Twice the Family by Victoria Haver

Thursday 12 November 2020

I remember being a wee freshman and meeting one of the upperclassmen in the program. Someone had asked him, “Which school do you love more?” He responded that he really felt like both were his home. He couldn’t choose. I don’t know if he truly felt that way or just said it to be polite.

I know that I definitely have a bias. As much as I love St Andrews, as much of a space it has carved into my heart, William & Mary will always be my home. That’s why in March, right after the College announced there would be no more going back for the year, I was utterly devastated.

I even wrote a cheesy, dramatic instagram post about how I felt. That’s how you know I was in my feels.

The aforementioned instagram post. #muchdarktimes

An undeniable part of my love is the school itself: the professors, the campus, and the amazing staff that helps keep the place running. On reflection, though, that’s not what made it feel like home. It was the community, my friends, all the good and bad memories that gave me a sense of belonging. That’s why I chose to come back for my third year, after all. I had such a strong safety net of family, and I couldn’t wait to dive back in.

Tribe Pride for New Beginnings at Homecoming. Appropriate for the program 🙂 Ft. my amazing JCA family

Over the course of last year, I worked hard to rekindle the friendships I already made and to forge new ones. Part of what made leaving St Andrews difficult was knowing that I had to give up my JDP cohort- all the meddling kids that were in it with me. But at William & Mary, I had my JCA family and I had all the other WaMStAs that were also making the transition back. That’s not to say it was easy; there was an unavoidable awkwardness to returning. It was, however, worth it. I got to fall in love with the College all over again; I got to grow my friendships into lasting ones. I was *thriving*.

All of that shattered when the pandemic hit. Err, everything changed when the coronavirus attacked?

At least, that’s how it felt at the time.

I was scared to come back to St Andrews. That’s a hard thing to admit, especially for someone who already made the transition once. It kind of feels like a betrayal for a JDP student – to admit that there are doubts and worries and an unequal love between the two universities. I can’t deny it, though. St Andrews gets cold in the winter and the sun sets at 3:30pm. The academic style is so different from what I’ve grown accustomed to as an American student. What really scared me, though, was the feeling of not having a safe place to land.

My cohort was gone. The fourth years were graduating. One of my friends dropped out of St Andrews all together and another was planning to study abroad. We’re in a pandemic. It’s scary to think of tackling your senior year largely alone. But even through the doubt, I knew I wasn’t planning on giving this program up. Despite my complaints about the cold abyss of Scotland, I do feel a sense of belonging. I enjoy having the space to do things my way (#independentlearninggoals). And sometimes, it’s exciting to have the freedom to create new friendships.

A truth: sometimes it’s hard heckin work to carve out a space for yourself.

You still have to try. That’s the one thing you learn more than anything else as a WaMStA.

So here I am! A fourth year, on the executive board of the WaMStA Student Partnership. Living out my wildest crafting dreams with my housemate in our own home. Procrastinating on my dissertation. And I wish I could tell myself from back in March that everything would be okay and that I would be happy. It’d be a lot of stress off those tensed twamp shoulders.

Even in a pandemic, much at St Andrews is the same. I left my comfort zone to invite old acquaintances over for tea and to get to know the neighbors. (One of whom is now my academic child.) I pushed myself to get to know some people via Teams and others through the Student Partnership. And I have a DnD group! Yes, lame, but it’s with all my friends from William & Mary who mean the world to me.

If you, like me, are scared of the transition. If you’re scared of what it means to “start over.” Or if you’re worried about starting your JDP adventure off in a pandemic. If you doubt your ability to succeed. Know you are not alone. All the other WaMStAs are out here with you, learning and growing and forging our own happiness together. The partnership will always be a safety net for you. And if you’re not that into the whole JDP aesthetic, you can always create your own.

I love St Andrews, even if it’s not second to my skin like William & Mary. I love walking along the pier and saying hi to the seals (sea lions?) along the Scores. I love the Quad and the sound of bells ringing on the hour. Much like William & Mary, though, the real reason I love St Andrews are the friendships I’ve formed here and the community I’ve built up for myself. And now I have two families from two universities tucked away inside my heart.

Being in this program is being on a wild ride of ups and downs and upside downs… but I wouldn’t choose any other place to be.

Ever to excel. And thrive. And be bad at coordinating hand letters in Inverness.

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

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