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General Advice

For Anyone Who Isn’t So Sure…

Shannon Callahan

It’s time to talk about it: this programme is hard. Harder than I ever thought it would be when I applied as a high school senior. But it is also incredibly rewarding. So if you’re more than ready for the experience, feel free to skip this post. If you’re having your doubts, please keep reading.

Initially, I struggled with choosing to participate in this programme. It was very new, unusual, and I wasn’t sure how I’d go about explaining my decision to friends and family. I think I decided around 11 pm on April 30th – in other words, at the last moment. But all of my concerns went out the window my first day on William and Mary’s campus – I absolutely loved it (I still do) and I credit this programme with leading me to a place that I truly belong.

Leaving William and Mary was one of the hardest experiences of my life, and the adjustment to St. Andrews did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. I struggled with making new friends and adjusting to a different lifestyle, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing my first year was at William and Mary. I was out of my element, socially and academically. I stuck close to other programme students, kept my head down in tutorials, and spent too much time watching Netflix.

But I am so glad that I went to St. Andrews. I learned a lot about myself, and I definitely improved in my ability to deal with change and to become accustomed to a new environment. I joined DanceSoc, and I gathered my courage to run for a position on the Committee. I organized DanceSoc’s first ever Christmas Showcase, and left instructions for the next coordinator – when I found out that they performed the Showcase again this year, I felt like I had left my mark. I found my niche in St. Andrews, even though it took a while, and by the end of the year surprised myself with the list of things I was going to miss upon returning to W&M this year.

The programme offered me some amazing opportunities. I choreographed a dance piece for On The Rocks – the largest student-run arts festival in Scotland. A friend of mine from William and Mary composed the music for my piece, and William and Mary flew him to Scotland for the performances! It was a surreal experience for both of us, and would not have been possible without this programme. Who would have thought that two Americans could create a piece of art on two separate continents, and share the premiere in Scotland? This programme is special because each school I have attended felt like ‘mine.’ I could contribute to as well as receive resources from both institutions.

Everyone involved in this programme helped me immensely in St. Andrews. From becoming closer to students in my own cohort, to getting to know those in other years, to open communication from Dr. Jones, to prompt email responses and incredible consideration from Professor Kennedy and Professor Wheatley at WM, the programme lent invaluable support to me throughout the year, even when I was at my most conflicted about whether or not it was right for me. The open communication and understanding from everyone is key to making a programme like this work. We are most often described as unique – sometimes even “very unique” or “really unique,” which kills me as an English major but still rings true. We are a community because no one has ever been through what we are going through. We can learn and build and shape this programme together, and our agency in our educations is pretty amazing.

So jump into it! Meet as many people as you can. Go to any event that sounds even remotely interesting. Join a society or two, run for a position even if you think you’re just the new kid, travel when you have the time, and above all ask for help when you need it.

I learned how to live on my own in another country. I learned what to do if you’re stuck in a train station in France, where to find the best chocolate cake in Glasgow, and which train will get you to Edinburgh the fastest. I made friends that know me better than anyone else, friends that I will never lose. Truthfully, I spent most of my year at St. Andrews convinced that I would be returning to WM for good this fall. However, I’m still in the programme – and no one is more surprised than I am. Both St. Andrews and William and Mary are close to my heart, and I think I have a home in each place. I am so glad that I was able to attend both schools and have too such different, but equally valuable, experiences. The programme has given me the confidence I need as I think about entering the ‘real world.’ It’s hard, but I promise, it will teach you so much if you let it. And in the end, I have to say that it’s worth it.

 

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Discussion

One thought on “For Anyone Who Isn’t So Sure…

  1. A really well written and touching article. I totally understand you! 🙂 I learned a lot from this article! Thanks!

    — Zhuorui

    Like

    Posted by Zhuorui Fu | March 24, 2015, 2:21 pm

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