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

Hannah: Looking Back on my Study Abroad Experience

As I am writing this I am back in sunny New Zealand. My exchange is officially over. This experience has been one of the best in my life and one I will remember forever. Looking back I’ve decided to start with some things that I found difficult or did not enjoy that much and then I will talk about all the things I loved.

1. The first thing that I struggled with and did not find that enjoyable were the actual classes in St. Andrews. The lecturing style was quite different to Auckland and I definitely enjoy it better back here in NZ (this might just be because I’m used to it).

2. Another thing that was a bit difficult to get used to were the cleaning inspections of my apartment/flat at University. This could get very tiring, especially as sometimes I was cleaning all by myself and other times some of us were left cleaning up other people’s mess.

3. One thing that was a bit annoying was the course enrolment for Auckland when I was returning. Due to me being on an exchange it was quite a complex process getting enrolled in courses. Therefore, I would recommend getting all the information you can and being prepared to have slower enrolments. I would also recommend maybe talking to the head of your department before leaving so they know you will be away and can help you out if needed.

After all these negatives let’s move right on to the things I loved and will miss incredibly.

1. The people that I have met. Everyone I met in St. Andrews was incredible. I made some friends that will hopefully be for life.

Me with Kaitlin, Elizabeth and Rachel. Just a few of the incredible girls I met in this tiny corner of the world

2. The town of St. Andrews. I am in love with Scotland as whole and I adore this town I got to call my home for 3 months. I loved the cobbled stoned streets, the old houses and the fact that you could walk everywhere.

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3. I got to see so much of Europe. I adored every city, town and country I got to visit. I’m already counting down the days until I can go back.

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Me with my two best friends; Sam and Ellie in Portree.
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Scotland is my favourite place in the world and I still cannot believe I got to live there.

4. One thing that I got out of this experience that I would have never received staying here in Auckland is independence. I loved living by myself and learning to make my own decisions and looking after myself.

5. The whole experience was an incredible opportunity that I am so thankful to have been given. I still have to pinch myself to remind myself that I was able to study in my favourite country in the entire world. If you are thinking of going on an exchange I would 100 percent recommend it. Although I had a few negatives the positives far outweighed them and I would not have changed one thing about my time in St. Andrews.

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Thank you for reading all my blog posts. I had so much fun writing them and sharing this incredible experience with all of you. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to send me an email at hfre260@aucklanduni.ac.nz

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Gabbi: Reflecting on the Semester

Goodbye St Andrews, Hello Glasgow!

My final blog post already! I moved out of St Andrews back in December and currently have just moved into my new accommodation in Glasgow. Although it was sad saying goodbye to St A and all the friends I made there, the excitement about moving to another new Uni has kept me upbeat.

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Goodbye St Andrews!

I enjoyed my time in Scotland so much that I’ve extended my exchange over here. I’ll be studying at the University of Glasgow for a semester, still in Scotland but likely to be a very different experience from St Andrews. Time to get back into the swing of city life!

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The University of Glasgow
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The University cloisters all decked out

Looking back at the semester, I’ve made so many great memories, studied really interesting topics and found some amazing friends. Essentially, I’ve had a whale of a time!

Studying abroad has equipped me with the confidence to move to a completely new place, knowing that I’ll be able to settle in and have a great time. I am now an expert Google mapper, ticket booker and weekend away packer – always ready for another trip.

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Edinburgh all lined up

My advice to those planning on studying abroad is to throw yourself into everything and try to make the most of each day as the time truly flies. I would absolutely recommend studying abroad to everyone. Its been such a great opportunity to live in a new country, explore lots of different places and to see how things are done in different parts of the world.

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Exploring the Peak District in England

Overall, I’m so glad that I was able to study abroad. This experience has broadened my horizons, created new connections and given me confidence in my abilities when facing something new.

All the best,

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Hannah: The University of St. Andrews

Lectures

Lectures in St. Andrews are based a lot more on readings and there are less hours of lectures per week. The lectures for my papers/courses that I’m taking are also a lot smaller than back in Auckland.

