Fall 2017: A Semester Reflection

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! After a fantastic semester, it is great to be home for the holiday season! Many people are surprised to hear that Ohio is actually significantly colder and snowier than St Andrews. The combination of the mild but blustery climate of St Andrews and the balmy yet drizzly winters of Williamsburg leaves me dreadfully unprepared to face any real winter weather, like the snow which has accumulated in drifts of almost four inches outside my window (a meagre snowfall by Ohioan standards, but my standard of substantial snowfall has changed drastically in the past three years). I guess that is just another good excuse to spend most of my annual Christmas break nestled inside spending time with my family and sipping tea!

You might expect the college experience even the ‘unconventional’ one which this blog relates to reach a sort of steady, even a dull pace in its middle years, a forward but not dramatic progression toward its end, graduation. To some degree, this is true: after a year of college or a year settling into any new place things do seem to calm down until you begin looking ahead to the next move. Routines are set, the constancy of friendships fills days with unfailing laughter and fellowship, and you feel that you have officially mastered the art of studenting, a completely made up word which here means being and acting like a college student.

Just then, after the end of your second year or part way through your third, an unpleasant and unshakeable awareness of the approaching conclusion to this great adventure creeps up behind your chair while you sit poring over your medieval poetry readings—or what have you—and you know that if your blog about the college experience is really to be an authentic account, you will eventually have to write about this feeling of mid-college crisis, even if you do put it off for a good long while beforehand. And so, here we are.

Now, with three unforgettable semesters in St Andrews behind me, it is bittersweet but more bitter than sweet to admit that I only have one more to go! I guess my New Year’s resolution is to not let this fact or the fact that after that semester I have only one more year of study in the Joint Degree Programme dampen my spirits. If this programme teaches its participants anything it is how to cope with changes, and as amazing as the past two and half years have been in spite of changes and challenges I have faith that nothing can prevent the next one and a half from being equally amazing!

After all of this serious reflection, how about a quick jaunt through some of the best bits of the last semester?

Academic Family

Academic families are one of St Andrews’ most beloved traditions. Each fall, third-year students ‘adopt’ first-year students—first-year in this case also applies to study-abroad students and students beginning their graduate studies. Traditionally, academic parents served as mentors for their sons and daughters to help them adjust to university life and learn their way around town. Today, academic families are usually more like close friend groups than academic mentorships. Since I am a third-year student, I had the joy of adopting an academic son and an academic daughter, both of whom are older than me, ironically enough! Joined by my academic parents and siblings, our little family had a lot of fun this semester.

The most exciting time for every academic family is the infamous Raisin Weekend. This tradition is the main reason for St Andrews’ reputation for wild parties, and I wrote all about it in this post last year. Our academic family had a much tamer Raisin Weekend than most, but we certainly enjoyed playing goofy party games and sipping tea and hot chocolate! Throughout the semester, we spent plenty of quality family time golfing on the putting course, playing table-tennis, and accomplishing the monumental feat of eating a whole twelve scoop sundae from St Andrews’ beloved Jannetta’s gelato shop. I could not have asked for a better academic family!

A schedule like none before

This semester for the first time ever all of my classes were in the English department, in the very same room in fact. As a third-year, I entered honours level courses which in the Scottish system are courses specific to the subject area of your degree. Essentially, you can only take English honours courses if you are earning an English degree, so naturally I took English courses. I had only two classes this semester but each had a substantial amount of coursework and reading. For the past four months I have been studying Apocalyptic literature in Old English and the development of the novel as a genre. Both classes were amazing, but Apocalyptic literature was especially fascinating. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I knew that the course would probably involve a lot of medieval theology, which it did, but also some very dark depictions of the end of time, which it did. Dedicating a full semester to just literature courses was a bit odd, but in the end it helped confirm that English was certainly the right degree for me!

The Committee

The greatest part of my time that is not dedicated to coursework is spent with the university Catholic Society (a.k.a. CathSoc). At the end of last year, I was honoured to be elected to the CathSoc committee as an ‘ordinary member’, or as my fellow ordinary member and I like to say, an ‘extraordinary member’. It has been an incredible blessing to be able to give back to CathSoc by helping plan and run events in our dear Canmore chaplaincy, and I can’t wait for more good times in the coming semester!

The perfect apartment

Our flat came with a vast selection of items left behind by previous occupants, including a record player of all things!

Last spring, one of my friends and I spent a terribly stressful two or three months wading through the murky bog of flat-rental and roommate selection. In the end, we found the perfect flat and the perfect third flatmate! We were lucky enough—goodness knows how—to get a cosy apartment near the centre of town with good heating and charming views from the windows too.

Thanksgiving

Last year, a group of us Americans and non-Americans alike had a blast preparing a Thanksgiving feast for one of our weekly chaplaincy dinners, and this year we did it again! Even though it is difficult to be away from home for holidays like Thanksgiving, cooking and celebrating with friends is just as delightful. Over the course of the weekend, we filled Canmore with the aroma of three roasted turkeys, mashed potatoes, stuffing, succotash, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and untraditional but surprisingly yummy pumpkin pie ice cream bars.

Retreat

In November, my academic mum and I braved the perpetual rains of Scotland’s northern climate to attend a retreat with the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in the small town of Elgin. This weekend of prayer and peace with the sisters and about a dozen other young women in the pretty Greyfriars Convent was a perfect mid-semester break!

Soccer Superstars

Finally, this semester witnessed the heroic journey of a team of optimistic athletes from hopeless underdogs to underdogs with a few bruises, a few points, and a lot of laughs. A group of us CathSoc ladies decided to form our own soccer team and enter an intramural league through the university sports centre. We hadn’t considered, however, that we would actually be the only females in the whole league! We eventually recruited a few guys to help us more evenly match the teams of towering men we played each week. Our team may have finished in last place, but I dare say we had more fun than any other team in the league joking around but still trying our best.

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