Katie Smith reflects on what it is like to return to the bubble after a year abroad.

This series started, “Going from St Andrews to Paris was a bit weird, to say the least.” Well, scrap that – returning to St Andrews after a year abroad is about as weird as it gets. I’m no longer that cute little Erasmus girl, and I’ve swapped beautiful, romantic, for-God’s-sake-do-pay-attention-when-crossing-the-road Paris for one more year of roaming the four (or is it five?) streets of our little town. My days of window-shopping and feeling like a Parisian Holly Golightly on the Champs-Elysées have been replaced by the endless quest to save up enough money to buy a pair of Hunters, and instead of the Opéra Bastille I’m having to learn to make do with The Picture House.

It’s still wonderful though; and I’m sure any other returning year-abroader would agree with me that a year of studying in another country gives you a much-needed dose of perspective about coming back to the bubble. We dread coming back a little bit, because we’re convinced that nothing can ever better the Erasmus experience – but once we ARE back, reunited with beloved friends and marvelling over the new décor in the Vic (it’s COOL now!), we realise that our mentality was wrong all along. Rather than pitting Paris and St Andrews against each other, I’ve started trying to see the two experiences as complementary – and returning to St A’s after a considerable absence reminded me all of a sudden why I chose to come here in the first place.

Yes, it’s tiny and sometimes (dare I say it?) boring; yes, it rains sans arrêt; and I know, it’s depressing beyond belief that the Lizard is as good as our nightlife gets – but look around you. This town is magical. Go and gaze over the infinite sea, or meander through the shade of the Lade Braes; drink coffee from a flask on the pier, or hear your voice echo in St Salvator’s quad; and, best of all, watch surreptitiously as every student along North Street, without fail, voluntarily steps into traffic to avoid the dreaded PH. I mean, is there any other place in the world that can compare to this?

My year abroad was so amazing on so many levels – I’ve experienced another culture, I’ve learnt another language, and I have more wonderful new friends than I can count scattered all over the continent – but, most importantly, it made me realise that I am so unbelievably lucky to have two such beautiful places that I can call home. St Andrews, you weird little place – it’s good to be back.


Katie Smith

Image by Katie Smith