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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Springtime In St Andrews

Being from Southern California I am used to different seasons, I grew up with it either being Summer or Almost Summer. Any complaining about the weather (and I admit there was quite a lot) stemmed from either not having air conditioning or not owning a raincoat on the handful of days in the year that it drizzled. St Andrews has given me a new appreciation for the weather. The Scots aren't joking when they talk about four seasons in a day. I've seen it go from rain to sun to hail in less than four hours and back again. You can never be too certain that it won't rain. I now own wellies (rain boots) and a rain coat. 

However, it finally seems like we're leaving cold weather behind (fingers crossed), and headed towards Summer. The flowers are in bloom and we've been seen considerably more sunlight than I have in months. The sunrises now at 6am and doesn't set until after 8 in the evening, and the days are only getting longer. And Scotland does Spring well.

Looking across The Old Course at sunset

St Salvadors Quad in bloom

Evening on the Scores

Peeking across at the library

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Immaturity Is Showing

I may have just turned 21, but that does not mean that I have grown out of my sometimes childish sense of humor. St Andrews is full of interesting street names that you just wouldn't find anywhere in the United States. But my favorite street name is located conveniently in the middle of campus. 

Now, I know when this little alleyway was originally named, it was not intended to be reminiscent of flatulence, and that Wynd is pronounced as you would say the wind in a winding road, but I still can't help but giggle every time I take a stroll down Butts Wynd. I also like to imagine the reason the street sign is placed so far above the street is because an untold number of passerby's of the years have found the sign just as funny as me and run off with it.

Uniquely American: Root Beer

I'm a self proclaimed soft drink aficionado, so I was shocked to hear that my two Scottish flatmates had not only never tried root beer, but had never even heard of it. I immediately sought out a way to remedy the conundrum we found ourselves in. Luckily a company that ships within the UK specializes in American soda, and within the week I wash shipped a couple bottles of root beer (thanks dad!).

The test of a good root beer, of course, is how well it holds up in a root beer float. So we broke out the ice cream and crack open the root beer and my Scottish friends got their first taste of freedom, I mean, root beer floats. 

The reviews are in, and root beer got a two thumbs up!