Today, my tour of Scottish universities, having previously covered Glasgow and Edinburgh, was rounded off with a look at the University of St. Andrews. Having fallen in love with Edinburgh and its university, I almost felt like a fraud being shown around St. Andrews, and then having a personal discussion with a representative from the university over aspects of studying there. St. Andrews has a reputation of snobbery, of privilege – Prince William, for instance – and of existing in a state of Splendid Isolation, so I was curious how far these perceptions would be challenged by reality, and whether I could be tempted away from Edinburgh.
On the whole, the visit failed in its intentions. Upon first arriving at the town of St. Andrews, despite the picturesque scenery of green fields and massive rivers – which are mostly alien to me – it became clear that this is not somewhere I would thrive in. The streets, quiet and plain (possibly due to students, a third of the town’s population, being on Easter break) are eerily similar to those you might find in the town of Lerwick in Shetland, where I live – the sort of streets I would really like a change from. By no means is St. Andrews dislikeable town with its coastal and historic beauty, but having just arrived from Edinburgh it really does lack in areas such as research opportunities, literary and political activity, the diversity you could only find in a city, etc. And I would imagine the view of endless golf courses might become tiring and claustrophobic after four years.
The university itself seems alright, though the tour had a large focus on its frankly bizarre traditions, which includes parading across the pier in red cloaks, being adopted into student ‘families’, and having massive shaving foam fights in the centre of the university. These crazy traditions may be endearing to some, but I personally would probably sit in my dormitory and read until it’s over. St. Andrews seems to exemplify your typical rural but vibrant town, your ancient settlement with queer traditions. I suspect me real reason of disliking it is the large similarities it holds with Shetland; the break is simply not clean enough between the quiet life of my childhood and the life of what I hope will become a prolific future.
This trip has been highly interested. Glasgow proved better than expected and St. Andrews worse but Edinburgh, as expected, looks set to be my second home for the next four years.