After the mania of Week 5, dominated by gruelling deadlines and the pandemonium of Raisin, St Andrews offers its students a moment of reprieve and recovery through Independent Learning Week. A week with no lectures or tutorials, the time period allows students to get ahead of (or catch up on) work for the semester. However, with Scotland’s accessibility to the rest of Europe, many students find a way to independently learn while also traveling to amazing new destinations.
WaMStAs only have two years to explore Europe (without having to make the transatlantic flight, at least) in their undergrad, so many students use the week to venture somewhere new or somewhere loved. For example, Isabel Cullinane, an American in the Joint Degree Programme who grew up all over Latin America, found herself jumping even further up north than St Andrews by spending her week in Stockholm, Sweden (right).
Meanwhile, Cameron Bray, a third year studying English at St Andrews popped down to England to visit the Lake District (below). He said for himself, “Independent Learning Week is a great opportunity to explore Europe and pursue some self-guided study. The highlight of my ILW this year was visiting Dove Cottage — the home of William Wordsworth — and hiking the Lake District while reading The Lyrical Ballads.”
As for myself, I hopped on a short plane ride to Amsterdam (below). In my carry-on was Omeros by Derek Walcott, my assigned reading for my Postcolonial Literature and Theory module, proving that traveling and studying aren’t inherent opposites. It was my first time to mainland Europe ever, and the adventure whetted my appetite for more to come. From a morning boat ride through the city’s canals to an afternoon spent wandering amongst Van Gogh’s sunflowers and real ones at the flower markets, Amsterdam offered delights both exorbitant and simple. While the weather was a near-parallel to St Andrews’ (on and off drizzling accompanied by sparse but striking moments of sunlight), its unique architecture and adventures made every moment a new experience. I survived off a classic Dutch diet of Heineken, Stroopwafels, and cheese, having sampled at least ten different cheeses at every cheese shop in the city. Amsterdam was a very friendly place that happily and comfortably welcomed my friends and me. Miraculously, I managed to not get hit by a bike while wandering the canals and made it back home in one piece!
These are just some of the few adventures WaMStAs went on during Independent Learning Week. That’s one of the greatest benefits of the programme: the ability to explore places well outside our comfort zones and become more globalized individuals. Amazing locations are made more accessible by the programme so that we can gain new experiences and new stories to tell.