WaMStA Life (Blog)

The St Andrews Transition (VIDEO)

Your WaMStA Student Partnership worked hard last semester to create a video on the St Andrews Transition!  Meet three current second year WaMStA’s: Meilan Solly, Emily Asinger, and Graeme Cranston-Cuebas.  They started at W&M in 2014, and they offer opinions on the transition going over to St Andrews.

Check it out here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lukfYk9JeA&feature=youtu.be

It offers student perspectives on many aspects of the transition, including academics, social life, campus, and residence/hall life.  We hope you enjoy!

Special thanks to Lightbox at St Andrews for helping produce this video.

 

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20 Ways You Know You’re a WaMStA

By Elizabeth C.

You’ve read other lists that try to explain what it’s like to study abroad. But none of them can describe your struggle quite right. Because you my friend, are a wamsta.

1. You find your self giving long complicated answers to questions that would normally be very simple, like, “What school do you go to?”

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“It’s called the Joint Degree Programme and its like a study abroad program on steroids….But also kind of not like that at all…”

2. Your wardrobe is a bipolar combination of clothes suited to withstand both the gale-force winds of St Andrews and the swampy summer-heat of Williamsburg.

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3. But somehow you still end up spending some serious quality time in the rain.

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4. You’re always getting texts/Whatsapps/Snapchats in the middle of the night from friends in other time zones.

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5. These messages make you miss your friends from other the school like crazy.tumblr_n37gudihfn1r3z3gbo1_500

6. For this very reason, you hold Skype among the highest and holiest of all technological achievements of the century.

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7. But you know that you also have some really awesome friends at your current campus too.

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8. Every once and a while you get really frustrated trying to log into something, just to realize you’ve been using the other school username/password.

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9. You brag to your W&M friends about never having to take dumb GER requirements.

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10. You complain about having to take breadth requirements.

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Quantitative reasoning what?

11. You have made sad, angry rants about the exchange rate.

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12. You flip back and forth between American/British vocabulary so that your current friends will understand what you’re saying/not make fun of you.

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Banter, am I right?

13. Except sometimes you still don’t get it quite right

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Note to self, never say ‘fanny pack’ in front of British friends.

14. You have strange cravings for food only sold across the pond

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The thirst is real. (Also applicable: Cadbury, Peanut Butter, Chick fil-a, Nandos)

15. After your second year you might have to say goodbye to some fellow Wamstas that have been with you since the start and this is kind of heartbreaking.

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16. But now you have one more person to be really excited to see when you go visit your other school!!!!

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17. Finding the cheapest transatlantic plane ticket has become a science

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18. You’ve had an argument over which day is crazier, Raisin or Blowout.

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19. You’re constantly surrounded by outstanding scenic beauty.

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20. You’ve actually heard the word ‘Wamsta’ before and you know what it stands for.

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When in St Andrews…

By Mariana Paulino


Students can certainly travel a lot while studying at either school. However, as we all know, it is much easier and cheaper to travel within Europe than it is to travel within the US. Visiting different countries and getting to know diverse cultures are two of my favorite things to do, and thankfully, during my time in St Andrews I have had the chance to travel quite a lot!

I am not going to give a list of ways to travel on a budget, best places to visit, or compare cities in Europe. Those things you can find online. Instead, here’s a list of some of my favorite places I’ve been to during my time in St Andrews, along with a description of the things I did and what I liked about each place!

London: It’s only about a 6 hour train ride away. So, if you wake up one day in St Andrews and you are bored or tired of staying in “the bubble” for too long—which, in my experience, can happen quite frequently—you can just catch a train to London for the weekend! There are so many good restaurants of any type of cuisine, different museums and galleries, parks for when it’s a beautiful day, and plays and other events you can attend! No matter what you’re into, when you are in London one thing is for sure: you will never be bored!

France: In my second year, I organized a trip with about 15 friends to celebrate my birthday. We rented a chateau in the countryside of France (we found it through Airbnb, and it was actually relatively cheap per person for the weekend). We rented cars to reach the destination, which also allowed us to visit wineries nearby, large castles, and other places during the day. Although it was an absolutely stunning place, I do believe that it was not the location that made this trip so special, but rather it was the people. I had the best time during this trip because it was so nice to be surrounded by the people I love!

