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:

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.



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?”


“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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


10. You complain about having to take breadth requirements.


Quantitative reasoning what?

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


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.


Banter, am I right?

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


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

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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


“Conventional Rules” of Academic Writing- 2nd Year Frustrations

A few weeks ago, I received my first COLL150 essay back. This freshman writing seminar is about Literature and World War II, with 75% of my grade riding on three 6-page essays. Along with our essays, the professor handed out a sheet of generic comments about the essays. At the very top- “remember that writing a formal essay is like a game. There are conventional rules. You develop skill through practice.”

As someone who has been writing formal, academic essays for a year now, I couldn’t help but laugh at this. It’s true- there are conventional rules. And you do learn these rules through practice. I laughed because, well, when you go to two different schools, the conventional rules are going to be completely different.

At St Andrews, I loved writing formal essays for my International Relations modules. Maybe it was the fact that we only had two a semester, or that they were anonymized, or that the rubrics were published for us to see what we would be graded on, or the fact that we could choose from a set of questions to answer. I loved checking 7-9 books out of the library, heading to a café and doing research, and eventually forcing myself back to the library to actually write the paper.

At William & Mary, I quickly learned that this was not the case. While I still get my books from the library and sit down with coffee to do initial research, a lot is different about the process and grading. Instead of having one module and one tutor to write an essay for, I suddenly found myself with essays in 5 different classes, all with a different professor. The “conventional rules” of formal academic writing not only change between the two institutions, but between professors themselves.

The first essay I had to write at William & Mary was for my Russian Literature class; a simple, 3-page essay on whatever we wanted. This was absolutely daunting- anything I wanted? 3-pages? How many words was that? The professor stressed that we should use at least two secondary sources- at LEAST two? St Andrews always wanted us to use more.

I ended up doing fairly well on the essay, despite the fact that my margins were still on St Andrews’ standards and realizing too late that those were very different than MLA format.

Even in my International Relations course here at William & Mary, for our first paper our professor said we didn’t need to use any secondary sources if we didn’t want. What??

I tried to transpose the conventional rules of writing from St Andrews to William & Mary, and while my essays have still been fairly stellar this semester, I’ve realized that the Scottish conventional rules are different. I am discouraged from structuring my opening paragraphs with “This Essay shall…”; I am told not to outline the whole essay in the first paragraph, for fear of giving too much away to the reader. My COLL150 professor told us once that he looked at “essays as storytelling”- what does this mean?

So I was stuck for the first part of this semester. Do I tailor my essays to each individual professor? Do I throw all of St Andrews’ writing rules and styles out the window? Do I not cite everything? Am I using too many secondary sources? Are my margins still too big? Am I writing this TOO formally?

When people ask me what my favorite school is- I always insist that you can’t really compare the two. People want me to answer: “Oh, William & Mary is just so beautiful this time of year!” or “Oh, the food at William & Mary is so much better!” or “Oh, the people at William & Mary are so much nicer!” But that’s not what I’ve found myself comparing this semester.

While I love the freedom to choose what I write about in most of my classes at William & Mary, I miss the structure of St Andrews. I miss the published rubric, showing that the grading would be less arbitrary than it seems at William & Mary. I miss the set, 2000 word maximum, and 10% leeway. I miss only having to write two essays a semester, but also love writing multiple in every class I have here.

Attending two different universities means that there are two sets of “conventional rules” for academic writing that Joint Degree Students have to know. After leaving that COLL150 class, I’ll admit I was a little angry. I had done my best- I wrote how I was taught. But I’ve come to realize that that’s one of the more interesting, albeit very frustrating, aspects of being a WaMStA. We do go to two different schools. We survive in this program by adapting to both, and we leave knowing two different sets of such “conventional rules”. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is probably more impressive than just knowing one.

