Hello! I'm Alyssa Skvarla, your BA (International Honours) Intern for the 2018-2019 academic year. I'm a third year studying English and can typically be found reading in one of the many coffee shops around St Andrews. I've traveled a long way from sunny California to study first at William and Mary and now St Andrews, but my love for new experiences and traveling is perfectly cultivated through the program's opportunities. In my intern position, I hope to help everyone who is a part of the program so they have the best experience possible.

Spring Break with WaMStAs

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!

 

 

 

Spring in St Andrews

Spring is in the air…or so we hope. While St Andrews has seen worse winters (last year’s snow storm is still fresh in the town’s memory), it’s still been a cold and dark couple of months. While the university retains its verve and vivacity throughout this time of year in thanks to its lively student body, there’s no denying that students, staff and townies are all looking forward to longer and slightly warmer days. Study abroad students should use the changing seasons to explore more of St Andrews during their final semester with us! As the wind loses its bite (a bit) and the sun stays in the sky for longer, you’ll be able to find the perfect opportunity to explore.

Though spring isn’t officially here until March 20, to prepare you for the change in season, here is a guide on things to try out around St Andrews in the springtime.

 

Fife Coastal Path

A 117-mile stretch, the Fife Coastal Path goes from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Tay. While there is no expectation for you to walk this massive spread, popping onto the trail from St Andrews is all too easy and you can choose how long your journey will be. Whether 2 miles or 2 hours, your adventure will be rewarding! Going south, you wind through beautiful scenery with visual access to Scotland’s eastern coastline. It’s truly stunning and gives you an opportunity to physically step away from the stress of schoolwork by leaving St Andrews behind you. So if you ever have a Sunday morning to explore, you can end your early morning walk with a scone and tea. Or if it’s an afternoon walk, you can pop into a pub for a pint to reward yourself for your excursion!

 

West Sands and Jigger Inn

Going along with the theme of walking through nature (and casual drinks!), another springtime opportunity is exploring West Sands. Though located closer to the tourist/golfer side of St Andrews, this is a lot quicker of a walk compared to the Fife Coastal Path, so if you want a small-scale activity, this is a perfect option! Walk along the sands and watch the water crash on the shore bordering the Old Course; you might even cross paths with friendly dogs, which always makes for a good day. Again, you can top off this walk with a peek into the Jigger Inn, a wee restaurant on the Old Course itself. Authentically Scottish, with a comfortable design and a great location, it’s a great place to drop in for a glass of wine and some starters. Bring your friends to beat the Old Course prices! [me on the right enjoying a sunny day at the Jigger Inn]

 

Travel—Abroad OR Domestic

What comes in hand with the season change is a school holiday. After a chaotic season of deadlines, students are more than ready to take a break from school. However, sometimes a break means traveling around the country or going to a different one entirely. With two weeks off for the spring holidays, most St Andrews students fit in some kind of journey, whether that be to the Highlands or to the Alps. It’s the perfect time duration to balance proper, mindless relaxation with fun exploration.

Thanks to Scotland’s close proximity to the rest of Europe, you can find last minute deals to a handful of different countries so check out Skyscanner. Or if you don’t want to leave the island, you can keep your journey beyond St Andrews simple. Whether going to metropolitan Glasgow or Edinburgh or somewhere more quaint like Fort Williams or the Isle of Arran, there are so many options for domestic travel if that’s what you prefer (or what your budget prefers). [me on the left on a quick weekend trip to Edinburgh]

 

These are just a handful of ideas to make the most of your final couple months with the University of St Andrews. The longer daylight hours and less bitter chill make for fun exploring, so let’s all hope for a sunny spring time!

Deadlines and Mental Health Resources

After blazing through the first few weeks of the semester, now is the time of year where it seems like it’s deadline season every week until revision. The library is packed, teetering around near-full capacity during the day as students dedicate hours to researching, writing, and editing their essays. There is a sense of community in stress, with students acting as each other’s support systems since we all understand the difficulties of juggling tutorial work, weekly readings, and a 2500 word paper. However, stress shouldn’t be consuming us throughout this period of the semester. It’s important we remember our own mental health and stability at this time, even when we are putting in the most to turn out a paper worthy of the mark we want.

Deadline season might be the hardest on the university’s study abroad students, who are transitioning not only to a new social setting but to a new academic system too. As they plunge head-first into deadlines, the pressures of being away from home universities and familiar friends might build on top of general academic stress. These combined factors may lead to students being overwhelmed and upset, risking their wellbeing and mental health.

It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t put off seeking help. There is no reason to justify poor mental health as part of the student experience, because that’s not what the university is promoting.