Taiwan: I went to Taiwan during my second year in St Andrews. At the time, I was involved in a research project through Global Pathways, which is a branch of the Institute for the Theory & Practice of International Relations (ITPIR) at William & Mary. This project entailed presenting my final research at the WISC’s Fifth World International Studies Conference, which took place in Taiwan. It would have been an expensive trip, so I applied for WAMStA’s small grants and used it to help subsidize my traveling. While there, when I wasn’t attending the Conference, I walked around by myself, stopping wherever caught my attention. I would observe the locals around me, and follow them into local markets, to random stands on the street selling dumplings, small concept stores… This way, I was able to experience the culture like a local and not a foreigner!

Morocco: I’ve been to Morocco twice while in St Andrews, and it most certainly is one of my favorite destinations. Both times, I stayed for the most part in Marrakech and planned excursions to towns nearby. My favorite experience was riding dromedaries into the desert and spending the night in small camps set up on the desert dunes. At night after they turn all of the lights off, the stars were absolutely stunning. I also loved the Souks in the medina in Marrakech. They are quite overwhelming walking through very small alleys that you have no clue where they lead, and with every imaginable product being sold all over. But they are beautiful to walk through and it can be quite fun and funny to bargain for better prices for whatever you are buying! All in all, my favorite thing about Morocco is that, even though it is a touristy destination, the country clearly still has not lost its intricate culture.

Portugal: I went to Portugal during the summer of 2017, when I was interning in London. I was staying with a friend in a region called Albufeira. One of the days, I rented a car by myself and went beach hopping in a region nearby called Lagos. It was honestly one of the times I have been the happiest in my life. I was walking and driving around, from beach to beach, finding landscapes even more beautiful than the last. Between the ocean and the rocks, and the sound of the waves coming back and forth… It was so peaceful to just sit there for hours and just take in all of the beauty! Right there and then, I found my happy place!

After traveling quite a lot, I do have a couple of general tips to share:

  • Before booking a trip, you need to familiarize yourself with the place you’re traveling to and know if it’s safe for you to go by yourself, with a couple of girlfriends, or if you should have a large group of friends with you.
  • If you have friends from a place you’d like to visit, plan accordingly to visit the country/city with the native friend so that you experience it like a local and not like a foreigner.
  • Although it is cheaper to travel within Europe, you should also keep in mind that it is generally much cheaper to travel to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Oceania from Europe than it is from the United States. So, if there are some more distant destinations that appeal to you, try to go while you’re in St Andrews!

Underrated Spots in St Andrews

By Cameron Bray


The town of St Andrews boasts many obvious attractions to visitors, students, and locals alike. Some are beautiful — St Mary’s College Library, St Salvator’s Chapel, Edgecliffe. Some are not — the Library, the Arts Building, Gannochy. Some are sites of pilgrimage — St Andrews Cathedral, the Pier, Toastie Bar. Some are lonely places, forgotten altogether — Agnes Blackadder Hall, David Russell Apartments, Fife Park. In this blog post, I list the places that I consider underrated in St Andrews. Each unique location makes St Andrews a great place to live, work, and study.

Little Italy: Little Italy is, in my opinion, the finest restaurant in St Andrews, but it’s not widely regarded as such. Most students would choose Forgan’s or the Adamson if they were to pick an upscale restaurant to take their parents, a date, or a posh friend on a dinner reservation. But Little Italy provides better food, better value, and better atmosphere than both of them at once. The menu offers a fantastic array of pastas – all between £10 and £20! Because of its great food, value, and atmosphere, Little Italy has been the place for the past year and a half where I’ll take my first dates, all two or three of them. Ouch! Funny story — I took a girl with celiac disease to Little Italy on a dinner date last year. She didn’t she say she was gluten-free until AFTER we sat down. I was convinced the date was ruined, but the server saved us with a gluten-free pasta made specially by the chef. His wonderful service came to the rescue, and it gave me plenty of chances to ruin the relationship in my own good time through my own sheer stupidity. If you haven’t been to Little Italy yet and made a friend with celiac disease struggle against the menu, I urge you to do so before you leave St Andrews.

Aldi: As a grocery store in a university town, Aldi provides a tremendously better value to St Andrews students than Tesco does. Period. Full stop. Whatever you want to call it. But because it’s located on the outskirts of town, fewer students make the trek to Aldi than they do to Tesco. They’ve fallen into the Tesco trap, fooled by a prime location, a long drinks aisle, and a fast-moving self-checkout area. Smart, money-savvy students, on the other hand, make the trip to Aldi because they know it offers better groceries at a cheaper price. If you’re no longer a first-year and you’re still a Tesco disciple, you need to see the light already and start going to Aldi. You’ll be amazed by how money you’ll save at the end of the month. If you truly want to save money on groceries, the three best things you can do are: (1) Go to Aldi; (2) Bring a list; (3) Avoid going on an empty stomach. Aldi’s an amazing discount grocery store overall, but beware the temptations, fascinations, and attractions of the middle aisle! I went to Aldi to buy milk once last semester, and I almost came home with a £10 rotating spice rack from the middle aisle. Only the intervention of my flatmate Lincoln saved me from buying it.

