Nina Zietman confesses to the taboo of liking the Union

I am a big fan of the Union. Is this really embarrassing to admit? An American girl once said to me, “Oh my god, so I like went to the Bop last night, for like the first time ever, and like who are those people?!”. Well, those people are me. 

I know it’s kinda smelly and a bit sticky. It’s no Oak Rooms, that’s for sure. More of a graveyard for the intoxicated, who don’t know where else to end their night, than anything else. Yet saying this, I also think the Union is an essential experience for anyone from First to Fourth year.

Think back to your first year at St Andrews. The Union was where every single First Year gravitated, simply because they didn’t know where else to go. You sat on those tiny wooden stools, expensive vodka mixer in hand, trying to make small talk with the Gap Yah boy next to you. Little did you know that a) beer is a lot cheaper, and b) you would probably never speak to this boy again. These all-important lessons become abundantly clear to you once you’ve had a few drinks in the Union.

For many, Freshers’ Week is the only time of the year they will be caught dead in the Union. The bar is absolutely ram-packed with everyone you’ve ever met; there are actually queues to get into the Bop. Half the enjoyment of being there is running up to people you met at a party once, and greeting them with a hug so big, anyone would think they were an estranged relative.

 It attracts a whole mishmash of people: from Rahs looking for a laugh, to Freshers who haven’t a clue where they are going, to those people who go simply because they’ve heard the person they fancy will be there. As a Fresher, it’s the best place to talk to people you’ve never met before. As a Third year, where else can you run up to random people and yell, “Do you need a mum?”

The whole Union experience is enhanced by the grottiness of its appearance. The grey 60s concrete makes you feel like you are stepping into something out of Shutter Island. They try and jazz it up a bit with a green spotlight that strangely only comes out in Fresher’s Week.  The interior always smells like beer, even in the daytime. The tables are sticky and the music is downright awful. 

But under an alcoholic haze, none of this matters. You cruise through to the bar with the same lack of care you have for a battered party house. You bump into people, trip, spill, make pals with the bouncer, eventually end up in the Bop, and then finally come to the conclusion that, bizarrely, this was one of your favourite nights so far. 

However, the main problem with a night at the Union is it’s a bit of a lottery. It can go one of two ways. Either it’s packed to the ceiling in typical Freshers’ Week style, with all your friends there, shots flowing, a bit of drunken pool and a few requests from some beautiful people to be your academic children. 

Or it can go horribly wrong. You bust through the double doors to find the place….errr, empty. A few people playing pool, a couple of postgrads drinking beer, and that’s it. It also has the tendency to close anytime between 12.30 and 2am. You can never quite tell when it’s going to shut.

Which is why the Union is such a crucial part of anyone’s academic life. It’s got the good, the bad and the messy, all rolled into one. It’s smelly, crowded and not very cool, but it’s also cheap, tacky and full of everyone you know.  It’s where you go as Fresher in first year and still find yourself gravitating back in years to come.

 It’s embarrassing as hell, but you love it really.

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