The university webpage says ‘About one in four of us will suffer from some difficulty with our mental health in any one year’. This means you’re not alone—far from it. So you shouldn’t feel isolated from the world, especially when times get hard. You have a St Andrews community for you here, and if that doesn’t mean your friends, then the university itself has a staff ready to help you onto your feet.

The ASC (Advice and Support Centre) is your best resource to start with. They help with a variety of issues students face in their time here, along with having specialities in wellbeing, counselling, and mental health resources. You can check out the ASC in person, as it’s conveniently located on North Street right between the library and Old Union Café, or you can look for the specific resource you need on their webpage. It’s good to note that you can book online for a meeting with a Wellbeing Adviser.

Their webpage has helpful information to lead you to the right resources, so check out some of your options—and don’t be afraid to seek help! You’re here to learn, that is true, but you’re also here to thrive, and if your wellbeing is at risk, the university will do the most to make sure you’re provided the proper assistance and support, so reach out, no matter what year you are or whether you’re a full-time student or one of our exchange students. St Andrews is your bubble, so make it feel safe.

Check out some of these links for more information/resources

Email ASC

Wellbeing, Counselling and Mental Health Info

Peer Support Info

 

 

St Andrews vs William and Mary: Cafes

A university campus can hardly exist without a café or two or ten. Whether your liquid fuel is a black Americano or a spiced chai latte or whatever concoction you pressure baristas with, students and staff rely on caffeine to get them through the day. That hardly changes whatever campus you set foot on, but to tie St Andrews back to William & Mary in typical Joint Degree fashion, we have a compare and contrast of the most popular locations to find your caffeine fix to survive the term at the respective universities.

Both universities have cafés incorporated into their libraries. Swem has the spot lovingly endeared as Swemromas (Swem+Aromas, basic linguistic math) while St Andrews’ library has Café Edge. These two are quite different hotspots for students but serve the same purpose. Where Café Edge is a self-service spot, with a machine pumping out satisfying drinks, Swemromas is a more traditional-style café with baristas taking your order and running it down the line. Both cater to mentally exhausted students, stimulating them so they can finish that 40-page reading or 4000-word essay. Though packed into the front of the library, they both are vital places on campus. What makes Café Edge especially standout across the board of St Andrews’ cafes is their prices. While there was a jump this past year, prices are still remarkably low for the town; an Americano is £1.10 and a cappuccino is £1.30. You even get a price reduction if you bring your reusable cup! It’s definitely one of the cheapest places in town to snag a coffee.

Another university affiliated coffee-shop at St Andrews is Rector’s. With its large windows, it’s the perfect place to sit on a sunny day. Conversely, it’s a great refuge whenever the weather takes a turn (as it often does) and can be quite serene when covered in raindrops. Additionally, I think they have the best chai lattes in town, but this is a personal opinion, of course. [Inside of Rector’s pictured on the right].

However, what is a universal truth of university spaces is the presence of Starbucks. An omnipresent brand in university settings, it’s no surprise there is a Starbucks local to St Andrews and William & Mary. William & Mary’s version of the chain is inside the Integrated Science Center (ISC), a modern building with a sleek design. ISC is a great study spot, further enhanced by its accessibility to a coffee-shop. St Andrews’ Starbucks is along Market Street, which makes it feel a little more detached from the university hub. Students can still be found studying here with the familiar Starbucks cups in reach, but, as an insider’s confession, Starbucks is the most overrated café accessible in St Andrews. As this post reveals, there a handful of other cafes to try out, many of which are unique to St Andrews!

To combat the norm of Starbucks, William & Mary presents an unconventional option for coffee breaks. Wawa is another chain, but instead of specializing in coffee, it’s a convenience store and gas station. Right by campus, Williamsburg’s local Wawa is a pilgrimage site for most students. With its 24/7 service, it attracts students at all hours for whatever they’re craving. What I would often come for is their coffee, which is both cheap and delicious. Just as important, though, is Wawa’s atmosphere and the sense of community it forges between its compact walls and aisles. [Inside of Wawa pictured on the left].

Beyond these, the options for cafes on or close to campus for William & Mary students dwindles. Meanwhile, St Andrews has a handful of other options; there’s the wee Old Union Café, comfortably situated between the library and St Salvator’s Quad; or Pret a Manger, another chain but with better coffee and prices than Starbucks; and we can’t forget about the chic and cozy Taste up on North Street, with its limited seating but trendy vibes. And there’s even more!

As such, it appears that St Andrews provides a lot more options to students, but that comes from the fact the university is incorporated into the town itself. These places are accessible not only to students but locals and tourists as well, welcoming them with the promise of a warm cuppa after walking the cobblestone streets in whatever temperate weather is thrown in their face. Historic Colonial Williamsburg, which borders William & Mary’s campus can offer more options to students, and if one has access to transportation to New Town, there is another wave of coffee-shops for students to pick from. It’s all about proximity and accessibility for the sake of students who may be pressed with their timetables and finances.

