Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked why I came to St Andrews. The answer, as many students know, is typically the same. And I can spit it out as easy as my name and birthday. In fact, the more telling question is the one which I’ve never been asked, and that is “why did you decide to stay?” After all, this university is not for the weak. It is sink or swim. We all know the person who had to repeat second year, took a year out, or dropped out of university altogether. No one looks over your shoulder. There is no safety net.
In St Andrews there are short December days where you suffocate from a lack of sunlight because of the oppressive 2:00 PM sunsets. In the mornings you’re greeted by tumultuous wind, and can’t imagine leaving your bed and if you do the seagulls and crows continually nearly sh*t on your head on the way to lectures. There was that time you drunkenly kissed your friend and were petrified of running into them. That time you weren’t invited to the party everyone Snapchatted from. That time you didn’t realise the whole ‘queuing for May Ball tickets’ was bullsh*t. You’ve scrambled to find a place to live that won’t cause you to go into debt. You’ve spent hours figuring out where Scottish Power is sending your bills, but you have made it through.
This place is not for the weak, and I’m not saying that I’m strong. If all these things made me want to leave, why did I stay? Why do we stay here when some can fluidly complain about all these things that are less than perfect in our mostly perfect lives? It is the ultimate love story. The moment this town loses us we are won all over again. But that is because we have the sunshine in April that beats down your back and makes you sweat. We have the nights at the pub with the live music and the laughing about something you have forgotten by now. You’ll miss the lack of anonymity when you walk down the street which is both a blessing and a curse.
There was that candid photo Lightbox took of you. The time we screamed the lyrics to Mr. Brightside. The time you met a famous golfer at Ma Bells. The times at the Union, the times at Dervish. The balls, the fashion shows, the live music. The people who choose Taste versus Costa, Cherries versus Zest. The flats; “I’m going to 75, meet you at 10 College, come to 8B.” The transcendent moment of May Dip when the first victim runs into the chilling waves. Our academic families. Every one of these places is attached to an indescribable idea. Each inch of town is filled with a memory or an emotion.
So why did I decide to stay? I stayed because the cold winter nights are worth it for the long days of May. I stayed because my teachers pushed me, and the 10 made that 18 mark sweeter. I stayed for the cobblestone streets, the 600 years, the traditions. I stayed for the church bells. I stayed for the safety. This is the town where we return found items to their proper owners and leave our laptops in the library while we get lunch. I stayed for it all.
I’m glad I stayed. I’ve learned so much more here than I could have dreamed. I loved my degree and professors. I learned how to stand up for myself. I learned how to manage different types of people. I learned to pay bills. I learned how to get through airport security in five minutes.
It becomes, as Marina Keegan so eloquently put, the opposite of loneliness. We are a community of red-gown-wearing students figuring out the same things at the same time. And in this pursuit, I found home. A home that is within me, through what St Andrews taught me indirectly about myself and my position in the world.
But it’s not over, and this isn’t the end. St Andrews is now a fundamental part of who I am. I know that I’ve outgrown this town, but I wouldn’t have been able to grow this much at any other school. Like Alice in Wonderland, St Andrews quenched a thirst I didn’t know I had.
We all have so many possibilities, even if we (I) still don’t have a job. Together we face what’s outside the bubble. Getting the job, getting the career, and someday affording the lives for our children that we have received ourselves. The past 4 years we have been in development; this is our pilot. We are entering Season One of our lives and its going to be more wild than True Detective, more provocative than Serial, funnier than Friends, and more frustrating than How I Met Your Mother. And as it comes to its bittersweet end, I look forward with bright eyes.
So, best of luck to you all and thanks for all the memories. I am glad we stayed, because now the Class of 2015 is ready for anything the future sends our way.