  • Kary Stevick, 2nd year, IR

HELP, people are talking about internships and I don’t know where to start…

As the time comes around again for students to dig themselves out of their homework hermitage and explore the amazing (and sometimes challenging) world of applying to internships, I thought I’d share the resources available to WaMStA students. 

As students of both institutions, you are allowed to use the resources at both schools, so in theory you have access to double the amount of sources and programs than other students attending a four-year institution.

Handy Dandy Flowchart!

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Here’s a composite list of the resources:

William and Mary:

Tribe Careers page 

You’ll need to use your William and Mary email address for this site. It’s an amazing source to look up internships and employment opportunities across America.

Cohen Careers Center

This one is more useful for the students physically at William and Mary. The Cohen Careers center is located right next door to Sadler and they are extremely helpful: you can book an appointment with them to talk about your future, potential jobs, get some resume help, or attend a networking (**such a scary word, but honestly it’s the best way to get a job) event put on by W&M.


St. Andrews:

Summer Internship Scheme

An opportunity for students to apply to up to three unpaid research internships within the University. This is the easiest internship application you will find – only need a resume and cover letter!

Shadowing Program 

Students can apply to shadow a professional in a field of their interest for a few days. This is a great way for students to explore a new path to see if it’s right for them!

Laidlaw Undergrad Internship Program

In this internship, students can design their own research plan and work with an advisor to do intensive research throughout the summer or, if you wish to do a longer period of research, for an entire year.


Ask a professor to aid in research, especially at William and Mary. Though unpaid, it’s really helpful and you could even co-publish academic work! For more updates about this, check the weekly What’s Happening at W&M and Memos at St. Andrews.

Traditions, Traditions, and Many More Traditions

Though St Andrews boasts 280 years on William and Mary, these two schools both hold several beloved traditions.


William and Mary



The College begins the fall semester with the convocation of the freshmen on the first day of classes. All freshmen and first years at William and Mary come together on the Colonial Williamsburg side of the Wren building to listen to speakers and ever frisky President Reveley speak about their upcoming years at the college. Then all students will pass through the building to the other side where upperclassmen are waiting, lined up to give high fives and cheers.



Students celebrate the fall semester and school pride a bit differently with Homecoming! This is a time for alumni to flock back to the ‘burg and tailgate, watch parades, and attend football games to their heart’s delight. The highlights of Homecoming weekend are the glorious William and Mary Choir singing on Friday night, the parade on Saturday morning, and the football games on Saturday afternoon. This is just a time for everyone to remember why he or she loves William and Mary so (as well as to wear as much green and yellow as humanly possible).


King and Queens Ball:

William and Mary’s big one is King and Queen’s ball and to answer your question, yes, you are more than welcome to come fully decked in your best colonial dressage (though most don’t, unfortunately).


Yule Log:


It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. when President Reveley dresses up as Santa and reads How the Grinch Stole Christmas to students. In the middle of December, everyone gathers round the Sunken Gardens side of the Wren building and watches The Gentlemen (the best men’s a capella group) perform; students talk about Christmas time in different cultures, and await the President. At the end, students can walk through the hall of the Wren building to throw a sprig of holly into the fire for good fortune in the next year! There is always a sense of family and comfort in the air as students meander over to relax during the hectic weeks before finals.




This is what happens on the last day of classes each semester (more so second semester, though). Students will celebrate the end of the semester with partying, drinking, and having fun across campus. Be sure to do this safely for there are always tourists around and police patrolling on this day.


Ringing the Bell:


Around the same time as blowout, seniors and students taking their last semester at William and Mary will line up and ring the bell in the Wren building after their last class. The bell will be tolling all week long, so be sure not to walk by the building and listen!


Colonial Williamsburg:


CW (as it’s affectionately known as) is a fantastic thing. Students at the college can get a free 4-year pass to visit all the colonial buildings (take them up on this offer, it is so fascinating!) and every winter, CW gets decked out in Christmas lights, wreaths, and garlands, and there are fireworks celebrating the start of the Christmas season.