All in all though, both universities are more than sufficiently sourced in caffeine production. It might be part of the reason why their students are so productive and successful in their academics and extra-curriculars

 

 

You can find details of all university-affiliated cafes (for St Andrews) through St Andrews’ webpage

St Andrews vs William and Mary: Valentine’s Day Edition

With Valentine’s Day coming up, it seems like the proper time to address the romantic myths and legacies of both the University of St Andrews and the College of William & Mary.  Connected through academic and intellectual exchange, the universities offer a lot of interchangeable opportunities. However, it’s also fun highlighting what makes these universities so different (and what dual experiences are available to those who study abroad at either institution!).

A common lore around William & Mary revolves around a small bridge running over the Crim Dell, dutifully called the Crim Dell Bridge. Beautiful and scenic, it offers a great viewpoint and shortcut for students meandering between campuses. But with that said, you will rarely see anyone actually walk across the bridge. [Crim Dell pictured right].

The reason for this is found through collegiate mythos. The legend goes that if you cross the Crim Dell Bridge with your partner and kiss, you two will end up together forever. In the off-chance this myth is busted and you two split up, the ex must be pushed into the Crim Dell to ward off the curse of being single forever. Likewise, if a student walks across alone, they are faced with a similar curse: being alone forever. A lot of your future love life seems to ride on a quick walk across a bridge, but it’s one of William & Mary’s best-known myths.

Despite its mythic power over love, the Bridge gains sentimental power upon graduation time. You’ll be sure to find me walking across the Bridge with the lifelong friends I’ve made at the university in the springtime of next year.

Meanwhile, across an ocean, the University of St Andrews has a different kind of love story. It’s not so much mythic as it is royal. Of course one can hardly talk to their peers about St Andrews without somehow circulating the well-known fact that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met here in their uni days. The fact is apparent across the town itself. With Northpoint Café hoisting a banner at its window that announces WHERE KATE MET WILLS, the royal pair is commercialized as another formidable feature of the university and the town. [Northpoint Cafe pictured left].

The tiny coffee-shop Taste, also on North Street, is a foil to Northpoint, not only in size, but also in its publicizing of the Kate and Wills match. There is no banner in the window. Instead, it is a sticky note on the wall behind the register, which reads: WHERE KATE DUMPED WILLS. This attests more to the royal couple and their rockier days but is a part of their romance (and its still-existing presence on university grounds) nonetheless. I’ve even been stopped by a tourist, who asked for directions to the café that the royal couple went on their first date. People include the royal couple’s romance trail while on their holiday to St Andrews!

So while few dare to venture across the Crim Dell Bridge, many attempt to follow the footsteps of the royal couple and their romance over the course of their university years. Through the lens of romance, inspired by the Valentine’s season, we can inspect some differences between two incredible universities. University of St Andrews possesses a legacy of royal love while William & Mary boasts the power of eternal promises and curses on the matters of love through a beautiful bridge. Either way, love is in the air and on campus grounds, so have a Happy Valentine’s Day, no matter how you spend it and with who!

St Andrews vs William and Mary: Campus Golf

The first thing that comes to mind when someone hears of St Andrews can vary quite a bit. Whether one jumps to its university, renowned for academic excellence, or to its rich history set in stone by the Cathedral and other pieces of architecture, our small coastal town has made its way into the minds of people all over the world. But for some people, instead of being a university town or a historical hotspot, the most important thing about St Andrews is golf.

The Old Course at St Andrews possesses as much history as the Cathedral or Castle for some folks. The oldest golf course in the world, it has evolved into a near-mythic pilgrimage site for lovers of the game. Dating before 1574, the Old Course is not quite as old as the university but adds to the great history of the town. It sits right beside the university’s campus, which is a scenic luxury for students.

Like many things between the UK and the USA, there has been a cultural exchange, with a bit of an innovative flare on the latter’s side. While golfing in St Andrews usually entails an expensive round of golf, some drinks at local pubs, and a fair bit of wind blowing the ball off course, William & Mary has transformed the sport into a laughable, big-hearted charity event.

Campus Golf is hosted by Kappa Delta, a sorority at William & Mary. An annual event, it entices more than just members of Greek life to participate. The money students pay to participate goes to charities of KD’s choice, making this beloved tradition a charitable event.

On the day of campus golf (with tee-times starting early in the day and late in the afternoon) golf balls are replaced with tennis balls, and no inch of green along the Sunken Gardens is dug to create holes. Instead, buckets mark the end of one hole. These wrap around Old Campus, so that students are able to get a wonderful mid-game picture in front of the historic Wren Building [pictured right, spring 2017].