Lade Braes: Almost every St Andrews student has walked the Fife Coastal Path for fun at some point in their four years of study. Most clubs I know will lead a coastal walk at least once a year. But fewer students have strolled through Lade Braes for fun. Most will only ever walk the path to get from Point A to Point B, never for fun. As someone who walks through Lade Braes often, whenever he feels it on a whim, I would encourage students to walk the path whenever they need need a quiet place to think. The path is never busy, and the natural beauty surrounding Lade Braes is stunning. The trees overshadowing Lade Braes offer a wonderful sense of serenity, embrace, and comfort, while the gentle rushing of the Kinness Burn relaxes the mind. You can feel the ancient beauty in the earth, in the air, and in the water as you walk along the path. The path itself is only about 1.5 miles long, so it can be walked in its entirety in less than an hour, unlike the Fife Coastal Path. Plus, it offers an easy route to Aldi for DRAFP residents if they cross the Kinness Burn and follow Maynard and Broomfaulds.

Northpoint Cafe: Northpoint offers one of the coziest settings in St Andrews for students to eat, talk, and hang out, with only Old Union as a close second. Billed as the place where Kate met Wills for coffee, Northpoint struck me as a cheesy tourist trap when I first saw it. But now I know that my initial impression does such a disservice to Northpoint’s goodness. The cafe offers a wonderful menu of coffee, tea, breakfast and lunch items. And the best part is, it’s affordable for the many St Andrews students who aren’t members of the British royal family! Hooray! If you’re feeling bold — which as a William & Mary student, I often am — the Mexican breakfast burrito contains a homemade hot sauce that is super spicy. It might be the spiciest thing in Scotland. It’s brought me to tears more than once — in front of dates, no less! But I’ve always finished it. Go to Northpoint if you haven’t already. Who knows, you may meet the prince or princess of your dreams there. It all begins with a little cup of coffee. I’ve included Northpoint as the fifth underrated place on my list not because it’s underrated per se — it does a good business among students — but because I underrated it when I first saw it. I spoke blasphemy against it, and now I’ve repented of my sinful ways.

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas…in St Andrews

By Lincoln Hartnett


In a perfect world I would not have a final project due about this time tomorrow, and that same project would not be consuming me. Because in that perfect world, instead of writing the typical blog post that I’m typing right now, I would have done a WaMStA version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Or maybe Auld Lang Syne, titled something clever like Should Old Acquaintance be Forgot, and Brought to Mind Every Other Year or After Two Years if You’re ‘ABBA’—a WaMStA Story. But, alas, the above mentioned project is definitely a reality, and these stories will have to remain unfinished for now. Perhaps posterity (next year’s degree reps) will run with my ideas.

Without further ado, let us turn to a subject that is near to my heart—the Holidays. I’m going to share two ways that I try and make the most of my Holiday season. Hopefully they might even be useful to someone!

  • Thanksgiving: If you are not keen on crossing the Atlantic and back to spend the Thanksgiving week in America—as a degree representative I expressly condone the skipping of class—then find a way to celebrate in or around St Andrews! I was lucky enough to have two Thanksgivings this year. The first was in St Andrews, a big group of us got together for a feast—turkey provided by Sainsburys, they’re the only place you can get one before December 1. My other one was down in the Lake District. There I had an ‘Expat Thanksgiving’ with a friend from home and a group of his friends who were studying abroad across Europe. My advice to anyone reading this is to try and make something happen for Thanksgiving, however big or small the celebration. Thanksgiving away from home can be hard, but hopefully we’re all making a home here, so let’s use it! A Thanksgiving celebration can also be an awesome time to get together with friends, take a quick, much-needed break from work, and remember how much we all have to be thankful for.
  • Holidays Proper: “And everyone on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another on that day than on any day in the year.” Wherever you are, this Dickens sentiment rings true, and St Andrews is no exception. My biggest piece of advice is to enjoy this seasonal spike in kindness and caring, and even share a bit yourself. Pop into a charity shop and get a sweater, wish the cashier a “happy holidays”, heart-warming stuff of this sort. As for European specific things, there are a handful of great Holiday options to choose from. I’ll leave you with two on either end of the accessibility spectrum. Pick up some minced pies from Aldi (or Tesco, I guess) and enjoy a triumph of UK culinary. Alternatively, take a train/plane to Edinburgh/London/Europe to revel in the joy of a Christmas Market. Whichever’s easier!

