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.

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!

BA (International Honours) Intern

Hello! I’m Alyssa Skvarla, and I will be your BA (International Honours) Intern for 2018-2019. I’m a third year studying English through the programme. Typical of any English student, you are likely to find me reading across campus, though less for leisure than I’d like.

I have found myself quite displaced from sunny SoCal, first by going to the lovely swamp known as William and Mary, and then to the wind and rain that makes St Andrews the lush town it is. These literal changes in enviroments have been delightful (genuinely), as have the other changes, such as the different academic styles of the universities and their varying student cultures.

This is my second year at St Andrews, but William and Mary is my home university. While I have been away for a while, I still fondly recall my late night coffees at Swemromas, afternoons spent tanning on the Sunken Gardens, and the endless flights of stairs to get to the top of Morton. Now I’ve traded brick for cobblestone, but continue to trip on speedy walks to class due to some form of haphazard stones. At St Andrews, I quickly found another home through the means of Raisin, halls, and the mutual exhaustion of deadlines that brings people together.

Both universities offer unique experiences that are only found through this programme. No matter where you come from, you are going somewhere new and exciting. While the explorative nature of the programme is incredible, it can be difficult hopping between different countries, universities, and academic and student cultures. As the BA (International Honours) Intern, I’m here to resolve any issues that may arise from these changes, alongside the rest of the CSA team. For me, the programme has been a great experience unparalleled by any other pair of universities, and I want every other student in the programme to enjoy their time here at St Andrews.

If you ever need to contact me, you can do so by email or by messaging me on Facebook.