Spring Break with WaMStAs

Alyssa Skvarla
Thursday 4 April 2019

And that’s the last holiday of the school year wrapped up! Spring break extends through the final two weeks of March, which brings us right into April and back into deadlines. As we enter the last gruelling haul towards exams, I’m sure many students will be looking back on their holidays wistfully (I know I will). I might even start right now.

Being a part of the BA International Honours programme, I’m lucky enough to divide my undergraduate years between two impressive universities in two different countries. But instead of letting myself get comfortable in one place, I decided to use spring break to explore beyond this little island in the North Sea.

However, before I did that, I ventured to the Isle of Arran the weekend leading into our two weeks off. My Scottish family members have allowed me to visit this wee isle multiple times within the past two years, and each visit leaves me more enamoured than before. Typical island lifestyle commences here, where the pace of life slows down so we can take in a deep breath and relax. To help this is the isle’s stunning views. Just sailing in on the ferry, you can see the landscape sprawl out before you. It is a soothing place, even when you’re celebrating a birthday like I was with my Scottish family.

I changed that island slowness down for a full-speed city holiday by flying out to Prague, Czech Republic for the first week of spring break. Still in high school, joining Pinterest to compile all my dream travel destinations into one place, I remember seeing pictures of the Astronomical Clock and being enchanted by it. When I pinned it to my now abandoned travel board, I never would’ve guessed that I’d find my way in front of it in only a few years later.

The Astronomical Clock, though the delight of my high school self, was just a small feature of a wonderful holiday. Seated among the other visual delights of the Old Town Square, the clock leads to other great structures and great street vendors. I got a traditional Czech dessert coated in chocolate (a Trdelnik) along with some hot wine and wandered the streets at night with my friend. The city is even more beautiful at night, with dim streetlamps and moonlight highlighting the historic wonder of the capital.

While in Prague, I met up with my university friend from the Czech Republic, and he gave us a local’s tour of the city. This included popping into niche cafes and tasty restaurants and mastering the metro on the first try. We also caught things we had missed before, such as the floating statue of Sigmund Freud that hangs perilously over a narrow street leading towards the Old Town. While it’s always nice wandering as a tourist in a new place, having a personal tour with a friend shows you sides to the city you might not have seen before.

This is another outstanding feature of the programme: meeting people from all over the world. St Andrews is a global university, attracting an international student body. It’s almost impossible to make friends exclusively within your nationality, and I think this is one of the best parts of being a St Andrews student. And when you’re a part of the Joint Degree Programme, you make double the number of friends who can show you a glimpse into a home you might’ve never known before.

The second week, I changed environments for something a little more relaxing. While Malaga is a city in its own right, it moves slower than Prague. It might have something to do with the sun, which was out every day we were there. I even got a sunburn! Clearly, my skin had missed the constant sun exposure I got from growing up in California. We spent a lot of time on the beach, whether laying out on towels or sitting at a chiringuito with a litre of sangria and tapas (hmm maybe that’s why Malaga feels so laid-back). Though I was sad to leave behind a sun whose heat you could actually feel, I’m happy to be back into one of my many homes around the world: St Andrews.

Other WaMStAs also used the break to venture near and far. Isabel Cullinane (3rd year, English) went on the hunt for sun and found herself in Athens, Greece. Between midday drinks on terrace bars and exploring ancient wonders like the Pantheon, she combined an explorer’s holiday with the relaxing recovery period all students deserve after the hard work they put into their coursework. Check out some of her incredible photos!

Meanwhile, Katlyn Ma (1st year, IR) travelled all the way to Hong Kong to visit family and enjoy the fast-paced lifestyle and amazing food of the city. She made sure to give a glimpse for us who dream of visiting the city, such as myself. I’m practically salivating on my keyboard looking at all this delicious food.

As you can see, WaMStAs find ways to keep on exploring. Though part of an exclusive academic group that divides itself between two universities, we are driven to discover more of the world than Williamsburg, St Andrews, or our own homes. Unsatisfied with complacency, we travel close and far to find our newest adventure. The program is perfect for natural explorers, and it’ll be great to see where these students go beyond in future years!


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