I have been here a month, and St Andrews seems to have left me without words; I am not sure if that is because it is an indescribably amazing place, or because I have written so many essays in the past few weeks that my vocabulary is just too tired! Well, it is probably a bit of both, but now with some pictures to help portray the place I will see if I can find some words too.
Living and studying here is, as one would expect, very different from living and studying in the U.S., yet there are also times when I completely forget I am in Britain until I see someone strolling down Market Street in a kilt or hear someone pronounce the ‘h’ in ‘herb’ (there will definitely be a British vs. American English post in the future! The differences are quite bizarre at times). Last year, after about 2 months of settling in at William and Mary, I started this blog and began sharing my college adventures and observations. Now, after a month of settling in here, the rhythms of St Andrews have become more familiar—but no less fascinating—and I am thrilled to begin writing about my experience and all of the differences between American and British academic life, culture, and, of course, food. This is only the beginning of what promises to be another year as memorable as the last!
The town of St Andrews has several faces, because, in a way, it has worn several hats in its long history. Everyday, I walk north along the south-east coast, East Sands, to get to the town center. The path runs along the seaside, through the small fishing harbor, up to the ruins of what was once Scotland’s largest cathedral, and into the town. In town, residences and quirky shops sit adjacent the lectures halls and offices of the university. If you were to continue along, you could pass the ruins of the castle and the hallowed green of the Old Course. Walking the path is a bit like walking the line of St Andrews’ history: first came a fishing settlement, then the Church, next the town and university, and golf was first played here around the time of the university’s founding in the early 15th century.
According to legend, St Regulus, a 4th century monk, was entrusted with the care of St Andrews’ bones by an angel. In his travels, he was either shipwrecked or divinely directed to land at the site of the town and build a church to house the saint’s relics. Not a bad beach to end up on, if I say so myself.
Further north, a fishy scent hovers over the harbor. Seagulls, piles of lobster traps (at least I think that is what they trap), and many, many people walking dogs can always be found here.
Above the harbor, after clambering up some steps, one finds the the ancient foundation of St Mary’s on the Rock, a medieval chapel in the shadow of the cathedral which may have been the home of the relics of St Andrew. From here, the view is phenomenal, but the wind can be particularly bad.
Next, the cathedral. The cathedral was the center of it all, and today the layout of the town still reflects that as all of the main streets converge at its gates. In the middle ages, St Andrews was the seat of the Catholic Church in Scotland and a major pilgrimage site. The town grew up around the cathedral. Because of the concentration of learned monks, it quickly became a scholastic center as well, and in 1413 the University of St Andrews was founded as Scotland’s first university. Nowadays, the university remains, but the Protestant Reformation brought the destruction of the cathedral and other Catholic Church structures. Though they have a Romantic beauty, the ruins are a somber reminder to pray for religious toleration.
The three main streets of the town—South, Market, and North—are lined with shops, cafes, pubs, and academic buildings. I sometimes think the cafes just materialize from nowhere, because every week I pass one or two I have never seen before; there are so many!
My walk took me as far was St Salvator’s Quad, the most iconic grouping of academic buildings in town. Next weekend, it will be covered in shaving cream for the traditional Raisin Weekend foam fight (I bet the grounds-people love dealing with that). More about that next week: I am sure it will be something to see.
After this coming week, we have no class during Independent Learning Week (that seems to be a code for ‘fall break’ intended to encourage students to keep with their readings), so I anticipate writing more then! Until then, thanks for reading, and God bless!