Assignments

The assignments were one thing I had to get used to. It was quite difficult writing essays and reports, although I had no idea what exactly they were expecting from me. The grading system is also very different here and half the time I don’t even know what my grade means.

Where to study

I personally am not a huge fan of the main library as it is always very busy. But I have found the perfect study spot for me. The King James library (part of St. Mary’s Quad) is amazing. It’s very old and a lot cosier. You can’t eat or talk inside but there is a lovely grass area where you can eat your lunch and take a nice break. But if you want a louder more community feeling to study the main library is a great option and Starbucks, Pret and North Point café also all have free Wi-Fi. The union is another great place to study; you can study in the café, the main bar or Sandy’s bar. Every place offers a different atmosphere and you will definitely find somewhere that suits your study preferences.

Bop

As the only club St. Andrews has is in the university union they also host ‘bops’ every Friday night. These are kind of like school discoes but everyone is tipsy. They always have very fun themes and I went to the boyband vs. girlband, ABBA and Bohemian Rhapsody bop. I also went to the Halloween and Christmas event at the union. I really enjoyed them and the good thing is that as it is a university event you will most likely see someone you know and the ‘bop’ can definitely be enjoyed both sober and tipsy.

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Me with my friends about to head to the bop

Drinking Culture

Leading on from my previous point, I have to talk about the drinking culture in Scotland. People drink a lot here, the drinking age is also 18 but as there are a lot of study abroad students from America they also like to enjoy going out as they can now legally drink here. It can sometimes be quite overwhelming by how much some people drink here but they are also totally cool with you not drinking. Just a warning that some people do really drink as if the world was ending tomorrow.

Traditions – Raisin

St. Andrews university is a very old university and has many old and slightly strange traditions. The one that I got to be part of is Raisin Sunday and Monday. When I first heard what this was I was terrified and very confused. It pretty much consists of older (3rd year) students ‘adopting’ first year students. You become part of a family. As I was an exchange student I also got adopted, my lovely study abroad buddy adopted me and I was part of a lovely small family. The Sunday consisted of meeting at the beach bright and early and taking a vodka shot before doing egg races and then standing in the ocean drinking more alcohol. The day pretty much consisted of us drinking alcohol and going on a crazy scavenger hunt around town.

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On the Monday we had to report to my Mum’s house where we got dressed up and then headed to the foam fight. Yes, you heard correctly. Everyone brings some bottles of shaving foam and then it just goes from there.

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Accommodation – Cleaning inspections

One thing that I had to get used to were cleaning inspections in my accommodation. These happened once every month and your kitchen, room and bathroom were all checked to see if they were tidy.  This could get slightly tedious, especially as for the kitchen you sometimes had to clean up mess that wasn’t even yours.

Exams

As I am writing this I am officially done with exams. I only had two exams this semester which was different to in Auckland where I always had four. I also had a take-home exam which was a very unique experience. Other than that, exams here follow a pretty similar routine to the ones in Auckland. They are two hours long and either at 9:30 or 2:30.

This is my second to last post, and I’ve had so much fun keeping this blog. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at hfre260@aucklanduni.ac.nz

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Gabbi: Exams during Christmas

As of writing this I have just finished my exams here in St Andrews. The official last day of exams is the 20th of December, crazily close to Christmas. I’m going to write about what it’s been like studying in the midst of Christmas and share some tips about taking exams at a different university.

St Andrews works similarly to UoA in that we get one week of study leave between lectures ending and exams starting. I spent the entirety of this week in the main library in the centre of town.

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Christmas tree in the Old Wing

The library is open only to students (you have to swipe your ID card to get in) so it’s fairly safe to leave belongings there and take a quick break. The friends I studied with would pop out for coffee or hot chocolate and a little walk around town – a good strategy to give the brain a bit of a rest and get some fresh air.

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Taking a study break by the sea

One cool thing about the library here is that you can see how many spaces are available. During revision week it was reaching max capacity with almost 1000 students but now as it’s almost the end of exams the numbers have dropped significantly.

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The student services team made and gave out over 800 study packs outside the library, these were really cute – I especially appreciated the ‘stress relief’ bubble wrap.