 

Happy Holidays,

Lincoln

Transitions are Hard: Moving Between Schools

By Meg Miller


I am Meg Miller, a 4th year International Relations student currently at St Andrews and the 2018-2019 degree representative. I started at William & Mary, so I have transitioned to a different school every year of my degree. The difficulty of repeatedly moving between schools over four years has made me more adaptable and resilient, and I have some advice to make these transitions a bit easier:

Have a plan to get involved. As students in the programme, we have to take advantage of our limited time at each university and get involved quickly and purposefully. This involvement looks different for every JDP student—Greek life, theater, club sports, student organizations, and getting to know students in your dorm or hall are great places to start. However, start early! If you wait until January of your freshman year, you will already be preparing to leave while trying to form new connections. 

Get involved academically. I have never regretted seeking out a professor or tutor, and with practice I have grown less intimidated visiting professors in office hours. At William & Mary, discuss research opportunities early with professors during your freshman or sophomore year and maintain these relationships while you are at St Andrews. At either school, speaking with your professors or lecturers can ease the academic transition and ensure you are on the right track for exams and essays.

Advocate for yourself. Explain to your professors and lecturers that you are used to a different academic system. You can get a clearer idea of expectations for assignments as well as making sure your professors know that the grades they assign you may count differently than for other students. For instance, sub-Honours grades at St Andrews convert back to a William & Mary GPA, and Honours grades at William & Mary get converted to determine degree classification. In your sub-Honours modules, you may be the only one of your friends whose grades will actually “count.” These conversions have funny quirks that professors may not be aware of (e.g. an A at William & Mary gets converted, somewhat arbitrarily, to anything from a 16 to a 20). Ask for help when you need it, and your professors and lecturers will appreciate you taking responsibility for yourself.

Use the WaMStA Student Partnership. Advisors, professors, and faculty know about specific elements about the programme. However, the only people to experience the entire programme are the students to pass through it. Consistently, the best source of advice for me about classes, accommodation, and transitions has been older students in the programme—especially, the Peer Advisors and Degree Representatives.

Accept the bad with the good. We are so fortunate to be loved and accepted in both the William & Mary and St Andrews communities. Students in the programme are academic parents, bigs and littles, sports captains, research fellows, and dear friends at each university, but these joys come at a cost. At times, this feeling is simple nostalgia for a time, place, or person you miss; something like homesickness. At times, I see “ghosts”—someone I think I recognize, only to realize that they were actually someone I knew on a different continent. At times, we have to Skype or Facetime into important events, accepting that we cannot be two places at once.

Never think you have it figured out. Students in the JDP have to navigate two academic systems, social groups, sets of traditions, and cultures. For me, the third- and fourth-year transitions were much more difficult than I expected. Honours-level transitions require settling back into what was once home but is now foreign, forming new friendships where old ones have faded, and facing increasing academic and professional stress.

Transitioning between William & Mary and St Andrews comes with exciting highs, frustrating lows, and inevitable confusion. Remember to reach out to your friends, WaMStA Exec Board and Degree Representatives, professors, and other sources of support when things go wrong. Above all, try to immerse yourself fully in the incredible and unique experiences each university has to offer during the two years you spend there.

Essay Writing Differences

By Grace Amato


As deadline season rages on in St. Andrews and midterm week turns into midterm month at William and Mary, students in all years of the Joint Degree Programme find themselves in the same position: staring at a screen and praying there’s enough words somewhere in their brain to hit the word count.

At both schools, the process of writing an essay can start off as daunting with nothing more than a prompt, a deadline, and a word count. Then, slowly but surely, you will hopefully find yourself compiling a list of readings, actually doing the readings, outlining an essay, going to office hours to ask about your essay ideas, editing your essay ideas and then sitting down to write it. Office hours, no matter what school you’re currently at, are truly your best friend and saving grace in these nerve-wracking times. Professors, tutors, other students, and lecturers are almost always willing to have you bounce your ideas off of them and help you think through different ways of tackling a prompt.

The stress of writing essays differs a bit between William & Mary and St. Andrews, though. While I could write my 4,000-word final paper in one night (though I do not at all recommend it) at William & Mary, I find myself posted up in the library for two weeks to write a 5,000-word assignment at St. Andrews.

