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Freshman Files: First year in Scotland

January 22nd, 2018

Winter break is a great time for college students to reflect on their first semester and their personal and academic growth while adapting to newfound freedom.  I love to use this opportunity to check in with former students and learn about their experiences thus far.  It is always great to hear how students navigate through this journey and understand the challenges that come along with this change.

Our first report this year on the transition to college is from Natasha, a first-year student at University of St Andrews, in Scotland.  She is the most recent Shrop Ed student to enroll at St Andrews and I am so pleased she has agreed to let us share her open and honest description of the first few months abroad.  What an exciting opportunity to gain perspective into her life as an international student.

I could write a book on this last semester–it’s been absolutely wonderful. Everything I hoped for and more. I’ve especially been enjoying the academics. I take International Relations, Arabic, and Philosophy, and I’m getting a joint degree in the first two. I got a job immediately and began working, which I highly recommend as it is the only way I know any locals in St Andrews. It’s also a really good way to meet older students. 

I can’t think of anything that didn’t go smoothly! Moving internationally is a logistical nightmare, but it’s completely manageable if you do everything in the right order. My visa, flight, baggage, cell phone plan, bank account, and tax forms pretty much got figured out without a hitch. This is the only time in life when I’ll be able to, quite literally, just up and move to a country of my choice without worrying about visas or jobs. And I don’t think I could have picked a better one than Scotland. The people are so kind, the countryside is gorgeous, and the cost of living is nothing compared to London, especially if your income is in pounds instead of dollars. 

My view of the world has changed a little, but it’s hard to say as I think I had a more international upbringing and mindset than most to begin with. But, for example, I know so much now about the atrocities the English committed in Scotland for hundreds of years, rather recently. Or, for example, how Churchill saved all the English soldiers at Dunkirk but left the Scottish 51st Highland Regiment to die on the beach. There’s a very interesting other side of the story, and the Scottish have definitely not forgotten it. It’s made me very curious about other sides of history in general. 

Just about St Andrews in general: My lecturers have been absolutely amazing. St Andrews has the top IR and Philosophy departments in the country (read: ahead of Oxford and Cambridge, which we’re very proud of), and the School of Modern Languages is just behind at second in the rankings. So I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from all the funding they’re receiving, which has especially reduced class sizes. I have tutorials with eight students and a professor or graduate student. I chose to have graduate students as tutors for IR and Philosophy because I was more interested in their specialties than the specialties of the professors, and I chose a professor for Arabic because I wanted someone who knew how to teach well. The social scene is very fun–I’m in McIntosh Hall, which is the best hall in terms of community and events. I am the Hall Sports Rep, which means I coordinate intramural type activities and get people to come compete for us. Even though it’s a small town, there are always tons of events going on. In the fall there are loads of balls–Opening ball, Welly ball, Reeling ball, and Christmas ball are very popular–and the spring is fashion show season. If you get bored of St Andrews, it’s really cheap and easy to get to Dundee or Edinburgh by train or bus. 

I honestly could not recommend St Andrews enough. I’ve had the type of first semester where I’m getting worried about the second, because it couldn’t possibly top the first. 

We’re grateful to Natasha for allowing us to share her insights – especially impressive is her note about her new understanding of history, now viewing it through a new lens.  Wishing you continued success and happiness, Natasha!

A new year, a new you

January 8th, 2018

The new year is a time to start over for many people, which makes January the perfect opportunity to make productive changes in your life.  Gym memberships are at an all time high right now and many people use the new year to adjust eating habits and kick their workouts into high gear.  Aside from that aspect of getting fit, I am here to offer you some resolutions that will whip this academic year into shape!

The article we link you to today is written for college students, but applies to high school and boarding school students as well.  Writer Kelci Lynn Lucier’s ideas are inspiring and achievable, which makes this piece especially useful to all.  Here is to making 2018 your best academic year yet!

Published December 17, 2017

Written by:  Kelci Lynn Lucier (for

While New Year’s Eve often brings a party, the new year itself often brings great hopes for change and growth. If you’re a college student, the new year presents the perfect time to set some resolutions that can help make your academic year more positive, productive, and enjoyable.

Good New Year’s resolutions, of course, are not just those that address the things in your life you’d like to change or improve upon; they also are realistic enough that you’re more likely than not to stick with them.

Read more at ThoughtCo >>

‘Tis the season of giving

December 11th, 2017

There is no better time to spread kindness throughout your community than this season of giving.  There are many ways to lend a helping hand and we want to encourage our students to consider the best way of all to give:  community service.

Many Shrop Ed students are already involved in truly significant work in their communities, but some have room for growth.  A recent meeting with a staff member from United Way of the Bluegrass included discussion of great opportunities for Lexington-area students who want to make a difference.  Whether you’re in Kentucky or New England, the Midwest or farther afield, the needs are great.  If you can commit time to help a meaningful cause, you can truly leave your mark on this world.

Lexington area students, please read on.  Students beyond Lexington, please think about ways in which you can address needs in your area … and let me know if I can be a helpful sounding board.

United Way service opportunities:

Students can have a huge impact serving as volunteers.  In the words of Frederick Douglass, for whom Lexington’s newest high school is named, “It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.”  Indeed, support given to children has enormous long-term benefits to the entire community.  It builds strong men AND women, benefiting volunteers as much as those on the receiving end of positive energy and attention.  You can make a difference!

Here are a few of the ways to become involved:

  • Mentors/tutors – help reduce the achievement gap and increase student achievement in reading, math, social studies, etc.
  • Career Day for 5th Graders – volunteers help provide schools with presentations regarding college/career readiness
  • Job Shadowing –  volunteers help arrange job shadowing opportunities for high demand occupations for middle school kids to help them connect the dots between school and careers
  • Houses of Faith – volunteers provide after school sessions to assist with homework & social/emotional concerns at Houses of Faith locations
  • STEM Programs – female volunteers introduce elementary, middle & high school females to the world of STEM to encourage interest

Interested in learning more?  Please contact Roy Woods at United Way of the Bluegrass, 859-977-7382.  Mr. Woods will be happy to hear from you and provide more information.

Wishing everyone a season filled with giving, peace and joy!

Advice from a mediocre student

November 27th, 2017

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”  This famous quote from Mark Twain had me thinking about the population I work with.  High school and college students are at an age where small choices can have a major impact on their future.  Choosing the right school, participating in class discussions, and building relationships with teachers and professors ultimately lead you to what lies ahead.

In today’s article, Susan Shapiro shares some of her regrets as she relives life as a mediocre college student.  In her honest and very telling piece she discusses things she missed out on due to some of her poor choices.  Much of her advice could also be applied to high school students as they wind down their first semester to maximize their success. This article, we think, is relevant to all.

Article below referenced from New York Times

I taught my first class at Columbia University’s M.F.A. program this month, and even though I’ve been teaching college writing since 1993, I initially felt a little intimidated by the school’s regal campus. That, and regretful.

I enjoyed going to college at the University of Michigan, an hour from home, but my secret humiliation is: I was the type of mediocre student I now disdain. As a freshman, I cared about my friends, my boyfriend and my poetry. Or, I cared about what my boyfriend thought of my friends, what my friends thought of him, and what they thought of my poetry about him. Here’s what I wish I’d known and done differently:

Read more at New York Times >>

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