Monday, May 19, 2014

Hamish McHamish

St Andrews is home to a nomadic ginger cat named Hamish McHamish. He wanders about the town at his own leisure, and has become something of the town mascot. He's become quite the staple on South Street and in his honor a statue was erected this year in his honor. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Revision Week Study Break

Classes ended a week and a half ago, and the last two weeks are designed for students here at St Andrews to curl into the fetal position and cry, or study, I'm not sure which as I've seen a great deal of both. Either way, panic and despair are in the air! Naturally, to combat tiresome hours of pouring over notes and books again and again, we took the day off and headed for some fresh air. 

A view of St Andrews from the Fife Coastal Path

Yesterday was supposed to be absolutely miserable out, but that didn't stop us from meandering down the Fife Coastal Path in the light rain. But when we got to the "Secret Beach" the skies opened up and the sunshine streamed down and the afternoon was delightful. 

Perched on one of the more climbable rocks with my friend Jack
Hanging out with a number of guys usually ensures that some sort of organized stupidity ensues and yesterday was no different. The boys decided they would climb up the face of a rock which they have christened "Janky Rock."

Hunter led Jack and David up the face of "Janky Rock"
Being of the fairer (and far more intelligent) sex, I opted to keep both feet on the ground at the ready to document this silly behavior (or dial 999 in case of an emergency). Luckily they made it to the top of the rock with little injury.

Smiles all around
Later on in the afternoon we were joined by more friends that came to enjoy the beautiful weather and fresh air away from the library. Some even opted for a dip in the North Sea. With only a few short weeks left in Scotland, it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Hunter climbed "Janky Rock" no less than four times yesterday

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Dip

May Dip is a tradition at St Andrews that honors John Honey who was a student in 1800 when a small ship the Janet of Macduff ran aground east of the harbor. Heroically, he stripped off his clothes and stormed into the sea and saved the lives of five of the men trapped aboard. Now, we stay up until dawn at various parties and run into the sea at dawn. 

The seen this morning at dawn
May Dip cleanses students of their academic sins. Sins that can be washed a way by a dip in the North Sea at dawn, include academic incest or stepping on the PH stone. Traditionally in the fall semester, third year students become academic parents to new first years and serve as mentors and friends, sometimes romantic relationships ensue and to atone for their sins academic parents and academic children partake in May Dip. 
The PH stone outside St Salvators Chapel
The PH stone, refers to stones outside of St Salvators Chapel, where Protestant Reformer Patrick Hamilton was martyred in 1528. Stepping on the stone is terribly unlucky and you will often see people jumping out of the way to avoid it. Legend has it if you step on the stone you'll fail your degree. So the superstitious, too, take to the sea to ensure the exams they are about to sit will be curse-free.

Despite the rainy weather and the blistering winds hundreds of students still managed to stay up the entire night to make it into the sea this morning. The temperature in the water was around 40ºF and the temperature outside was somewhere in the 30s. But with a little bit of liquid courage, anything is possible. And it doesn't hurt when you can no longer feel your hands and toes!
Bundled up after taking a dip in the North Sea

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Undergraduate Gowns

Like many universities in the United Kingdom, St Andrews has a distinctive traditional type of student dress. While everyday use has long gone out of fashion, the red undergraduate gowns are still used on a number of occasions throughout the academic year, and almost weekly at Pier Walks.

On the left is a graduate gown, on the right is an undergraduate gown
Gowns are never buckled at the neck as it has long been considered cursed, owing to a story in centuries passed about a unfortunate student who ventured into the sea in his gown buttoned at the neck to assist those that had shipwrecked off shore and inadvertently drowned himself no thanks to his gown. 

In a gown during the Easter Pier Walk

Gowns are now worn in a fashion that can only be described as an "academic striptease." First years firmly wear the gown on their shoulders, while second years have their gowns just off the shoulders. Third years wear in completely off a single shoulder, students in the Arts wear it off the left shoulder and students in Sciences wear it off the right, as they are "always right." And finally students in their final year, wear the gown hanging at their elbows, ready to shed themselves of the undergraduate garb.

