Let Uni Begin
08.01.2014 - 09.14.2014 62 °F
What a fantastic two weeks it's been thus far. My mother and I took the journey on August 31st to Edinburgh. We had a wonderful time and went to the Edinburgh Castle. We saw the traditional Scottish canon firing off at 1 pm, we saw the dungeons, and we even saw an 1000 year old petite church. On the flight over here, I was thinking about how incredibly exciting it is to be going across the country this year for my first year of college (or Uni) as it is referred to here.
Mom and I were both pretty jet lagged for the first couple of days - up at strange hours of the morning etc. We had an interesting time with driving on the left side of the road and manual transmission... you can ask my mom about that one. One of the incredible things about Edinburgh, or Scotland in general is that there is so much history. You can't walk on any street without running into something historically significant. There is a 5 hour time difference so it won't be that difficult to contact back home. After a couple of days in Edinburgh we went to Forfar, Scotland which is the resting place of Kinnettles castle. Wow.... is all I have to say and I was talking with one of the employee's at the castle and he was telling me how many people come to Scotland specifically for castle tours. We had a spectacular view and the first night we basically had it to ourselves. We saw lots of sheep, lots of cheap cashmere, and of course, the beautiful countryside.
We also managed to do a good amount of dorm shopping in Dundee (the town closest to St. Andrews) and we pulled up to St. Andrews on September 4th and we couldn't have picked a more beautiful day to arrive. It was perfect weather. Mom and I tried to sneak into my hall, McIntosh, but to no avail. We had a very nice dinner and then we pulled up to a bed and breakfast right outside of town. It just so happened to be that the only other guest was a sophomore in the joint degree program. She had spent her first year, last year at William and Mary, and was planning on spending the next two years here in St. Andrews. It was awesome to talk to her and get to know her before getting into Freshers week. Besides my roommate, I had little to no contact with anyone going in (a few Atlanta people). My roommate's name is Michael Murphy and he is from a small town outside of Boston called Sterling. He and I have been texting and we will be great friends this year.
I forgot how beautiful St. Andrews really is. I will be running almost every day while I'm here. I've already spotted a marathon (Northumberland Coastal Marathon) in England on February 28 that I want to partake in. The beaches are gorgeous and the people are even better. If you are keen to send me any packages or letters (Peter Myer, McIntosh Hall Room B40, Abbotsford Crescent Room, St Andrews, Fife UK), the cost is all based on weight so you'll have to take it to the post office to figure that out.
The night before the first day of college is a really momentous time. My mind is filled with excitement, nervousness, anticipation, and expectation for great things. The next thing I know, my mother and I have set up the best dormroom in the history of the world, and I was saying goodbye to my mother as she drove away, and I was a college student on my own.... it was a weird and to some extent, sad moment. Don't get me wrong I was ready to go and jump in with both hands and feet, but for a little bit after, it was sad... contrary to some people I'll really miss my family, but I know I will see them soon enough.
I just want to take some time to explain a little bit about the University and how it all works because I'll be referencing certain things throughout the year. First of all, the Uni is made up of a hall system. You sleep, eat, and live at and for your hall. You bleed your hall colors (in my case purple and navy). You spend a lot of your time at your hall and for the first week anyway, it has been the focal point for my social life. We also have hall sports night etc. So some of the main halls (amongst many) are McIntosh (the best), St. Salvador's (Sally's), DRA (the long walk), John Burnett etc. The town has three streets (North, Market, and South) so I almost already know exactly where everything is and that's really nice. There are many many Americans here. About a 3rd of the University is American and McIntosh in particular is about half American, 25% Scottish, and 25% English. McIntosh is perfectly and centrally located so everything is close (I really lucked up). There are so many American's in my hall because they all requested standard catering (i.e. none of us wanted to cook). There are about 1,500 people per class and it is nice because I have been on campus for a week and I can't walk down town without seeing someone I know, but I don't know every face I see by any means. This is Fresher's week. This is one of the biggest weeks of events this year. I got the golden ticket (i.e. tickets for all the events at the Union / A capella concerts etc). This week has basically consisted of meeting people, having hall socials (formal and semi-formals), and playing sports. Everyone here is very athletic to some extent. It has been such an exciting week and I'm always busy - there is always something to do or see. We (McIntosh Hall) also won our Clan Warfare (best spirit, most sports won during freshers week). So again, McIntosh is the best there is.
