Crossing the Atlantic: Preparing for Year Two

WaMStAs are known for being planners. From travel plans to academic plans, we like to be prepared. Hear from two of our rising sophomores heading to St. Andrews about their plans for the summer and for next year.


I’m a remote intern with the Mediation team of Swisspeace, a practice-oriented peace research institute based in Bern, Switzerland. They have me working on an exercise handbook on Gender and Mediation, which I just spent three days editing in person with my mentor in DC. I am also waitressing part-time to (hopefully) be able to fund some European travels next year. Other than that, I’ve just been spending time with my family, since I know I won’t be able to visit home as often as I did freshman year.


Like most typically busy William & Mary students, my summer has been defined by non-stop activity. I began the break with a two-week visit to the west coast and started a summer internship the day after my return. In between writing articles, attending editorial meetings, and honing my online media skills at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington, D.C., I’ve visited New York, Richmond, Charlottesville, and Williamsburg. Once my internship ends in early August, I’ll be spending a week in Puerto Rico before returning to northern Virginia to finish preparations for the move to Scotland.

One thing that unifies all WaMStA students is the arduous and confusing Visa Application process.


From the start of my online application through sending my passport to the British Consulate, the process has taken me less than a month. However, there are so many components to the application that it is at times frustrating, and there is so much riding on filling out the form right and going about everything correctly that it can be a bit of an anxiety-ridden process. But St. Andrews has been incredibly informative and quick in responding to any questions I had about my visa application, which has helped a great deal.


One of the most surprisingly stressful parts of my summer has been the visa application process. While most of the WaMStAs in my year were concerned about the timeline of the process, I don’t think the majority of us realized how confusing the actual application form would be. There are a multitude of questions, particularly those in the financial information section, that I wouldn’t have known how to answer without the help of our WaMStA group message.

My advice to anyone going through the visa process is to find a step-by-step guide through the application, like this one from Oxford, or to reach out to peers and the international advising staff at St Andrews. Another word of caution for the visa process: It’s expensive. In addition to the application fee, you need to pay for the U.K. immigration health surcharge, shipping labels, a passport photo, and more. Costs will run upwards of $1,000.

Getting ready for the move can be daunting.


Banking, phones and packing are my other three main preparations: deciding with my parents how to best transfer money from my home account to pounds and possibly also to a European bank account, how to best upgrade my phone and have it working in Scotland, and exactly how to squish my wardrobe into international weight-regulated luggage.


In order to prepare for St Andrews, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I’ll fit my entire life into two suitcases. Thanks to my mom’s purchase of vacuum-sealed storage bags, I think I’ll be able to pack most of my wardrobe, but unfortunately I don’t see how I’ll be able to transport all fifty of my favorite books.

In all seriousness, though, moving to a different country involves about as much research and preparation as you would expect. I’m still looking into my options for the most important aspects of the move (phone service, bank, medical issues, etc.), but I’m also trying to consider some of the less-discussed elements of living abroad: How am I going to deal with only seven hours of daylight once we hit December? Do I pay for everything with cash, or do I use an American (or British) credit card? We’ve all heard the “breadth versus depth” speech, but what is that actually going to mean once we reach our first papers and exams?

I don’t have the answers to most of these questions, but I’m optimistic that I’ll figure them out in the just under two months left before my fellow WaMSta’s and I move halfway across the world.

We encourage other WaMStAs who have questions or advice about the second year transition to comment below! We hope everyone enjoys the rest of the summer!

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Meilan Solly is a rising second year majoring in English from Northern Virginia.

Follow her on twitter.

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Anna-Leigh Ong is a rising second year majoring in International Relations from New York City.


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