Are you in the Joint Degree Programme? Interested in studying abroad at St Andrews? I spent my most recent academic year attending St Andrews in Fife, Scotland. I loved it! Here are three things I recommend you do to experience Scotland and its traditions to the fullest.
1. Dance the evening away at a ceilidh
Ceilidhs are Scottish dances accompanied by live bands playing traditional Scottish music. They are reminiscent of American square dancing, but this is not the square dancing you learned in elementary school. If you’ve seen Titanic, it is like the “real party” Jack takes Rose to. Ceilidhs are supposed to be structured dances, but with a large crowd of college students, they can be chaotic. This makes it all the more fun! I’ve been to many ceilidhs and it’s always made for an exciting and lively night.
Anyone can go to a ceilidh and have a good time. First, you don’t have to have any dancing knowledge because the caller will review the steps to each dance beforehand. The steps are not difficult and you would most likely get the hang of it after a bit of practice. Second, although the dances are mostly done in pairs and groups, you don’t need to come with a partner. People switch partners often and you can also ask/be asked by someone you haven’t met before!
2. Go to Afternoon Tea
It’s a little strange that I recommend this because I hate tea. I try so hard to like it, but I’m just accustomed to sugary and processed drinks, sorry! But if someone invites me to tea in the UK, I won’t decline. Even though the server will always give me a strange look after I decline to order tea, it’s all worth it in the end for the dessert. There is something about dessert in Scotland that is just better than in the US.
Afternoon tea is a long affair. First, you’ll order your tea. The tea is much higher quality than American tea (or so I’ve heard from tea drinkers). Then you will get the tiny sandwiches, which are usually quite nice. The scones come next. This part is great. Don’t forget the clotted cream and jam! By now, you might be a little full. It is not over yet though, because the cakes, pastries, and tarts arrive next! There is a wide variety of desserts they may serve you. Usually, they are tiny but very delicious. If you go to a high-end tea room, you will even get a slice of cake at the end to take home! My sister and I went to Fortnum and Mason in London and it was absolutely amazing. Afternoon tea is a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. If you like food, you can’t miss out on Afternoon Tea. Or perhaps more aptly named “Afternoon Dessert” for people like me.
3. Visit the pub or bar
If I were writing about William & Mary, I wouldn’t be recommending this for college students. But, after all, this is Scotland and the legal drinking age is 18. So congratulations, if you are in college, then (most likely) you are of age in the UK! I find it fun to order a drink as a 19 year old after being told my entire life I wouldn’t be able to until I was 21. Ordering alcohol in the UK feels dangerous, but it’s totally legal. A win-win! I do not recommend going crazy just because you can though. Be careful out there!
Before ending, I must include a few honorable mentions that made my time at St Andrews especially excellent. First, is the candy you should buy at Tesco. Cadbury chocolate seriously surpasses Hershey’s. Maltesers are the 2.0 version of Whoppers. Nestle’s Quality Street is quality candy. Next is Fisher and Donaldson Bakery. Most sweets in this quaint bakery cost only £1-2 and are delicious! You will create much envy from others walking down the street with your Fisher and Donaldson bag. Finally, take a walk in Lade Braes. It is a charming and picturesque footpath near town. Imagine winding paths, streams, waterfalls, wooden bridges, and even an old water mill cottage. It’s like a Thomas Kinkade painting brought to life and it’s beautiful in all seasons.
There you have it! Of course, Scotland and St Andrews have much more to offer, but these are things in particular that you cannot experience and taste in any other country.