St Andrews vs William & Mary: Water-time Traditions

Jack Wootton
Tuesday 30 April 2019

The academic exchange between St Andrews and William & Mary may help explain why both campuses produce students who excel inside and out of their classes, but it’s interesting to note other similarities that the universities share. Yes, they are both smaller universities with an undergraduate body under 8000. Yes, they are both built around tiny historic towns. But a strange similarity becomes increasingly more relevant as we reach the end of the school year, and this centres around the universities’ iconic bodies of waters.

Okay, the North Sea is a little different from the Crim Dell or even Lake Matoka back on William & Mary’s campus, starting with the fact it’s an entire sea. It dwarfs the Crim Dell, a pond sprawled out in the centre of William & Mary’s campus. However, what ties these two bodies of water together is not only the partnership between St Andrews and William & Mary but also the way they are treated by their respective student bodies.

Orientation at William & Mary is a chaotic, informative experience for students. In all the information provided to students, from academics to social life, it’s hard to forget to tell freshman about a university tradition: the Triathlon.

Far from Olympic feats, these three activities are left unspoken but are notoriously well-known. They consist of:

  1. Jumping the Governor’s Palace
  2. Streaking the Sunken Gardens
  3. Swimming in the Crim Dell

Whether or not students actually participate in the Triathlon (as the university and its students do NOT endorse trespassing or public indecency), it’s a feature of the university known by all. For the last item, we are drawn back into the importance of William & Mary’s personal pond. It’s a social and cultural point of the university, as well as a pretty spot to admire without having to step in. There are snapping turtles to be wary of, after all.

The end of the academic year is one of students’ favourite times to complete the Triathlon, especially for second semester seniors about to leave the university. It helps when the summer heat sets in and the stress of finals weighs down the students, making for the perfect feverish setting to propel students into the Crim Dell’s murky waters.

A similar concept is found in the North Sea all the way out in St Andrews. Less swampy and more Baltic, the North Sea is better suited for swimmers than the Crim Dell, but its freezing temperatures prevent most from dipping their toes in. That behaviour changes on the first of May every year without fail. Come rain or shine, students across the university congregate along East Sands to rush into the waters to wash away their worries. It’s a moment of rebirth before trudging back to the library for revision. Hopefully the cold water stimulates our brains and has us getting high marks on our exams!

William & Mary and St Andrews have a long history of academic exchange, but its students also embrace similar habits, too. From their dedication to their school work and extracurricular involvement to their reliance on bodies of water to fulfil quintessential university experiences revolving around their school lore and legacies, two smaller universities on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean are grounded by a terrific, interesting student body.

So whichever university you’re currently at, embrace tradition, enjoy your final few weeks, and good luck on exams!

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