Coming to St Andrews as a JSA has been like returning to freshman – sorry, fresher – year all over again. As a born-and-bred California native and UCLA student, I couldn’t imagine coming from a more different background. My University is four times the size of St Andrews, and I have never watched a game of soccer –er, football – in my entire life.
Not not only do I have to get accustomed to the gray weather, figure out the metric system and learn how to pay with British coins; I need to maneuver my way through the do’s and don’ts of the St Andrews bubble.
The most noticeable difference is the distinctive St Andrews fashion. I arrived in the typical jeans and a Go Bruins! sweatshirt of a UCLA student. But as I looked around at my classmates, they appeared as if they had stepped out of the pages of Italian Vogue. Men put on sport coats and ladies cleverly mismatch chunky scarves with floral dresses. For the first time in my life, I saw heels in a classroom. At UCLA, “dressing up” is wearing something more substantial than sweatpants to a lecture. I quickly learned to how to fashionably pair tights with skirts and blazers for each lecture.
And obviously, the difference in University size makes a difference. At UCLA, what happens at a frat party stays at a frat party.
But what students lovingly call “the bubble” is potentially dangerous territory. Your drunken escapades Wednesday night with the Boat Club follow you for the rest of your term. Be careful – you can’t miss that “random” hookup when you see them every day on your way to class, in the cafeteria of your dining hall, and out at the Vic the very next weekend. Anonymity? Forget about it.
However, this bubble has allowed me to forge connections and bonds stronger than some friendships from my own real freshman year. The small community and its quirky traditions have captured my heart and made me feel at home 3,000 miles “across the pond”. Whether St Andrews mobs Dervish late past midnight or gathers early Sunday morning for the pier walk, we are all proud to be part of the school’s history, tradition, and family.
So becoming a fresher again through JSA has given me the unforgettable ability to be a part of a different University culture in and out of the classroom. And thankfully, I get the whole experience without the dreaded “freshman fifteen,” awkward fresher’s week hookups, and fresher’s flu.
Photo credit: Christa Millard