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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!

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