The idea of an ‘average’ St Andrews student is a strange concept. For a university with such a global intake (the prospectus seems to use the word diversity approximately 8 billion times) there seems to be a remarkably simplistic view outside the university of the kind of person which the university takes in.
Regard the bizarre world of The StudentRoom and you will end up with an idea of a St Andrews student as one who rises slowly from his seat in Taste, quickly saving the latest update to their half-finished Novella on the life of a Russian farmer in 1928 who is increasingly disillusioned with communist policy, swanning over to the counter in order to order his eighteenth soya latte of the day which shall be strained evenly through his ironic goatee.
The reason for such attempts at bohemian life lie, obviously, in their own failure to successfully get into Oxbridge and they have therefore become consumed by hatred of the elitist culture which they themselves grew up in.
The truth really is somewhat different. There is a glorious schizophrenia to be celebrated here, from the man who professes his love of death metal and bands such as ‘Cultured Fuck!’ and ‘These Syphilitic Dragons’ while ordering his third Gin and Tonic, to the quiet Japanese girl who says nothing in tutorials yet will beat seven bells of shite out of anything with a pulse once a lacrosse stick is shoved into her hand. The StudentRoom can’t prepare you for that.
That said, amongst the British contingent there is some level of truth to be found in the ‘Not-Quite-Oxbridge’ idea.
A highly scientific survey conducted by me in the pub (see earlier piece on Procrastination) revealed that 86% of St Andrews students failed to get into Oxbridge. While perhaps slightly methodologically flawed, the point still stands that quite a few of us have ended up on this far-flung coast of Fife because we didn’t do quite as well as we perhaps could have when being grilled on our subjects by a man wearing tweed with dust on his knuckles and a cobweb over his eyelid.
Now, I say far flung because for many the drive up here was a gruelling 6-10 hour journey which started somewhere leafy in Kent. Some of us, however, may as well be hardened residents of Cupar in the eyes of some of our counterparts. There are people from every continent milling around this small town and if that isn’t something amazing then I don’t know what is.
In one evening you could start off downing Jägerbombs with a Scandinavian (who is likely to be 2 foot taller than you, better dressed, and with the chiselled face of a minor deity in comparison to your pathetic, sweaty pork-like visage) and end it sharing a disappointing 3am pizza with an Ethiopian. I know. I’ve done this.
Of course the outside view has not been helped by things such as the now-infamous Gowngate saga. Gowngate, of course, is the term I’m coining for the University Challenge Incident. Possible alternatives included Frostgate, Whoregate (not to be confused with a suburb of Amsterdam) and the infinitely charming Twatgate.
The fact that this happened almost simultaneously with the release of The Riot Club, where a group of posh bastards go around a small British town being posh bastards for 106 minutes like a quainter, more picturesque version of Wolf of Wall Street is rather unfortunate, and incidents such as this have no doubt helped along the kind of vitriol thrown at St Andrews students.
Incidentally, as historical as they are, the gowns do look horrendous. For the approximate price of a set of lungs on the black market you can buy a gown the same colour as an Irishman who has been sunbathing in the Kalahari Desert for twelve years, and with a texture not unlike a dog blanket. Clearly whichever committee responsible for that particular design was formed entirely of the kind of people who wear Crocs and have a penchant for gaudy knitwear and net curtains.
The truth, though, is that whole idea of St Andrews is wrong. While the university has to look at entrance statistics, which still lag far behind other universities for inclusiveness, the sheer number of different languages and nationalities you hear and see around the university is a beautiful example of how a university can throw together a group of people from all over the globe and, largely, succeed.
In truth St Andrews students are a strange bunch, if perhaps a bit more isolated from a ‘normal’ town or city than is healthy at times. But we are thrown together from various different backgrounds and countries into one strange, sometimes chaotic but always colourful whole.
And that is something to be proud of.