Transition: Week One by Edwina Eyre

Wednesday 21 October 2020

When talking about the program, people mainly talk about the great parts. The fun trips they took, the super cool societies they joined at both schools, their obsession with the three-pound Tesco meal deal at St Andrews that is so intense it is bordering on concerning (that last one might just be me). When I pictured the transition to St Andrews in my second year, I saw myself stepping off the plane and immediately seamlessly integrating into St Andrews culture, effortlessly tackling the logistical hurdles and skipping straight to the part where I had the “absolute time of my life”, as promised by everyone who had already gone through the process. Needless to say, this was not the case. While I did eventually have and am currently having the “absolute time of my life”, my first week at St Andrews was logistically quite challenging. Therefore, when thinking about what to write, I thought about what I would have wanted to read whilst I was religiously scrolling through the blog in the weeks before my transition. I guess I would have wanted to know that it is super normal to not be completely on top of it during the first couple weeks. I would have wanted to know that this weird, logistically hard phase does pass. Most importantly, I would have wanted to know that although the first week of the transition is hard, when you just stick it out it is so unbelievably worth it in the end. Therefore, with no further ado, here are two (somewhat embarrassing) tales of the logistical mess that was my first week.

My first day in St Andrews!

Penniless at the Edinburgh airport

I arrived at the Edinburgh airport tired and hungry. I had exhausted the last of my cash on an overpriced chocolate croissant at the airport in Germany and decided it might be a good idea to take some out at the ATM by the baggage claim. I inserted my card, went through the motions, and waited for the ATM to dispense my funds. Thirty seconds went by, and still nothing. I knew something was wrong when the screen suddenly went black, made a strange crackling noise, then displayed the ‘next transaction please’ message. The machine had eaten my card. I called over some airport staff, who told me that the machine was privately owned and therefore it would take over a day to get someone in to rescue my card. I was panicked, but not across the line to crazy just yet. I had a backup card hidden in my suitcase. I pulled it out and walked to the first other ATM machine I could find. Before sticking it in, I glanced down at it and did a double take. It was expired. All my sources of income were gone. I had absolutely no money on hand, and no other card or online account to save me. Luckily, I was traveling with a friend who was able to lend me the necessary funds until I could request a replacement card, but it was undeniably a rough welcome to Scotland.

Humiliated at Vodafone

As an international student coming to St Andrews, I, like many of you will, had to get a new phone plan. There are multiple places on Market Street to acquire these, and the process is not particularly difficult for most. Emphasis on most. I decided to go with Vodafone for my plan, and getting the actual card was pretty easy. When going to set it up though, one has to download the software and enter some basic details including the name of the plan. I entered all the details, but my card still didn’t work. I tried multiple times, deleted the software, redownloaded it, even took out my SIM and put it back in. I was sitting there for hours. Nothing worked. Deciding the card was a dud, I indignantly marched back to the Vodafone store to demand assistance or my money back. I informed the man at the desk that the card I bought was not functional and asked if I could please get a refund. He took one look at the software configuration, looked back at me, back and the software configuration, and informed me that the reason the card wasn’t working was that I had spelled Vodafone wrong. To this day, I still cross the street when passing the Vodafone store.

My JDP support system!

BONUS CHAPTER: Not only alive, but happy, settled, and doing great as a third-year

I am writing this blog post while sitting in my flat about to celebrate my best friend’s (who I met in the Joint Degree Programme!) birthday with our flatmates. I am obsessed with my classes, my friends, and St Andrews in general. Reminiscing on that first week of the transition, I wish I could have shown myself third-year me, or even me three weeks into that first semester after I had somewhat figured everything out. Knowing that all that stress and drama over minute transitional details would eventually be so unbelievably worth it would have made all those logistical nightmares seem so much smaller.

I guess what I’m ultimately trying to get at through these somewhat humiliating tales of my transition to St Andrews is that the first week of the transition to either school is going to be weird. It’s going to be hard. You’re probably going to cry at least once, unless you are one of those strange people who just never cries, and in that case, my DMs are open and would you please hit me up and let me know how you do that. There are going to be culture shocks. If you are transitioning to St Andrews, you may be somewhat disillusioned by the vegetarian haggis in the hall breakfast – I know that one really threw me for a loop. It’s all okay – it will pass. If I can get through my first week here relatively stable of mind and sound of body it is my honest belief that anybody can. I guarantee that one day you are going to wake up and whichever school you are at won’t feel so unfamiliar anymore.

Even more importantly, you are not alone! I know it is cliché, and if you are reading the other blog posts this is probably a phrase you are quite tired of at this point. However, it’s so, so true. Not only do you have the people in your own cohort who are going through the exact same thing you are, but you also have all those in the cohorts above you who have already gone through it and have their own first-week-of-transition stories and advice. One of the things that make the Joint Degree Programme so special is the amazing network of people you have that have all had the same odd college experience as you. Do not be afraid to reach out to them! And as I said before, my DMs are always open – whether just to chat or to share more embarrassing transition stories (these were just the tip of the iceberg).

If you have any questions, you can contact Edwina at [email protected]

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