Crim Dell Bridge:


So, the tale is that if you walk across this bridge with your significant other, you will be together forever – same idea if you walk across it with your best friends. BUT if you wish to break up with your partner, you must both walk to the middle of the bridge and push the other in the water to *officially* break up, so be careful who you walk across this bridge with. Make sure you don’t go across alone, though, as you will (according to the myth) be alone forever!




One of the must-do things at William and Mary:

  1. Swim in the Crim Dell
  2. Streak across the Sunken Gardens
  3. Jump the Governor’s Palace Wall (shown above)

Some students take on the challenge and do all three things over their course at William and Mary, while others just do one (usually the Palace Wall). Whatever your boldness level, be sure to do at least one while at William and Mary!


More detailed info on W&M traditions:




St Andrews:



Later on in the semester, University of St Andrews students experience Raisin, an event like no other where students will attempt to do some wild things, such as taking a dip in the freezing cold North Sea at Astronomical Twilight.* Raisin is a time for students to get together with their mum and dad, their academic parents, and celebrate the semester, with plenty of alcohol (and those who don’t drink can still have fun!). On Monday, the children will go to their mum’s place where she will dress them up in hilarious costumes (evolution of Shia LaBeouf? the cast of bridesmaids with the bride as the one guy?) and send them on their merry way to join in the shaving foam fight on the lawn next to the Quad. (The two people in the forefront of this photo are WaMStAs!)

*For those that are so eager to know, this year (2016), Astronomical Twilight on the day of Raisin (16 October) was 5:49 am




St Andrews sponsors just a few more balls than William and Mary. The main few are Hall Ball – where your Hall (dorm) dances the night away together, Fall Ball – where the school (mainly freshmen) celebrates the fall semester, Christmas Ball – where the school parties through the night in the cold weather (highly recommend this ball out of the four), and May Ball – another ball for the school that rings in the end of a school year. Thankfully, students don’t have to queue for Christmas Ball anymore as they’re online now!


May Dip:


The May Dip is a chance to show off your absurd idiocy bravery. On May 1, people gather together at East Sands and run into the freezing cold North Sea, promptly sprinting back out to grab blankets and hot chocolate!




Similar to ringing the bell in the Wren building, this is something 4th years and students spending their last year at St Andrews will celebrate: a bucket of water straight to the face. After the 4th year’s last exam, all of their friends wait outside and soak them with water when they exit the building – all done out of love, of course.


Pier Walks/Pier Jumps:


These are not for the faint-hearted but they are one of the most thrilling things you’ll do at St Andrews. For the pier walk, students would traditionally attend the church service at St. Salvator’s Chapel then afterwards process (in their red gowns) down to the pier and walk back on the high ledge. Nowadays, students mainly just meet up at noon in the quad and process down (still in the red gowns), clutching their gowns while the wind whips about! The pier jumps are exactly what they sound like: jumping off the pier into the North Sea. **Please be sure to do this at high tide, as there are rocks right next to the pier. This event can be done whenever: at the end of a semester, when you’re feeling like you’re on top of the world, whenever!




There is a PH on the ground outside St. Salvator’s Chapel. Do not step on it. I repeat, do not step on it. This is the spot were 24 year-old Patrick Hamilton was burned (or in more accurate terms because it took him 6 hours to die, thank you very much to my history professor who told us this – roasted) to death for supporting Presbyterianism in a time when the Catholics were condemning the Kirk and Presbyterians. The rumor is that if you step on the PH, you will fail your finals, unless you take the May Dip!




A free society! Yes! All students at St Andrews are automatically members. These debates range from serious to *not quite* so serious. For instance, a debate this past semester was on whether Voldemort was misunderstood – a quite controversial topic, actually. People can dress up in costume or with their red robes and the arguments are extremely witty. Also, there is always a prize for the best audience argument at the way end!


For more detailed information on St Andrews traditions: