Scotland’s oldest university, St Andrews, was founded in 1413 and has long been a mecca for students from all corners of the globe. St Andrews staff and students represent over 120 nations making the university the most international in Scotland. Since its foundation, St Andrews has had strong international ties, with links to Europe, the Americas, and beyond. In fact, many of America’s founding fathers and leading statesmen had links to the university. In 1759, Benjamin Franklin received an honorary doctor of laws; fellow constitutional signatory John Witherspoon was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity in 1764; and James Wilson attended the university from 1757-1761.
However, for much of the University’s long history, modern modes of transportation did not exist. Whereas today students from Sydney, Frankfurt and London can make their way to St Andrews with varying degrees of ease, previous generations of students were more limited in their geographical scope.
While they may not seem like two concepts that go together, the 1903 invention of the modern airplane and St Andrews’ cosmopolitan community are intrinsically linked. The Wright brothers’ experiment at Kitty Hawk Beach in North Carolina resulted in the advent of a new age. As the 20th century progressed, flying became an increasingly commercialised endeavour and its accessibility skyrocketed. Today, many St Andrews students and faculty rely on sky travel to ferry them back and forth from home to university between terms.
The cost and time involved in flying varies greatly depending on where St Andrews students are looking to go. For students from the UK, flying to cities like Manchester, Cardiff and London is doable at moderate prices and short flying times. However, as one student noted, “many of the inexpensive flights are on budget airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair. And they only let you bring one small bag and they charge you a ridiculous amount of money if you go over.”
Students looking to fly into and out of other European cities note the same dilemma. Trips that should be relatively inexpensive and efficient end up costing a fortune in baggage fees or upgrades, taking much longer than necessary.
This problem is even worse for students from outside of continental Europe who rely on transatlantic and long-haul flights to make their way to St Andrews.
As a result of the challenges outlined above, some St Andrews students prefer to take the train instead. In 1758, Britain’s first railway line, the Middletown Railway in Leeds, was established. The following railroad boom of the 1840s connected isolated tracks such as the Middletown Railway, and created a vast national network.
Today, that network serves St Andrews students well. While St Andrews itself is without a train stop, nearby Leuchars is only a 10-minute taxi or inexpensive bus ticket away. And train travel to St Andrews may become even easier in coming years as current rector Srdja Popovic ran on a campaign proposing the establishment of a train stop closer to St Andrews itself.
Transportation-wise, the luckiest St Andrews students among us live within driving distance of the university. This makes moving in and out of halls in first year especially easy. For the price of gas money, students can make their way to St Andrews in commutes, which are generally quite short. Additionally, they can travel with the ease of limitless luggage size and weight allowances! Students from Dundee, Perth and Glasgow and even as far afield as Skye, Nottingham, and Surrey have attested to making the drive.
To get a better idea of what transportation into the Bubble is like for current University students, The Saint sat down with students whose hometowns included anywhere from Edinburgh to Seattle to better understand the time, cost and planning that goes into their commute.
Psychology student Margaret Crawford stated, “I’m from Dallas, Texas so getting to St Andrews takes quite a bit of time. I book a flight as far in advance as I can, but the usual cost is around $1500.” Ms Crawford’s advanced planning helps her keep flight costs as low as possible. Furthermore, Ms Crawford explained that she “flies from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to either JFK Airport in New York or to Heathrow and then…[hops] on a connecting flight to Edinburgh.” Long-haul flights plus connections are time-consuming. She said, “The trip takes around 15 or 16 hours all in, when you factor in car rides, bus transportations or shuttles to finally make it back to St Andrews.”
Ms Crawford’s trip to and from St Andrews requires advanced planning, half a day of travel, and a costly airplane ticket. Like many students, she chooses to fly into Edinburgh Airport and relies on The St Andrews Shuttle service to make her way to town.
Maddy Alley of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts has a time-consuming and complicated commute. Ms Alley explained that it takes her about 20 hours door-to-door to get from her house to St Andrews. Martha’s Vineyard is an island off the coast of Massachusetts, necessitating a 45-minute boat ride to get to Cape Cod, followed by a two-hour drive to the airport. Ms Alley’s journey from home to university is particularly unusual because of her reliance on a ferry, the only way on and off her hometown island.
Furthermore, Ms Alley states that she, “usually either flies from Boston Logan International Airport or T. F. Green International Airport in Providence, and into the Edinburgh Airport.” She personally prefers flights out of Providence because she can then catch a direct flight. She said, “The plane’s usually around seven hours, more if there’s a layover.” Like Ms Crawford and many other students who fly into Edinburgh International Airport, Ms Alley utilises Gordon and Wendy’s direct shuttle service to get her through the final distance to St Andrews.
Olivia Budde of Belfast recounts how what should be a quick trip can end up taking her an entire day. Ms Budde states, “It takes me the majority of a whole day to travel. I have had many difficulties in the past getting a bus from Edinburgh Airport — they don’t run very late, they are often cancelled and sometimes they just don’t even bother to show up. The flight from Belfast to Edinburgh takes 30 minutes, but it takes me over two and a half hours to get from Edinburgh to St Andrews due to the poor transport links from the airport.”
In order to prevent being stuck at the Edinburgh airport without transportation back to St Andrews, Ms Budde comments that she tends to leave a lot of extra time to ensure that she makes it back to St Andrews on the same day.
The Saint spoke with yet another frequent flyer, Samantha Philipp of Seattle, Washington. Ms Phillip stated, “My trip begins with about a 25-minute car ride to STAC International. Then usually I will either fly from Seattle to JFK or O’Hare, or I will fly to Heathrow. From my layover location, I will then take a plane to Edinburgh.”
Ms Philipp commented on the long duration of her trip from Seattle to St Andrews and vice versa, she explained that in total it usually takes her 15-20 hours. She usually gets a one way tickets each way, which often costs $1,000 to $1,200, and she concludes with the £20 St Andrews shuttle directly to her flat.
Loui Marchant of Edinburgh admits one of the benefits of attending St Andrews is its close proximity to her hometown. Ms Marchant said, “I feel like my story’s a bit boring as I just get the bus from Edinburgh for £7.50 a time and it takes just over an hour from my house!”
Unlike Ms Budde, Ms Marchant’s journey from Edinburgh to St Andrews is made easy by the use of local public transportation.
The cost, time and planning that goes into individual St Andrews students’ trips to and from university vary greatly depending on where they are from and on personal preferences. While some students live as close by as a £5 bus ticket from Dundee, others rely on four-digit figured plane ticket costs to make their way home. St Andrews students utilise every mode of modern transportation to make their way to this small university town nestled by the North Sea. Everything from ferries, to trains, planes, hired cars, buses and shuttle services are used to get students back to St Andrews.
As many students noted, often the most tedious part of their journey is from the Edinburgh airport back to town. Although the bus, tram and train are also viable options, without a direct streamlined form of public transportation, many rely on private shuttle services.