Impressions of St Andrews as a JSA

There is a lot to say about studying abroad. It is something that someone could talk to you about for hours, but until you are living and experiencing it, it is difficult to know how it feels to immerse yourself into an entirely new culture. I find this fascinating! Two people could even go to the same place and have a drastically different experience. It is such a bizarre, exciting, emotional, and liberating opportunity all wrapped up into one.

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I picked St Andrews on a complete whim. In my mind, I was going to study abroad in the spring of 2016, so thoughts on location and program were in the distant future. When I got back to school last spring, my friends hit me with their exciting news. They all decided to study abroad in the fall, so my plan was tossed out the window. I rushed through my applications, hoping I could juggle schoolwork with applications. All I knew was that I wanted to go to the U.K.- a language barrier was one thing I did not want to worry about. As I came across St Andrews, my first thought was that Will and Kate attended. I knew it had to be pretty preppy, historic, quaint, and pristine, but I had no idea how modern and cosmopolitan it actually is.11999749_895105830581199_7344124008689397345_o

I have to say, I was anxious in good and bad ways about coming to Scotland. It is a place that I knew I probably wouldn’t get to explore if I did not study abroad. Before arriving here, Scotland seemed like a stunning country with breathtaking views of the sea, endless fields, rolling green hills, and lots of beer. I was also picturing tons of red heads, bagpipes, unidentifiable meat, bars, and accents that were too thick to understand. While I have encountered a little bit of all of that, now that I am here, it has exceeded my expectations greatly.12001041_903170983108017_462783841769236805_o

Whether it’s taking a walk on East Sands, or going to ballet classes in the town hall, St Andrews always has something to do and truly is the perfect combination of rural and urban. It’s a medley of past, present, and future where all the churches, monuments, and traditions are mixed in with modern life and style. Seeing the St Andrew’s Cathedral down the street from Jannetta’s or the Union leaves me speechless. The atmospheres are so vastly different from each other, yet when you combine them, it shapes St Andrews into what it is known to be. Even the university is a mélange of culture, history, opinion, and expression that succeeds in intertwining each and every student into one family. I am constantly questioning my beliefs, which pushes me to think outside of my head into a realm that is unfamiliar and new.12027109_903171023108013_7886821186268999965_o

I have grown so much already in the short month I have been here and feel like I am more than just a study abroad student. Even just hearing seagulls squawking early morning is so refreshing and brings me right back home to LA. Scotland is anything but stuck in the past, and the inundation of cultures and lifestyles here is remarkable. It is so refreshing to hear people speaking French as I walk past them on the cobblestone streets, or listen to a suitemate talk about life in Barcelona. Everyone comes here with something to offer, and is so open to getting to know you and your story.11930832_903171026441346_6043023669399901554_o

Life here is light, happy, and fulfilling. It is invigorating even just walking to class along The Scores and seeing the sea beside me. I have to remind myself that I am in Europe, because while there are differences, like being able to order a cider at the bar, I feel very much at home here. I wasn’t expecting to be so involved in the university because of the short amount of time that I have here. Being able to take part in little things like dinners with academic parents, or jumping over Patrick Hamilton’s initials, truly heightens the whole study abroad experience. I’m not just getting by while studying abroad; I’ve never felt more welcome and included in a community than I do here. St Andrews is hard to put into words, but I think that’s the point.

Cheers!

Photography by Alex Shaw, find more of her beautiful work at https://www.facebook.com/AlexandraShawPhotography

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