Monday, April 23, 2012

More pictures for you to enjoy: from the New Hall Ball (held in the Old Course Hotel and the St. Andrews Aquarium) and the Ceilidh in the Castle (a traditional Scottish dance held in the ruins of St. Andrews medieval castle).

Monday, April 16, 2012

This past Saturday, while I was standing outside watching a parade, it managed to go from being sunny to raining to hailing to sunny again––all within 10 minutes. It was the type of Scottish weather everyone warns you about: cold, unpredictable, and always involving some form of precipitation. What's really interesting, though, is that the buildings look much better in this sort of weather. A couple people told me that before I left, and since being here I've heard it again. It sounds kind of crazy––that cold, rainy days brings out the best in a town––but it's true. The stone buildings look all the more ancient and awe-inspiring with a grey sky in the background.

Luckily, though, the weather was beautiful during spring break. Austin, Becky, and I managed to navigate the streets of London, mostly thanks to Austin and a tourist map. We saw all of the big sights: Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye. London is one BUSY city. I don't know that I've ever been around so many people (except maybe at the 2008 presidential inauguration). The crazy thing was that it was barely even tourist season––it was only April! And the city was already packed! Any of you planning on going to the 2012 Olympics––be warned, the London streets don't accommodate loads of people very well.

After London, Becky left to join another friend in Italy, and Austin and I headed to Canterbury, home of the first church in England. We toured the charming, little city and went to the Palm Sunday service at Canterbury Cathedral. The cathedral is MASSIVE and is full of such incredible history.

But our next stop, Oxford, was my favorite. If there is ever a place to go to understand what a college campus should look like, it's Oxford. The chapels, dining halls, and quads make you want to spend the rest of your life studying, drinking tea, and writing novels.

I've uploaded some pictures of the adventure here!

So long for now.

p.s. Happy birthday Mom!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Here are some new pictures from my hike to Crail with Austin, Rosie, and Greg! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

According to my mom, it's been a long time since I posted something on here. Sorry about that, it's become busy in St. Andrews, and I'm starting to forget that I'm in a different country. St. Andrews really feels a lot like home, not in the sense that I'm as comfortable here as I am in PA, but in the sense that, in a lot of ways, it feels like an American university. At least a third of the students are international, with a great deal of them coming from the States. This has made assimilating fairly easy, mostly because I don't stick out because of my accent or various cultural preferences. Also, a lot of my friends are Americans from the East Coast, save a couple of Scottish students.

However, there are a lot of ways that a UK education differs from an American one. The main difference is that, as an arts student, I spend a lot less time in class--only four times a week, for a total of six hours. Compared to my usual Eastern schedule of three classes per day, it feels like a vacation and that certainly has its pros and cons. It's been great because I've been able to travel quite a bit so far. I've made it to the highlands, Edinburgh, and the beautiful small town of Crail. (See pictures here, Mom). I've also had a lot of time to hang out with friends and be in town. A few of us have found a favorite local pub with quirky board games and spend our time winning McIntosh Hall pub quizzes (which are huge in the UK). On top of that, we cook dinners together and support our friends' local football team.

This week, Austin's brother, Greg, is coming to vist for a few days and then, in two weeks, our friend Becky will be visiting. Becky is coming to London with us for the beginning of our spring break, and then when she flies back to Munich, we'll be heading off to Oxford to daydream about medieval university life. (Speaking of which, when St. Andrews first opened, all of the lectures were in Latin and students were required to wear their gowns to class and meals. Oh, how I pine for the old days.)

Lastly, perhaps the UK's greatest contribution to western civilization is what is very appetizingly called a digestive biscuit. I hear they sell them in Wegman's, so if you want a taste of what I'm experiencing, pick up a pack. You won't regret it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

According to St. Andrews students, passing exams isn't all that challenging as long as you study (somewhat) regularly and don't drink too much (meaning no more than three or four nights a week). Unless, of course, you step on the "PH"in front of St. Savator's (pictured below). Then you could be in serious trouble.


                                                           St. Salvator's on North Street 

The "PH" stands for Patrick Hamilton, who enrolled as a student at the University in 1524 and later became a very influential member of the Scottish reformation. Charged on 13 accounts of heresy, he was burned at the stake in front of the University's St. Salvator's chapel (where chapel, morning prayer, and evensong are still held every week). The now famous "PH" marks the place of his death and the local superstition is that Hamilton continues to watch over the spot, cursing anyone who steps on it with the terrible fate of failing exams. In order to wash off the curse, students can participate in the May Dip, the annual swim in the freezing cold North Sea at sunset on April 31st. (There are also other, less appropriate options, but I'll leave those out for now.)

I finally got to class this week and, I must admit, it felt great to be back to work. I'm especially excited for my medieval philosophy class, which will focus mainly on St. Thomas Aquinas. My professor gave an incredible introductory lecture on the background and history of medieval philosophy, starting with the ancient Israelites and ending in the 12th Century. He also gave us hand-drawn timelines (which is about as cool as it gets).

Monday, February 6, 2012

So, it's Monday of week 2 at St. Andrews and I still haven't been to class. In fact, I haven't been to class since December 15th of last semester. It's been a long, long break, to say the least, and I'm ready to get back to work. But, it turns out that the Philosophy department doesn't host tutorials during the first week of classes, so when I showed up to my tutorial today the classroom was empty. Alas, I have to wait until Thursday for my Classical Philosophy lecture and until Friday for Medieval.

On the bright side, though, I got to see the inside of the beautiful Philosophy building, Edgecliff, located right on the North Sea:

St. Andrews has been very surprising so far. For one, the university is surprisingly laid-back and hands-off. They don't really tell you much about living or studying here when you arrive. I guess I was expecting an orientation experience more similar to the one I had at Eastern freshman year: an RA to welcome you to the building and show you around, instructions about where the kitchen is or even how to get into your kitchen, a heads-up about classes (or lack thereof), etc.. They sort of expect you to figure it out on your own. In some sense, this is nice––being treated like an adult goes a long way. However, in a new place with lots of new people you don't know (and sometimes can't understand) it's been challenging and sometimes frustrating. But, I'm learning. I'm told this is part of the Study Abroad experience––getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing a new place. I don't know if I'm sold on that kind of thinking yet, but we'll see.

I've had some moments of comfort, though. Austin and I met a couple at church who invited us over for a wonderful dinner and they've asked me to help babysit for a women's book study at St. Mary's. Kids are always refreshing to hang out with––I'm pretty sure they're always fun, no matter where they're from. I've also met some really nice American and British students. Some of my hall-mates took me to a very sketchy night club, the only one in St. Andrews (they say it's an experience you have to have just once––let's hope!).

I also have plans to attend a concert this week in Edinburgh and to see As You Like It performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, so things are looking up.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It turns out that The Colbert Report is unavailable on WiFi in the U.K.. I'm a little worried about how I'm going to keep up with U.S. news (and, most importantly, how I'm going to follow how ridiculous the Republican primaries are). However, with all of the beautiful houses, forests, museums, and shops in St. Andrews, I suppose I'll find other ways to fill my time: