09.15.2014 - 09.28.2014 66 °F
It's been a busy two weeks... let's just start with that. First of all, I love being an international student. I love everything about it, from talking about different cultures, to trying haggis (it's gross, but it tastes like stuffing), to simply having a UK telephone number.... I just absolutely love it. This semester I'm taking Intro to International Relations, Microeconomics, and an English course called the "19th and 20th Century Novel." I really like my classes so far, although they are quite big. They are in big lecture halls and for English and IR (International Relations) they have a different lecturer each week. For example, this past week we had one lecturer on Realism in Theory in IR and we had an expert on "Wuthering Heights" in English class. Next week it will be someone different. We have tutorials once a week for each class where we are put into small groups and discuss/have any questions answered. International Relations is my favorite course, and we are looking it through an interesting lens - the theoretical side and so far I am really enjoying the English course (lots of reading - so far we've read "Wuthering Heights" and "Great Expectations").
The weather had been nice up until the first day of classes. It rained a lot for the first week but cleared up very nicely this past week. I had lots of auditions this week. I auditioned and was accepted in the St. Andrews Symphony Orchestra. I also joined the St. Andrews Community Chamber Orchestra which is students and residents around the town. The Symphony Orchestra is pretty intense but it's a challenge, I like it. On Friday September 19th I went with the St. Andrews Adventure Group (STAAG) to Loch (Lake) Lomond. We drove about two hours (the incredible thing is that Scotland isn't that big so you can get most places in a few hours) and we camped out. The next morning, it was perfect weather and we climbed for four miles up Ben (Mt) Nevis. It was a very tiring hike but I got some beautiful pictures and the weather could not have been more perfect. I got back Saturday night and attended a "family" dinner at my moms house. I have also managed to gain two more parents - so it will be that much more fun. On Raisin weekend, which I believe is the weekend of October 17th, we will have a huge foam fight and the campus will be crazy. I feel bad for whoever visits St. Andrews that weekend. Raisin weekend is one of those traditions, along with the academic families and May dip, that I love about St. Andrews. I have made some very close friends in my short time here. Everyone is so friendly and the halls make it conducive to meeting and getting to know people very well. I just need to point this out. No one in the UK actually ever says the time. If it is 3:30 they will say "half three" and if it is 4:55, they will say 5 till 5. I just thought that was incredibly weird. Anyway, that dinner with my family was very nice - I have a bunch of siblings (even a few are postgrads) - it was actually like a real family dinner with lots of laughs and fun.
Now.... the referendum.... that was crazy.... If you aren't aware, on September 18th, Scotland voted for Independence from the United Kingdom. This town was going crazy. I was messaging a good friend of mine and the PR representative at Holy Innocents' the whole time (Mrs. Peggy Shaw). I stayed up all night to watch the outcome and it was actually so much fun to be here during that exciting time. How many students can say they studied in Scotland during the referendum? If you want to see all that information, Mrs. Shaw posted it on the HIES website (http://www.hies.org/page/News-Detail?pk=933511&fromId=194660). There, is basically the summation of that experience.
This past Monday was good, but tiring. My entire week is quite busy but I had classes, saw a presentation on the economy in Africa with a special guest, Mthuli Ncubeand (who went to Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, and former Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank), then I went to the "Fine Chocolate Society" event which was oh so good. Then Monday night I went to the observatory to view the "Dumbell Nebula" because it was a clear night with the Astronomy Society - clear nights are apparently not that common - although it has been pretty clear so far. We were not able to look through it, but a fun fact is that St. Andrews is home to the largest operational optical telescope in the UK (The Gregory Telescope). It is 37 inches in diameter. Later in the week I also saw a presentation with Julian Barnes who wrote the "Sense of an Ending" - this book was given to every freshman. I played piano at Jazz night and like I said, the Symphony Orchestra Rehearsal was intense, but I like the challenge.
I'm taking advantage of all the extra workshops in each of my classes. Unlike high school, we only have a few papers/tests for each course so I need to prepare accordingly. I had another dinner with my new academic dad (his name is Xander and he lives in Ann-Arbor and is currently about to get his dual citizenship). They have a flat right near the pier, which is absolutely beautiful. Thus far, I spend my mornings playing tennis with some friends and then working, then I proceed to class and Mondays and Tuesdays are very busy. Wednesdays I have a lecture and a tutorial, and Wednesday nights are reserved for going out with your respective sport and I usually go with the sailing group - they are all incredibly nice. Friday I spent all day at the library and cranked some work out. This past Saturday, myself and 9 others made our way to Port Edgar for the Yachting Sailing team trials. It was about an hour south of St. Andrews. So fingers crossed that I made the team. The weather could not have been more perfect. One new thing that may be happening is it is possible that I will be having a radio show - more info on that next time.
I have also been able to find many Spanish speakers so that I can keep my Spanish up. Next week, me and 4 other Spanish speakers (two from Spain, one from Ecuador, and one from Uruguay) are all going to have dinner together so I'm very excited about that. That is another thing that I love about St. Andrews. You meet the most interesting people. You can't go anywhere without meeting someone that is from another country, speaking 4 languages, or has a unique experience.
As I go into week 3, I am excited, and I know the work is about to get quite intense, but I am having a wonderful time and the weather is still nice! I'm not cold at all yet.
Last exciting thing that is happening is the Dunhill Cup at the St. Andrews Old Course this week. Rory Mcllroy will be here and students get in free! There has supposedly been a spotting of a helicopter landing on top of the Old Course Hotel and that Hugh Grant was coming out of it. Never a dull moment here.....
Next weekend is the huge opening ball for St. Andrews. Everyone is very excited and it will be black tie event. Until next time...