Tips (Part 2) the social
Now that I’ve gone over the more logistical, this post will be more about the experience of studying at St. Andrews, and what I’ve noticed.
Judging by the various social experiences of my IFSA friends, I would highly recommend you take more care in ranking your accommodations than I did. When IFSA sent me the list of accommodation preferences I didn’t really know how to choose so I just judged by the photos and chose mine. So here is some more information to help you choose your housing. The possible halls are David Russell Apartments/Fife Park, John Burnet, St. Regulus, St Salvator’s, Agnes Blackadder, University Hall, McIntosh, Andrew Melville, and Albany Park. And each hall has different catered/self catered specifications. I don’t know about all the different halls, but I will comment on what I know.
So I ended up in the David Russell Apartments (DRA), these are probably the nicest dorms on campus. Each building has 12 ‘flats’ and each flat has 5 rooms and 1 kitchen. The rooms are mostly single rooms with double beds and its own bathroom. It’s so luxurious for student housing, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back to Amherst! It seems very environmentally friendly, though I don’t know the particular design, the heating comes from the floors, and lights turn off by a key card when you leave the room. Now for the trade-offs– as DRA is the largest and newest dorms, it is quite isolated from the rest of the University. It’s a 20-30 minute walk to town, where society events are, supermarkets, stores, and if you’re taking humanities it’s where all your classes are. The flats are set up pretty isolated, and you really only get to see the people in your flat. There is no real sense of DRA community, and the events held by the hall are poorly attended.
The other smaller dorms, St Salvator’s and St Regulus in particular seem much more cohesive and close. They are older dorms but they are in the center of town, which makes it easy to roll out of bed in the morning or go back late at night. Of course the dynamics of the halls change each semester, so I wouldn’t be surprised if my experience was specific to this semester only. I was able to become great friends with my flatmates, and I really enjoyed the privacy and delights of having a full kitchen — but if I knew what I know now I would have chosen a different hall.
Also, I don’t know any exchange students that found their own accommodation, but if that appeals to you, here is the facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/184199298288322/?pnref=lhc
Finding a community
I think the best way to meet people outside of your housing, is through societies and sports. During orientation freshers week there are numerous chances to sign up and meet with the societies you are interested in. It’s a friendly environment as new students are there is searching for a group they share commonalities with, and upperclassmen are looking to welcome new members.
Established into the St. Andrews way of life are the traditions. If you’re studying there in the fall, be sure to find an academic family and participate in Raisin weekend. Other than these avenues, just get out and go to events, there are so many chance encounters I’ve had that have turned into interesting conversation and wonderful friendships.
Whether you’re worried about the differences between the US and the UK or you assume everything will be the same — I’d say the reality is somewhere in between. Even though there are many similarities in language and culture, that sometimes masks the differences and makes them even harder to spot. It’s difficult to generalize what the culture of the UK is, and how St. Andrews fits within that. There are so many americans and international students at St. Andrews that its hard to tell what is a typical interaction. But don’t worry, people will understand what you’re talking about, and they’ve seen enough of american on TV and in real life. I’d say just be mindful and respectful of they way things are, but otherwise be yourself and adapt as needed.