Two years after work on it first began, a student-led book about life at St Andrews has hit the shelves.
St Andrews: Through Students’ Eyes has been written and edited almost entirely by students, with contributions from individuals as well as societies. It provides a fascinating insight into the sheer variety of student life at the University.
The idea was originally conceived by Freddie Fforde, president of the Students’ Association from 2012-13, who aimed to compile a book written by students as part of the Union’s Your600th anniversary celebration.
It failed to coalesce, however, and the project was abandoned until a group of six of students decided to continue it this year. Now, following a crowdfunding campaign that raised almost £5,000 and with submissions from over 100 students, the book has finally been published.
Radim Dragomaca, the PhD student who edited the book and led the team that resurrected it, explained that “the scope and ambition of the material far exceeded that context [of the 600th]. In the end, the anniversary was the occasion, but not the subject matter. The subject was the attempt to encapsulate and celebrate as many aspects of student life in St Andrews as possible.”
The book is now available online and in YourShop in the Union, the St Andrews Citizen shop on South Street, and Waterstones. Mr Dragomaca said: “The book has only been on sale for less than a week, but we’ve already sold over 200 copies. Between sales and pre-sales, as well as the fundraising we did, the project as a whole is now in the black and every copy we sell is all profit.
“If in future years the University makes the book available to the graduating class through the garden parties and the University shop, it has the potential to sell many times that number.
“We also think this book would be perfect for recruiting new students, as well as for alumni.”
The profits from the book will go to “student societies, activities, initiatives and St Andrews-based charities. We’ve also talked about funding bursaries or scholarships.”
The book appears ripe for updating and republishing in the future. Mr Dragomaca called it “premature to speculate” but said: “The book is not in any way dated by the anniversary, so will remain contemporary and relevant for many years to come. It may very well be that future reprints will be updated and may differ from this first edition.”
The 216-page book is divided into themed chapters. The first chapter covers student life, from the fresh eyes of first years through to the final-year race for Association president. An assortment of societies and other student opportunities are presented, such as Race2 competitions, the Study Abroad scheme and sports clubs. The book also includes a selection of interviews, and this chapter contains one with Scottish first minister and St Andrews alumnus Alex Salmond.
The second chapter tackles academic life, with an emphasis on the rich heritage of St Andrews as it begins its seventh century. From ‘the library journey’ to soakings and graduation via several pieces on the teaching of history, students give their personal accounts of academia in the town.
Third is a chapter titled “The Kaleidoscope of Life”. Focusing on St Andrews culture and the arts, this chapter distinguishes itself from the others with less emphasis on writing and more on artwork and poetry. (It also examines St Andrews’ student media – keep an eye out for multiple pieces mentioning The Saint.)
Finally, “Town & Gown” is a chapter looking at life beyond the University. The castle, cathedral, golf and Hamish the cat are all mentioned here, as well as student housing and even the ‘Overheard in St Andrews’ Facebook group.
Generally, the book gives a good overview of student life in St Andrews. It would have been nice to see a more diverse set of societies featured, though it was never going to be possible to cover every facet of life without looking like a University prospectus.
The book’s biggest selling point is, unsurprisingly, that it is written by students. While it should be enjoyed by anyone interested in the University and its rich heritage, it will be an especially good read for reflecting graduates or curious freshers.
As Mr Dragomaca said: “At 216 pages full colour, and over 1kg each, I believe the book is the most comprehensive work written about student life in St Andrews.”