Hazel: First Impressions of St. Andrews and Scotland

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Hey everyone!

I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about my first impressions of St. Andrews, the town and university, and Scotland in general.

When I first arrived in Edinburgh is was absolutely freezing! This, I can gladly say, got better quite quickly. The stereotype that Scotland is constantly freezing and either raining, hailing or sleeting is only 40% true. Yes, it is a lot colder in January here than in Auckland and we did get some snow (not much) in my third week here. But many days have been clear blue skies with amazing sunsets and not too much wind.

My accommodation is better and worse than what I expected. I was expecting the food to be awful and it is completely edible. And we get waffles for breakfast on weekends. One thing that really exceeded my expectations are the people! Pretty much everyone has been super nice and chill and friendly. Of course there is always the occasional bad egg or strange guy who always wears headphones and debates with everyone about things that they know a lot more about. E.g me and New Zealand.

The town of St Andrews is bigger than I expected, as in it takes twenty minutes to walk into town, but it starts to feel really socially small once you get to know some people. You’ll walk into Tesco after being here for two weeks and bump into at least one person that you know. Also, the only night club is the student union so you are very likely to see people that you know there too.

In terms of classes, I was surprised that I have no Scottish lecturers! I have one Canadian, two German and one English. This is a good thing because I don’t have to translate from their accent, but I kind of wanted to get really good at understanding thick older-person Scottish accents. Young people are always much easier to understand.

With St Andrews being quite a small university – only 8000 students compared to Auckland’s 50,000 – it is a lot easier to become familiar and friendly with your lecturers and tutors. My computer science lecturer emailed me to check if I or my family/friends had been effected by the Christchurch shootings. As much as I love UoA I don’t think that level of personal investment is achievable with such large classes.

Anyway. I’m on a flight to Brussels for spring break right now so I better put my laptop away for landing.

Ka kite,

Hazel

Hazel: Week One at St. Andrews

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On Tuesday 22nd January I packed my (slightly overweight) bag and boarded an eighteen-hour flight to Doha on Qatar Airways. I made it onto my flight to Edinburgh with not a lot of time to spare but I had a whole row to myself, so I made a makeshift sky couch and had a really good sleep.

When I arrived in Edinburgh it was 6am and NEGATIVE FOUR DEGREES! I had a whole carry-on bag full of warm clothes to put on… I wish I had more. I made it to Leuchars station, pronounced Luke-ers (I wish someone had told me), and got a taxi to Andrew Melville Hall where I’ll be living for the semester.

I got shown to my room which is on the bottom floor. I unpacked a bit and then decided to try and fight the jet lag and go for a walk. It was so fun walking on frozen mud and puddles that were completely solid! I walked back to my room and accidentally had a 9-hour nap! This meant that I missed lunch and dinner, but I was so tired that it was worth it!

I went to the orientation lecture/talk and ended up sitting next to a lovely German exchange student. The talk went through lots of really important information about how things work in St Andrews and the only thing that I remember them saying was that the Thai restaurant at the end of Market street is really good. After lunch back at the hall we were divided into smaller groups and got a tour of the town! The guide told us about some of the crazier St Andrews traditions including the annual shaving foam fight and some of the various ways to cleanse yourself of academic sin which include running around St Mary’s quad three times naked backwards on the hour when all the classes are changing over and the May dip when you run into the north sea on the first day of may at sunrise!

Some quick final notes, Gingernuts here are so much better than NZ gingernuts, UK plugs are huge, scots are not as angry as their reputation suggests (people are so friendly!), snow is very fun and hall food definitely isn’t as bad as I was told it would be, it’s a bit carb/potato heavy but that’s not a bad thing…at all.

Ka kite,

Hazel