What may be similar between golfing at St Andrews and at William & Mary is the role some casual drinking, great pals, and heavy laughter plays into the game. No matter where you are, golf makes for a day of competitive fun.

Through this single event alone, we can see a difference between the experience one may have at St Andrews in contrast to William & Mary. St Andrews may have a mini-golf course that might incline more students to play than a round at the Old Course, but it has no equivalent to Campus Golf. Likewise, we can compare St Andrews’ Polo, for which William & Mary does not have an alternative, as a one-of-a-kind opportunity offered by our university.

Differences like these are a prime example of how the Joint Degree Programme provides an exceptional educational opportunity, and a life opportunity, where students are allowed to participate in two different university cultures and norms. Whether walking along West Sands to catch a glimpse of the Old Course or swinging at a tennis ball with all your might on the Sunken Gardens, students in the JDP can experience both through the course of their undergraduate years.

Thanksgiving with WaMStAs

It’s that time of year when the sun sets earlier every day and the wind gains a wicked bite, but that also means it’s almost the end of the semester and about time to start celebrating the holidays with our loved ones! As we trudge through to the end of classes and beginning of exams, it’s important to remember to take a deep breath and give ourselves a little break. One of those refreshing breaks we can make the most of happened to be Thanksgiving!

While an American holiday, WaMStAs show that an entire ocean can’t stop festivities. On both sides of the ponds, students found ways to celebrate the indulgent holiday. However, there are important differences between the universities’ ways of celebrating the holiday. Thanksgiving time at William and Mary means a few days off of school so students can meander home and celebrate with family and old friends (right: Anee Nguyen’s photos from her holiday back in the States!). Thanksgiving time at St Andrews might mean a deadline at midnight, while still digesting pumpkin pie. Personally, no matter which university I’m at, I can’t make the jump back to SoCal, so I make my Thanksgiving as global as possible.

Despite having two deadlines the day after, I spent my Thanksgiving with friends (who are just as good as family). We hosted an impressive spread: chicken rather than turkey, but still possessing the ever-important stuffing and gravy, alongside veggies and pumpkin bread. For desserts, we had a berry crumble and pumpkin pie. Needless to say, we were stuffed by the end. Even though I had to go upstairs to finish editing and citing my papers after some good food and chats, the evening was well spent with people I care about, which is the most important part of Thanksgiving after all.

For the great distance between St Andrews and America, the American students, especially the WaMStAs, still find ways to uphold traditions and celebrate the beloved holiday with the people they care about. No matter which side of the pond you’re on while studying through the Joint Degree Programme, you always carry a piece of home (and pie) with you.

 

Top 10 Tips for Studying Abroad

After a terrific study abroad experience at the College of William & Mary last spring break through our First Abroad programme, our First Abroad scholars – Amie Morrison and Sarah Ramage – returned to St Andrews to take on internships roles. One of their tasks was figuring out what tips study abroad students would give to prospective study abroad students in order for them to have the best experience possible. Here are the results!

Top 10 Study Abroad Recommendations/Tips

  1. Make friends with other international students who are undergoing the same experiences.
  2. Make an effort to put yourself out there and form friendships.
  3. Attend events set up specifically for international exchange students.
  4. Join clubs and societies in your study abroad institution.
  5. Make sure you understand the new academic requirements and grading system.
  6. Don’t be afraid to approach staff for help.
  7. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way – you never know where it might take you!
  8. Take some time out to explore the new country.
  9. Make the most of any industry opportunities made available to you.
  10. Don’t forget to share all the fun you are having with your friends and family back home!

With these 10 tips, you are more prepared than ever to study abroad at universities all over the world, rich with different cultures and experiences that are on offer for YOU. If you have any other tips for prospective study abroad students, or want to share your amazing experiences of being a St Andrews student abroad, then send an email to csaintern@st-andrews.ac.uk and we’ll post your stories to our social media or blog.

Indepedent Learning Week with WaMStAs

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.

First Abroad Experience

Are you a Scottish first year trying to figure out the best way to have a fun spring break on a budget? If so, the perfect opportunity is coming up!

First Abroad is an exciting project done through the Collaborations & Study Abroad Team, where we will offer two Scottish first year undergraduate students, one from Science and one from Arts and Divinity, the opportunity to visit the College of William & Mary in Virginia, USA, to learn about the benefits of study abroad firsthand. The trip is fully funded and a great way to sample a study abroad experience in your sub-Honours years. Both an educational and recreational spring break, it’s the chance to immerse yourself in an international community and enjoy the delights of Colonial Williamsburg, all for free!

If you or someone you know are interested, come to our Info Session on Wednesday October 10 from 2-3 PM at St Katharine’s West. You can find more information on our Facebook page.

We hope to see you there!