This town may be named after the patron saint of Scotland, but students from this country can seem like something of a rarity. In Freshers’ Week, my fellow students reeled off their faraway hometowns – “New York”, “Marrakech”, “Cape Town”. I would then offer my answer sheepishly: “Edinburgh”. “Oh! You’re from just down the road!” was the inevitable reply. Occasionally, this was actually prefixed by, “You’re the first person I’ve met who is actually from Scotland.” St Andrews’ diversity is undoubtedly one of its greatest assets, but sometimes being ‘the only Scot in the village’ can present you with some interesting situations.
Take going on a night out, for instance. In my experience, the main pick-up technique of the Scottish guy on the prowl seems to be latching onto your nationality; “Oh, you’re from Scotland, too… Can I get you a drink?” followed by a drunken attempt at a sleazy grin that just makes them look like babies with wind.
The logic behind this chat-up line seems to be that we must copulate in order to, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers would say, save the population. I somehow doubt that the SNP has a breeding programme up their sleeve. To be honest, I think Alex Salmond would not exactly appreciate the competition for food.
When I go home, my friends seem to think that I am living out a Gatbsy-esque lifestyle in this notoriously wealthy seaside town. Behind the occasional comments about how everything must be “so posh up there”, I see a glint in their eye that I know is egging me on to tell them about something terribly scandalous – snorting cocaine-covered caviar off of a purebred Shetland pony, perhaps. Sadly (or quite happily, in the case of the poor Shetland), my life is much less exciting than that.
The Scot will never be quite accepted by the rest of the student body or the locals, either. Encounters with international students can prove just as frustrating. “You’re Scottish – but I can actually understand you?” they ask in wonderment. I presume that they have let the one exchange they had with the slurring alcoholic when they got off the Edinburgh Airport Bus shape their entire perspective on how we speak – either that or they saw that Taiwanese computer animation on Scottish Independence. The dialogue consisted of gems such as ‘ah see you Jimmy’. The whole thing was really very unrepresentative – Scots rarely smash their heads through television screens in drunken rages. I personally like to save it as a party trick for Hogmanay and Burns’ Night.
I have also often gotten the impression that other students see us as feral adoptees, much like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. However, instead of worrying if we are going to hang any more dogs or run off with someone’s sister again (as in the novel), they are probably worrying if one of the uglier Scottish stereotypes is going to come out. Will we spontaneously become underage and pregnant? Deep fry every Mars bar in a five-mile radius? Although these are unfair characterisations (especially the pregnancy thing for men – we’re not that fertile), they are all too plain to see in the wary glare of some students.
Not so fast – you cannot opt out and be a local, either. Of course, they are not going to hold your nationality against you. Although many non-students do not have anything against those at the University, some have become embittered by a series of bad experiences with rowdy students. To them, all you will ever be is another pampered, over-sexed troublemaker who comes to their town for six months every year and proceeds to figuratively (and sometimes literally) crap all over it. While this description does cover many of my most prominent personality traits, some never seem to fully believe you when you explain that you are just as dismayed as they are that a student was fined for drink driving and beheading a pigeon, or drunkenly woke up their whole family at 4am. Considering the procession of intoxicated idiots they have had to deal with over the years, it is understandable, but yet another avenue of belonging has been closed off to Scottish students.
All this sounds quite depressing, but don’t head for the first bus to Leuchars just yet. Although there will be awful amorous advances and pretty pathetic preconceptions, you will meet wonderful people along the way. Love interests that you have more in common with than living within an hour of Linlithgow with, for instance. You will make friends from exotic locations who have no fear for the safety of Mars bars, and local people who don’t think you are going to murder any animals. Then you will rejoice.
Disclaimer: I have never literally crapped all over St Andrews.