This may be one of the only weekends I stay on campus. If you know me at all, you know how much I love to be a part of things. I'm not going to say which organizations I'm going to be part of this year just yet, because I have to sort a few things out, but between sailing, tennis, the mountaineering club, kayaking club, snowsports club, I don't plan on being here much on the weekends. The wonderful thing about all these organizations is they all have weekend trips or hikes at incredible prices. If I am able to work out my schedule correctly, I won't have any classes or tutorials on Friday so that I can get my work down on Friday and leave on the weekends, and well, see Scotland while I am here. But don't worry, next entry there will be a full updated list of everything that I'm doing. I'm also auditioning for a couple of University and local orchestras this week. Scotland has such an inspirationally beautiful environment and I can really see myself becoming an avid outdoorsman this year.
The opening ceremonies if you will, were quite wonderful. The University is 600 years old as of last year (they don't let you forget that) and there were processions, and Scottish bagpipe music, and a big to do with the academics. Fresher's week has been incredible. I have been here a week and I have made some of the best friends of my life, I've tried and played more sports than I ever have before (Badmitton, basketball, Tennis, Sailing, and Volleyball), and I've felt like I've been here a while. I haven't had any classes yet (they start tomorrow) and I think this was a perfect way to transition into college. It's also awesome to talk to people from all over the world or walk down the street and hear 4 different languages. This is truly an international melting-pot and everyone is so friendly.
The "academic parents" are another uniquely St. Andrews phenomena. So this is how it works. Third year students seek out first years, or freshers, to be their academic children. They will actually come up to you (may or may not have spent time with you) and ask you to be their child - yes it's quite odd but it is a wonderful thing. I have spent a lot of my week sailing on the North Sea and my academic mom is a German-Swiss girl named Anneka and she is on the committee for the sailing club. So she came up to me asked me if I wanted to be her child and I said yes. The purpose is to foster relationships between the older and younger students but also for Raisin Day festivities (another thing I will have to explain), they are the ones that take you out to have a very good time for the entire day/weekend. I also met my academic dad. I was at a flat party and one of my hallmates was with me and he said he knew of a girl who was from Atlanta and I was talking to a girl who lived five minutes from Holy Innocents' and she referred me to a guy named Alex who went to Pace and actually knew of my brother Jack, because he knew his friend Simon. We talked and played footall (soccer, but you can't call it soccer her) the next day and he asked me if I wanted to be his academic son. So I am splitting my parents between a homey feeling and branching out. I will spend more time with them as the year goes on as well.
The joint degree program with William and Mary has also done a very good job with getting all of us together for receptions etc. I've found out that it is an incredible group of kids and they are all going to go onto to do awesome things. It was especially good to meet all of them because now I will have an immediate network of 40-50 people, 1st year to 4th year, this year and years to come. This year will be the first graduating class from the program, so it is a promising and exciting time. Most of the kids here are doing the program in IR (roughly 70% because St. Andrews is known for its' IR department and William and Mary has one of the best IR programs in the country), then the other 30% of students are either doing History, Economics, or English.
Just a few more things and then I'm going to wrap it up. I did manage to do a few uniquely Scottish things this week (such as the Scottish dancing - Ceilidh (try pronouncing that)).
Finally, and of course, we can't forget the Scottish Referendum! How exciting! This Thursday, September 18th, each registered voter in Scotland will have the opportunity to participate in the direct vote as to whether or not Scotland will be independent from the United Kingdom. It is so interesting because every person who I talk to (which is a lot), whether they are English or Scottish, has a different opinion. I believe it is going to be very close. I have made a very good friend from Aberdeen, Scotland and I was talking to him last night and besides the spoken reasons as to why Scotland wants to be independent (doesn't want to pay taxes to UK, wants to use their own oil money etc.), the most prominent, he says is that there are simply just a lot of proud Scots that want to be independent). I've really gotten into the mix of it all and seen a couple of debates here between older students. The argument is that Scotland won't survive after 10 years of being independent. England won't let them use the pound, and they won't be able to use the Euro because they don't want another Greece situation so they would have to make their own currency, they would have to start paying for healthcare (nobody in the UK does), and of course, what would happen to the Universities? It is so exciting. I love it - especially for International Relations. We are living history. If Scotland does in fact become independent, it won't go into effect for three years because they would have a lot to do. So, do I think Scotland should vote "Yes" as the signs everywhere have put it, or "No"? I think as a student it would be more economically and institutionally stable for Scotland to stay united (as we are stronger together in the States), but on the other hand, I respect that if the Scots that live here want to be independent and have more control over their land, then by all means. Regardless it is all exciting.
So the next entry, I will be a lot more concrete in my schedule and everything that I am doing... and oh right... of course... classes....
Until next time,
(For all descriptions of where photos were taken and what they are, look in photo gallery)