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College in Scotland: Emma Freer’s First Week at St. Andrews

My First Week Of College In Scotland

I made it to Scotland. I’ve made it through my first couple of nights alone at college. I made it through my first college party. And while these may seem like routine events—typical rites of passages—they were big things for me. In fact, they were so big that I’ve spent the last four hours in my dorm room lounging, recuperating.

I did not expect the exhaustion. Every new experience requires so much energy and creates so much stress—trying to be outgoing and smile first, meeting new people and navigate a new town. Just the shopping is exhausting. I went to the grocery and drug stores three separate times each to finally get what I needed. I am even stressed by the choices, which meetings and events should I go to and which can I forgo. And the logistics: I have a new phone plan that selectively works and a new bank account that still lacks a debit card with which to access it.

It’s hard to be someplace new—not just adjusting to college, but also a new country. Everything is different: my schedule, the side of the road cars drive on, the drinking age, the currency, the independence. I feel disconnected from home not just because I’m away at school but also because I’m so far away. The time difference is one example. I watch the DNC speeches online; my Twitter feed is busy in the morning but empty at night. Most telling – my accent is the weird one.

“Freshers’ Week”

On the plus side, St. Andrews couldn’t be a more friendly or welcoming place. The phrase “town and gown” is used to describe the even split between actual residents (town) and students (gown). Before I left, I met some older students who live in Cleveland and attend St. Andrews. Without fail, each of them offered her e-mail, phone number, address, and time, eager to spread the good cheer among future students.

This week is called “Freshers’ Week,” a huge “uni” (translation: college) tradition in the UK. The school sponsors pub crawls and brunches and pier walks out into the North Sea for the incoming freshmen. Students are told to be on the lookout for their academic parents—upperclassmen whose sole purpose is to buy drinks and serve as unofficial tour guides. Classes officially start in week—I’ll let you know how it goes!

Emma Freer

Emma Freer attended Ruffing Montessori and Laurel School in Cleveland, Ohio. Emma gave the senior speech at her high school graduation.