I had spent the end of August and much of September hearing exciting stories from my friends who had all headed off to university throughout North America. I had heard stories about late nights during fresher’s week, about ending up in the wrong lecture halls, and about how lucky us SMUS boarders were with our rooms and with Brown Hall- we didn’t know how good we had it!
Finally, it was my turn to head off to Scotland! In the UK, university begins in late September and early October- so I have just had my Fresher’s Week and my first week of “real” classes.
All I can say, as cliché as it sounds is that St. Andrews has exceeded my expectations in every way possible. From my halls of residence, to the students and teachers I have met, to the societies and the sports teams, to the Bute Medical School- the ethos of this University is truly unique.
I am staying in Andrew Melville Hall which was once considered to be an architectural wonder as it is meant to look like two ships crashing in the night- I guess it has a lot of character? The people in Melville are amazing though and I have had so much fun here, which is what really counts. Luckily, the residence is only a five minute walk from the Sports Centre, a seven minute walk from the golf course, and a ten minute walk from the beach. It is an unbelievable setting and perfect for the 7:00 AM volleyball practices I have been enduring.
Because St. Andrews is essentially a small University town, the societies and sports team are really the only extracurricular things to do. I think this actually works out to the advantage of the students because everyone I know is in at least four different societies, a sports team-whether competitive or recreational- and on top of that they all have intensive course loads. Somehow, there still ends up being time for a pub crawl on the weekend or a “night out” at the Student Union. One of the societies I have joined organizes a charity event called the “Race to Berlin.” Teams of two have to raise a set amount of money ahead of time, and along the way, whilst they essentially “hitchhike” their way from Edinburgh to Berlin as quickly as possible without spending a pound. Another is called the “Integrative Medicine Society” and they organize debates between physicians and medical practitioners that are either for or against non-traditional methods of Medicine (i.e. acupuncture). It’s good because the methods they “examine” aren’t covered as thoroughly in the Medicine curriculum at St. Andrews.
Athletic teams in the UK are very similar to those at Canadian Universities. I mean this in the sense that the universities have really strong teams but the level of intensity isn’t as high as it is in the USA. I am playing both Volleyball and Badminton competitively for the University- it has been busy, but completely worth it. I have met a whole different group of people in both of the sports teams and I will be able to do a lot of travelling because of them. This weekend I am heading to Glasgow to play Badminton against the team from the University of Glasgow!
I’m studying Medicine, which can be a bit confusing to some people. In the UK you don’t have to do an undergrad before entering Medical School- but it is a six year program rather than four years, which you would do in Canada after completing an undergrad. I think it’s really good because you get way more exposure to the career of Medicine in the UK. Especially at St. Andrews, they really focus on “hands on” learning. Our whole Medical class is split into groups of eight and we are each assigned a cadaver (dead body) for the year, to perform all of our dissections on. Just this past Friday we “met” our cadavers- it was such an odd experience but one that I’m sure will become easier over the next six years. We learnt all about their medical history and their quality of life previous to illness and during illness- we also examined the body and were meant to determine an interpretation of their cause of death. In terms of Academics, everything we have covered so far has been review from Biology 12 and/or AP Chemistry. I thought I would be a bit behind because the English and Scottish students focus intensely on their “area of study” within their last two years of high school but there doesn’t seem to be the gap I was anticipating. So basically, thank you so much to all my SMUS teachers!!
I’ve realized while studying here that SMUS has an extremely strong international reputation. My professors and tutors know which school I am talking about when I explain where I am from. I have met students whose brothers and sisters travelled to Victoria to play against our rugby and field hockey teams during our 100 Years Anniversary. I have met a girl who did a Summer Programme at SMUS and I have met students whose cousins are in the process of applying. It is seriously a small world!
Just as a last note- believe it or not- this past week at the Dunhill Golf Tournament I saw Hugh Grant, Samuel L. Jackson, and Luke Wilson! I honestly could have touched them, they were that close! I couldn’t even open my mouth to say anything I was so excited!
Well that’s life at St. Andrews so far- I love it!
If anyone has any questions about applying to the UK or about studying Medicine at St. Andrews, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org !