As Kathy and I prove, the gowns also make for excellent fun

Easter Sunday in the Sun

Perhaps shockingly, I made it to church on Sunday morning. I even had time to stop for coffee in town beforehand. And I was still early enough to get a seat in the front of the church. Be proud of me mom! I figured it might be a great cultural experience to attend Easter services in a church built in 1450. The church was filled to capacity with a number of people being seated on the floor up at the altar. The student choir sang beautifully. 

After church, we partook in the usual Pier Walk. Pier Walks in St Andrews are one of the many school traditions. Following services in St Salvator's Chapel, students in their red undergraduate gowns walk down to the pier and walk along the old stone surface. If you fall to your death as a student, you automatically receive a degree with first class honors. 

Students in their gowns on the Pier, in the distance you can see the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral and Castle 
After services we grabbed lunch at the Vic, and then to Tesco to pick up a few bottles of wine to enjoy as we sat out to enjoy the beautiful weather. We headed for West Sands and just missed a polo match that was happening on the sand, but heard that a number of our friends were celebrating the beautiful weather by hanging out in the courtyard in from of St Salvator's Hall (where Prince William lived his first year).

The school is in full bloom
We spent the afternoon enjoying the sun, the wine, and the company. We even managed to commandeer a frisbee for a short time.

Andrew, Hunter, Gabby, and Adam
Hunter basking in the sun
St Salvator's Hall
After spending a majority of the afternoon out in the sun, a couple of my friends thought a dip in the North Sea would be ideal. Most of us weren't feeling quite so bold, but we'll take our swim in the North Sea in a week for May Dip. As we waited for the few, the brave to change into swimming attire, the weather changed and the fog rolled in stealing away our lovely sunshine. But that didn't stop our friends from charging into the sea!

Gabby, Hunter, Andrew, and Adam brave the frigid waters

The fog had rolled in so quickly you couldn't even make out the homes just a couple hundred meters away
We finished off the evening with 12 store bought pizzas to warm us up and toasted to a wonderful Easter Sunday! 

Day Trip to Tenstmuir Forest

With the sun still shining on Saturday morning, Aubree, Drew, Jack, and I boarded a bus to nearby Tayport, to go for a walk int Tentsmuir Forest. The Forest runs right up to the edge of the water and it was an important feature of defense during the First World War. 

Tentsmuir Forest

The large stones on the beach prevented aircraft from landing during World War I
Forever unprepared, I thought wearing a pair of Keds was an excellent choice for a walk through the woods. Naturally, I was mistaken. The shoes were just fine until we decided to walk out on the expanse of beach at low tide. Covered in mud and soaking out I eventually carried out the rest of the walk into town barefoot. Perhaps, I should invest in a pair of hiking boots.

We found a suitable place for a midmorning nap and even encountered a few canine friends
Despite a ruined pair of shoes, it was all in all a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday morning! 

Drew, Jack, and I out on the beach

Shorts in Scotland

It was absolutely gorgeous out on Friday. It was beautiful the entire weekend actually, but Friday was particularly lovely. The sun was out all day and I could not have been more ecstatic about that. One of my classmates showed up to our tutorial on Friday morning in a pair of shorts and professor took one look at him and said, "It's still too cold for shorts." To which he replied "Not if you're Scottish!"

Looking West on West Sands Friday afternoon
The sun put a smile on my face immediately, I almost overheated on the walk back from class to my dorms so I decided to swap my jeans and wooly jumper for shorts. Now as a child of Southern California, I'm quite used to shorts year round, but that is only if the weather has reached the minimum of 65ºF. Any degree below that and I would be in jeans and sweatshirt. But feeling bold and accustomed to the Scottish weather, I donned the only pair of shorts I brought to Scotland at the breezy temperature of 50ºF. Braving this weather in shorts is not for the faint of heart, but somehow I managed it. Although no pictures exist for I fear my pale skin would frighten my kind readers, although it fits in perfectly here in Scotland!

Looking East on West Sands, you can see the town in the background and if you look closely you can spot a view paddle boarders and swimmers braving the North Sea

Finally was able to snap a nice shot of my apartment complex here