St. Andrews, in my experience, wants a more expansive knowledge. That is, your tutors expect you to know a bit about all the different weeks of teaching. You’ll want to draw comparisons between different theories, books, and case studies regardless of what topic they fall under in the syllabus. These essays often take longer to write because they require you to do at least one reading each week, and if you’re like me you’ll put the reading off until you’re actually sitting down to write the essay. Additionally, because you only have a few assignments a semester, the graders assume you’re putting a hefty amount of time into the essays and, as a result, expect a higher level of analysis.

William & Mary is equally as challenging but perhaps more helpful to crammers like me. My classes at W&M seemed to prefer I knew a lot about a very specific topic. Professors at W&M understand you’re managing a bunch of, sometimes unrelated, classes at once. They know you might outline an essay and even start it weeks ahead of time, but that the ultimate big push on the essay will probably happen the week before it is due. The readings you include in an assignment will likely be within the same week or two of class, and your lectures will explicitly refer back to the reading you did for class. This makes the actual process of writing pretty easy, but might make it more difficult to gather sources that support your specific thesis.

As with anything in the Joint Degree Programme, the different writing styles take some getting used to but they are nothing that can’t be easily mastered with some preparation and not being afraid to ask questions!

What Exactly is Raisin?

By Thomas Olmsted


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What exactly is Raisin Weekend?

Raisin Weekend is a wonderful, crazy, and unique two days.

To understand raisin weekend, one must first understand academic families.

Academic families are normally made up of a pair of third year students getting “academically married” to form a family unit to help a group of first years find a new home in St. Andrews. The first few weeks of term consist of these newly fledged families going out into the wild to frantically seek children. First years are recruited whenever a third year can get a chance.

However, students can freely pick which type of academic family suits them as there is no formal adoption process, and generally, they find mentors and friends that last all of university.

These academic families exist on a spectrum from those families who simply enjoy hanging out and mentoring their children to those who are more fascinated with exploring the limits of the human liver.

This academic family tradition culminates in a weekend named Raisin Weekend.

Continue reading What Exactly is Raisin?

Senior Reflection- Meilan Solly

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Fife Coastal Path, photo taken by Meilan Solly

When you’re a student in the William & Mary/St Andrews Joint Degree Programme, senior year can seem more like a false start (a word which here means “an unsuccessful attempt to begin something”) than a victory lap. It’s hard to feel completely at home in a place you last knew as a bright-eyed 18-year-old, especially when both you and the school have changed dramatically in your absence.

 

In many ways, the final JDP transition is much like the first. Both involve leaving a school you’ve grown to love for the uncertainty of a new (or old but still vaguely enigmatic) one. Both are difficult for a bevy of social, academic, and personal reasons. The difference, however, is that second year often serves as a do-over of freshman year, while fourth year is decidedly more ambiguous.

 

Last September, I wrote a Flat Hat editorial detailing the odd experience of coming back to William & Mary: “Instead of starting over, I was returning to an old school, or as I told a friend during more cynical moments, attempting to fit back into a life I’d created two years ago. In actuality, senior year has been eerily similar to sophomore year. I miss the friends and places I’ve left behind and feel somewhat lost in my new reality. Every day is a disconcerting mix of deja vu and the unfamiliar.”

 

This unease has dissipated over the year, and most of the time, senior year feels like a natural extension of freshman year. The Lodges and Millington are gone, but the bricks are just as treacherous, the TWAMPs just as caffeinated and overworked. Still, there are moments when I walk around campus disoriented by the realization that I don’t recognize a single person, days when I’m preoccupied by endless “what if” scenarios centered on what my life would’ve looked like if I’d stayed at St Andrews.

 

I used to tell myself not to compare William & Mary and St Andrews, as comparisons inevitably elevate one school over the other. Instead, I tried to focus on the relative strengths of both schools. This year, though, I found it impossible to avoid comparisons. I loved St Andrews, and after two years there, I wasn’t ready to uproot my life and start over again. I’d loved William & Mary my freshman year, but I knew that it wouldn’t be the same place I remembered.

 

As my college career draws to a close, I’ve realized that comparing the schools isn’t necessarily the heinous, self-destructive act I made it out to be. Just as it’s natural, and to some extent inevitable, to feel more attached to one school than the other, it’s natural to draw comparisons between such fundamental parts of your life. If anything, comparing the schools has made me appreciate the Programme more than I already did. Without William & Mary, I never would’ve experienced St Andrews, and without the Programme, I never would’ve experienced the alternatively exhilarating or frustrating but always challenging task of building two distinct lives on either side of the Atlantic. Here’s to four years of tripping on bricks, spending an ungodly number of hours in student newspaper offices, and adventuring with some of the best people I’ve ever known.