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.