St Andrews: Through Students Eyes

Now that the madness of Freshers’ Week has faded, we begin dusting off our textbooks and shuffling back to the library. Before you dive into those lecture notes however, there’s something else we think you should read: St Andrews: Through Students’ Eyes.

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here. It took three years, countless all-nighters, generous support from benefactors across town and beyond, and let’s not forget the determination of the editorial team, but that little spark of an idea is now a reality.

We sat down with Radim Dragomaca, the recent PhD grad who led the charge as Editor and Project Director. The concept for the book began with Freddie Fforde, who envisioned it as the centerpoint of the 600th Anniversary campaign. With the help of his co-editors and the support of the Union, the project seemed to be gathering steam. As happens with all good projects however, they hit a couple major roadblocks. In the summer of 2013, the plan was put on the shelf as Freddie’s presidential term ended and most of the editors graduated. Unwilling to give up, determined to honor the efforts of the student contributors, and only the teensiest bit nervous about the prospect of finding alternative funding, Radim decided to give it another whirl. He found his dream team in Art Director Martin Lyle and section editors Taylor Carey, Liliane Stadler, Andrew Ferguson, and Matthew Moran, and together they set about reviving what would become, as far as I know, the only book of its kind.

First however, they had to adopt a new model. “Instead of ‘secure funding, then design the book,’’ Radim explains, “now we were forced to do the opposite: ‘design the book, then secure funding.’ It was a pretty big risk… and definitely the most nerve-wracking part.” The team managed to do just that with the help of generous donors including the university, local businesses and charities, and over one hundred students.

Then, each section editor began filling up their respective chapters with insightful essays, heartfelt poems, and stunning visual content. The book is divided into four sections: Student Life, Academic Life, Kaleidoscope of Life, and Town and Gown. Student Life, curated by Taylor Carey, includes everything from features of societies like Celtic Soc and LGBT, to an interview with Rory McLion, to essays about sport, Nightline, faith, even the newly-founded Quidditch team. Liliane Stadler edited the Academic Life section, which contains interviews with professors, advice on how to pursue your scholarly passions, and one of my personal favorite essays of the whole book called “Soakings!” by Mathias Holmen Johnson. Kaleidoscope of Life, managed by Andrew Ferguson, features the impressive artistic talent of the student body, from visual art to student publications, dance and drama, a capella, and of course, St Andrews’ famous fashion scene. Finally, the Town and Gown section, edited by Mattew Moran is full of perceptive pieces about student housing, the beloved Hamish McHamish (RIP little buddy), and my other personal favorite called “An Unexpected Smile” by Emma Hinds-Greenaway, a sweet short story about the relationship between a student and her neighbor.

If none of that piques your interest, it’s entirely worth picking this book up just to look at the gorgeous art and photography. Just in case you ever forget that we live in a postcard.

While it was satisfying to watch the whole project come together into the final product, Radim explains that book’s lasting legacy is a far greater victory. One hundred percent of the profits made from sales will go towards student societies, scholarships, and bursaries. It will continue generating revenue that will facilitate growth and development for the student population.

Personally, I think the book leaves another equally impactful legacy as the mother of all feedback surveys. The spirit of St Andrews is oozing from its pages, and in every essay, poem, and photo, readers will experience the sheer amount of affection that students have for this place. What I find most impressive about this book is that it has thoughtfully, artfully, and lovingly articulated the very best things about St Andrews, the parts that are closest to our hearts. From medieval traditions to up-and-coming societies, you’ll find exactly what it is we adore about our wild and wacky home. And while it’s certainly a piece of pure marketing gold deserving of a place on every reception room coffee table in town, I feel that it also belongs on the bookshelves of lecturers, directors of teaching, unit heads, and Court members. Quite frankly I hope everyone will read it and appreciate it not only for its artistic value, but also for its insight; each page is an opportunity to learn something about our community, whether it’s from the perspective of a student, a staff member, or a local.

Freshers, now that you’re finally here and your hangovers have hopefully subsided, sit down with this book, take a peek at what the next four years have in store for you, and get excited about the amazing place of which you are now a very important part. It’s a little preview of all the things that you’ll come to find make St Andrews so special, like the colorful cabbies (“Keep the Meter Running” by Emma Robertson) and every student’s love-hate relationship with the library (“The Library Journey” by Sarah Engstrand).

Recent grads, if you’re feeling Bubble-sick out there in the big wide world, curl up with this book and wherever you happen to be, these words and photos will bring you back to our beloved little town.

As for everybody in between: “The students who are here now are living this,” Radim says. “While you’re here, you’re just too busy doing it all.” So get out there! Say yes. Join that sports club. Audition for that play. Go for a pier jump.

In conclusion, St Andrews: Through Students’ Eyes gets five stars from Owl Eyes. Much like the St Andrews experience, this book stays with you long after you’ve put it down.