I’ve been scanning through the various journalistic offerings of our student population throughout my first two years here. Whilst reading these articles and thinking about entering third year with little-to-no idea of what I want to do when I graduate I have realised two things: 1) there is more going on here than would be possible to get involved in within the four years of my degree, and 2) it isn’t really as intimidating as it looks to try out a lot of those things. With the arrival of Freshers Week, it is good to get some reassurance about how to make the most of this time.
The various fashion shows/balls/American-Golfers-only-in-St-Andrews-style parties (see Spring last year, when a party was thrown by some out of town golfers, attended by thousands, and which ended up with the police being called) can be somewhat intimidating. This isn’t to say attending is a bad idea, rather, go along and keep and open mind about what you might find. I’ve mentioned this to a few friends recently; some can’t wait to get back for the new Semester and some have a measure of apprehension, but what many share is the view that maybe we’re not doing enough of what there is on offer here. St Andrews has created an image of itself. In a small, fairly isolated town on the East Coast of Scotland social media becomes amplified and overshadows reality even more than normal. Student life becomes a self-conscious act of constant striving. Putting six thousand ambitious individuals into a small, rural town leads to some fairly interesting results. Traditions such as Raisin Weekend and May Dip are unique, the buildings are beautiful and this, along with our diverse student population, lends itself to creating a town that photographs really well. Your Freshers Week probably won’t look like this… and that’s okay. You don’t need to be Canada Goose- and Ray Ban-clad to enjoy yourself.
This image is ephemeral and it is easy to sit back and watch it flicker past your eyes whilst sitting on the steps by the library. There is a lot happening in a small space, and that isn’t something to be intimidated by. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the salient features of life in St Andrews; you either love or hate them, or think having an opinion on these things is a waste of your intellectual headspace (an opinion in itself).
But instead of worrying too much about this, my advice to the incoming Fresher is just to focus on you. Don’t be fooled by an image of what your experience is supposed to be like, don’t panic if you hate it at first and want to go home, don’t feel like if you don’t do everything right now you will miss out. And in terms of academics, don’t worry about deciding what you’re going to do for Honours yet. You can enjoy your time here whoever you are, so long as you don’t end up worrying about what you think your time here should look like. Try out things you think you will enjoy and relax. St Andrews is a perfect place to take off your training wheels, and you have four years to do that.
Fresher’s week is a great place to start, and there is pretty much something for everyone to try. Of course, the Union is running various events. If music is your thing, there’s anything from Radio 1 DJ Jameela Jamil to student A cappella performances straight out of the Edinburgh festival to King Charles and The View playing live at Starfields; the charity ball to be thrown by St Andrews’ illustrious Fashion Show. Throughout the week, Music is Love are running music cafes; head to Taste for the best coffee and some chilled acoustic sets. Clan warfare is a fun way to better get to know people from your halls better. But, if the thought of these ‘typical Fresher’ activities send you into a tailspin, don’t panic…
Outside of those events, there is a whole lot more happening as well. Just exploring the town’s ridiculous number of cafes and coffee houses with new people you’ve met is a great way to get to know them and the town. You could also join the SVS (St Andrews Volunteering Service) picnic and find out about volunteering in St Andrews. Volunteering or working part time is a great way to ease the claustrophobia of being constantly surrounded only by the student population, as well as a way to work out what you enjoy doing. Trying out a lot of different things is fine. You don’t have to continue with all of them, and testing the waters is what this time is for. Try out a new sport, or audition for one of the music groups or plays. Submit an article about your Fresher’s week experience to one of the various student run magazines and newspapers.
There is no single way to do the week, just as there is no single way to do your university experience. I won’t tell you how to do Fresher’s week, but I will tell you that you must do it. Get involved in absolutely anything that looks vaguely interesting to you, talk to people and realise that this is your time at University -and it doesn’t matter how it photographs.
Image Credit: Naomi Morrice