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 did the majority of my travelling before my exchange actually started. I left New Zealand on the 19th of July (nearly two months before I had to be in St. Andrews). My first stop was Germany, my whole family lives there so I stayed with them. The other places I visited were Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, a few places in England (Sheffield, York, The Moors, Manchester, Leeds, and more) and I did a road trip in Scotland from Glasgow to the Isle of Skye.
Amsterdam (24th – 28th July)
Everyone in Amsterdam rides bikes and they will run you over if you don’t move. I nearly got run over by bikes, mopeds and cars more times than I can count.
If Amsterdam isn’t on your bucket list already I would definitely recommend to add it. I spent three days in this lovely city and instantly fell in love. Also you can find all the places from The Fault in our Stars and pretend you’re part of the movie.
My top 5 places/things to see:
Moco Museum (Bansky exhibition)
De Wallen/The red light district
The streets – just walk around
Berlin (30th July – 2nd August)
Berlin is huge and there is so much to see and do, luckily I had my uncle acting as my local tour guide. I went to all the tourist attractions but also got to see how the locals live. I only had two days in Berlin and will have to go back one day to see the rest of this bustling city.
I went to the East Side Gallery on my last day, this wall was so cool. There were so many different styles and pieces of art on display and I could have spent a lot longer here but sadly I did not have time as I had to catch my flight.
My top 5 places/things to see:
East side Gallery
Vienna (6th – 8th August)
Vienna is a city full of gorgeous buildings ranging from the opera to palaces. My personal favourite was the Austrian National Library, I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast and was ready to start belting out some tunes.
Both Schloss Schönbrunn and Belvedere were so gorgeous and it felt so surreal to find these beautiful buildings in a city. If you want to feel like a princess or step back into the past I would highly recommend this wonderful historic city.
My top 5 places/things to see:
Austrian National Library
Prater and the Ferris Wheel
The Hofburg and the surrounding area
Scotland (20th – 28th August)
I road tripped around Scotland and visited so many stunning places. I would recommend packing a raincoat and some sturdy shoes if you want to do some walking. As I visited so many gorgeous places I am just going to compile a list of my top 5.
Portree, Isle of Skye
This town is the biggest town in Skye and it is adorable. The colourful houses are one of a kind and you can easily wander around the streets.
The Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye
I was ready to watch fairies dance and run away into the green hills. This glen was wrapped in magic and it was beautiful despite the rain.
Glenfinnian Viaduct/Fort William
If you love Harry Potter you have to go here. You can see the Hogwarts express (or even ride it).
Eilean Donan Castle
There are so many beautiful castles all over Scotland and I love every single one of them. This castle may be one of the most picturesque. The inside isn’t that spectacular but the outside of the castle and its surroundings are stunning.
The Fairy Pools
These are off the beaten track and very overcrowded by tourists but they are worth the drive and walk. I even had a sip from the pools but sadly I did not wake up with any magical abilities.
Edinburgh (7th – 8th September and 26th – 27th October)
This was my second visit to this town and I loved it just as much the second time. This city is stunning and I adore it. The cobblestoned streets carry you back in time and you can walk around all day and not get bored.
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.
Stepping foot into St. Andrews for the first time was both exciting and terrifying. This was going to be my home for the next three months, but just walking to my accommodation I could already feel myself falling in love with this place.
“This is so beautiful.”
“It’s so small.”
“It’s all so old.”
“I can feel the history wrapped inside the buildings.”
I’m staying in the David Russel Apartments and I’m going to be completely self-catered (let’s see if I can cook). My room itself is really big and has everything you need (a DOUBLE bed, desk and wardrobe), the bathroom is a bit small but at least I have my own shower and toilet. I’m sharing the kitchen with 4 other people (who are all super nice). I personally have not seen my flatmates a lot but I think every flat is slightly different.
There are so many people around in this area which is great, the apartments themselves are around a 20min walk away from town and the university but the walk is relatively flat and straightforward so it isn’t hard work.
The first couple of days were a bit weird and I had a few moments of panic just thinking ‘What am I doing here? I’m so far away from home…’ but after around 3 days I was okay again. Get yourself some sturdy bags to carry your shopping back to your apartment. Aldi is closest to David Russel Apartments and it’s cheap so I would recommend getting your groceries from there. I got settled into my room relatively quickly and it already feels like a second home now.
Starting classes and finding all my rooms was daunting but I just set a day aside and walked around finding all the buildings before classes actually started. People are also very kind and will direct you to the right place if you do get lost. The university is gorgeous and I feel like I’m at Hogwarts or in a castle.
The main difference for lectures is that classes here are a lot smaller I have two classes with less than 20 people. Otherwise the lectures operate in a very similar way (they even use moodle over here).
Don’t be afraid to talk to people
Find your rooms for classes before lectures actually start
Make a meal plan and write a shopping list
Get free stuff in Orientation week if you can
Do a library tour
Go to events and don’t be afraid to talk to strangers (I know it’s scary)
Walk around town at least 3 times – you will find somewhere/something new every time