I can’t remember what my freshman RA told my hall during our initial meeting, but I can assure you it was the complete opposite of my first warden’s talk at the University of St Andrews. Rather than giving us advice about forming a roommate agreement or making Tribe Choices, my warden (the British equivalent of an RA) told us she was there to put our drunken selves into bed and, essentially, stop us from being complete idiots.
This way of thinking has been a common theme during Freshers’ Week (St Andrews’ version of orientation), which is best described as a week of partying at night, sleeping through hangovers during the day and attempting to mix in a few academic events between drinking.
During Freshers’ Week, social events took priority over academic ones, meaning that the only orientation events I attended were an opening ceremony, a mandatory advising session and several Joint Degree Programme receptions. The university offered a multitude of events, including a session on adjusting to British academic culture that I probably should’ve attended, but when you don’t have an OA to force you to go and you’re slightly hungover from the previous night, it’s hard to find motivation.
The main events of Freshers’ Week were, instead, the various nightlife options. The Union, which is the St Andrews equivalent of the Sadler Center (plus two bars and a club), hosted events every night. Several highlights were Clan Warfare, a giant battle between residence halls, and Sinners, a sports-centered night in the Union’s Club 601.
My hall, John Burnet, also hosted events such as a pub crawl and a karaoke night. I was very surprised when, on the first night, I realized that hall committees actually provide residents with copious amounts of free alcohol. After a year of strict alcohol rules in my freshman hall, it was odd seeing a group of Americans playing beer pong in the middle of our common lounge.
In addition to hall parties and events at the Union, Freshers’ Week included a plethora of flat parties, society socials (club/organization parties) and trips to the bars, pubs and clubs of St Andrews. Overall, the number of options for a night out is high for a town that legitimately consists of three streets.
While it may sound like I spent the first week in St Andrews either inebriated or hungover, I also made an effort to explore my new home. Despite its small size, St Andrews has the perfect mix of historic buildings, beaches and shopping and dining options. My second day here, I visited the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral, as well as our two beaches, East Sands and West Sands. Despite the fact that East Sands is home to a pier that offers stunning views, my favorite is West Sands, which lies just beyond the town’s world-renowned golf course. My room, which is almost twice as big as my room in Yates Hall, has a bay window overlooking the course.
As mentioned before, St Andrews has three main streets: Market Street, North Street and South Street. Market Street is home to many of the town’s shopping and dining options, including a supermarket called Tesco and cuisine ranging from an Asian noodle and rice bar to Nando’s. Shopping options are better than I had expected, too, with local boutiques mingled amongst classics like H&M.
It’s been a very long first week at uni, but I already love so many elements of St Andrews. On a simple walk I pass dozens of gorgeous, medieval-style buildings, and the international community has taught me information I wouldn’t have known otherwise. For instance, did you know that you can’t buy alcohol in Scotland past 10 p.m., or that the Norwegian levels of education are called children’s school, youth school and continuing school? I know that the rest of the year has many more Scottish adventures in store — next week’s include the first week of classes, also known as modules, and a hall ball hosted at a nearby castle — and I’m very excited to experience more of my new home.