairs to grand master bedroom) and is an absolute rabbit’s warren of corridors. I’m really enjoying living here as there’s a great sense of community and a mix of all year groups to hang out with.
This hall is a catered residence, something I was slightly worried about after my experience with Flame Tree at UH Auckland… But no fear, the food here is really quite good, although they do have a tendency to serve three types of potato at every meal.
I can’t introduce St Andrews without mentioning the gorgeous landscape that the Uni is situated in. We’re right on the coast, as in right on the coast – some of my classes are in a building called Edgecliff (literally edge of the cliff). This means that if I’ve got an hour break between classes, its as easy as pie to grab a coffee and go for a wander along the beach at West Sands
West Sands is also a prime place to meet dogs out and about on their walks/swims! I’ve been blessed to meet so many pups here and am happy to report back that Scottish dogs are extremely polite and incredibly adorable. I’ve yet to go for a swim here myself but it’s definitely on my to-do list!
There’s also the ruins of St Andrews Castle and the remains of a massive medieval cathedral (built in the 12th century) which I found really interesting to learn about. These historical sites make St Andrews feel quite different from home as it makes you realise just how long people have been living here!
I’m really looking forward to the rest of my semester here! The people have all been incredibly welcoming, the Uni very supportive and involved, and the town itself so picturesque.