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My free study pack

Now that it’s getting so dark and cold it’s important to do some nice things as otherwise the stress of exams plus the lack of sun can get you down. The hall of residence I stay in did a great Christmas dinner, decorated the dining hall to feel festive and cosy.

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Christmas Dinner

In preparation for exams at a different university I recommend looking through the exam guides and rules as not all universities do things the same. Here at St Andrews there are little differences such as what times you are allowed to leave the room, what colour pen to be used and a complicated anonymisation form to fill out on the front of each paper. I also found it helpful to visit exam venues before the actual exam so that I wouldn’t be stressing on the day about not being able to find it. It’s great to have friends from the university as they could answer my questions and help me out with lots of this stuff.

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Coming out of an exam to DARKNESS at 4pm

Happy Holidays!

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Hannah: What to See Around St. Andrews

Although there are only three main streets in St. Andrews there is so much to see and do. There is something for everyone; you can explore the outdoors, learn about history, eat some delicious food, drink a beer in a pub or find a quite spot and read. Whatever you enjoy doing, you will be mesmerized by this small and beautiful town.

The Beach

The beach made me feel at home straight away. With the wind ripping through my hair and the smell of salt and fish drifting up my nose I smiled.

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I did a beach clean-up on this beach and it was such a great experience

There are three beaches in St. Andrews and each one is just as spectacular as the next. I love walking along here or just sitting on some rocks and staring out into the ocean.

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West Sands is gorgeous in any weather and I would recommend going for a stroll, walk, or run a long it at least once

The Castle and Cathedral

The Castle is absolutely amazing and it is so interesting to learn all the history about it and the town itself. The castle is a must-see if you are studying here.

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The Cathedral is great to stroll around and look at some of the old gravestones. The amazing thing is that the cathedral is beautiful in both sunshine and rain.

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One thing that is a must-do in St. Andrews is climbing up the cathedral tower; the winding, plentiful steps are worth it. The view is absolutely breathtaking (literally and metaphorically).

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You can see the whole town from up there

Bookstores

There are so many little bookstores scattered around St. Andrews. My personal favourite is Topping and Company Booksellers of St. Andrews. It has ladders, a fireplace, couches to read on, free tea and coffee, and so many books.

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Cafes

There are so many cafes around St. Andrews. My friend and I have decided to visit a new one every week and this is my list of my personal favourites.

  1. Bibis Café
  2. Janettas Gelateria (They have the best ice cream)
  3. The Waffle Company
  4. North Point Café
  5. The Cottage Kitchen

Also get a fudge donut from Donaldson and Fisher, they are delicious.

Shopping

Groceries: In town, I would recommend going to Tescoe (although it is quite pricey and always busy). Otherwise I would go to Aldi, it is a bit further away but also a lot cheaper.

Clothes: There are loads of charity/second hand stores. I found some amazing things in these. There is also H&M which has a fair amount of clothes. If you are wanting to do some more clothes shopping there is a whole shopping mall in Dundee (they have Primark etc).

Stationery: You can buy stationery in a variety of shops in St. Andrews. I think it depends on what you are after, I would recommend just walking along market street and going into a few to decide which ones strike your interest.

Sunsets and Sunrises

One thing that is easily done but so worth it is trying to catch the sunrise or sunset. As we are now getting closer to winter this is getting easier to do as the sun rises at around 8 in the morning and sets just before 4 at night. So you should be able to catch at least one of these stunning works of nature.

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Each sunrise and sunset is slightly different and you can generally just catch them walking around town or on the beach at certain times.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh is just over an hour away on the train so it is easy to get to and I would recommend going here for the Christmas Markets and just in general.

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The Coast

The entirety of the fife coast is breathtaking and you can either walk along the fife coastal path or drive along the road (which is what I did as it was pouring with rain when I went). There are so many quaint towns along the way and a wide selection of cafes to stop at for a hot drink.

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If you have any questions about the exchange or St. Andrews please do not hesitate to email me at hfre260@aucklanduni.ac.nz

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