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Sunday, 6 July 2008

St Andrews: Getting Started

      by Anuradha Choudry

Hope Church at end. Bus route to Market St.

St-Andrews is a cute little town with three main streets in the City Centre that are parallel to each other. They are North St, Market St and South St. Most of the University buildings that we would be concerned with and the main library are in and around these streets.

Market St - Student Union Building on left corner

Regarding accomodation in St-Andrews - I don't remember their comparative rates off-hand (you can find them on their website). I didn't have a choice as they sent me a contract and said that if i didn't accept it I would have had to fend for myself which was not a wise option since I knew nothing and no one in St-Andrews. I therefore accepted to stay in the most expensive Apartments called David Russell. It was undoubtedly very comfortable - a double bed, spacious room, excellent heating, own bathroom, internet connection (don't forget to take your own ethernet cables or you could pay upto 3 pounds for a new one!!), phone, TV. 5 people live in a flat where each one is allotted his/her own room and share a common kitchen. 

David Russell was very comfortable on the whole but very expensive and 'far' - about 20 mins brisk walk away from the main town area. (beautiful routes but not very inviting during winter!!) For those who are not great walkers staying in DR would involve an extra weekly expense of 5 Pounds for the bus pass that allows as many trips on them for that week  (unless they have increased the fare!). The regular one way fare is 80 pence with the Student's card.

The third option to reach the main town is to buy a 2nd hand bike and keep it safely because there are incidents of them being stolen! Beside David Russell, there is Fife Park which is the cheapest accomodation offered by the University but I would prefer someone who has lived there to give more information on that.

On the whole, it would be ideal to apply early for your accomodation and ask for something in the town itself that will enable you to participate in the many activities offered by the various student societies of the University. They hold a Societies Fair a week before classes begin that would be worth attending to find out the myriad activities going on all the time in the Univ. There are debates, singing, dancing, sports, adventure, literary activities... you name it and someone has already formed a society on it!! The University of St-Andrews is constantly buzzing with events which is almost completely absent in Bergamo except for the parties. So if you want to participate in these activities insist on an accomodation in town. Try to tell them that you are a foreign student, there only for 1 semester, and would like to make the most of your stay in St-Andrews.

If you can get catered accomodation - you'll save a lot of precious time as the study load is truly hectic - and you would be expected to read up a few books before every class! The classes are very interactive (which is again not necessarily the case in Bergamo) and the teachers in both places are very approachable and are open to discuss any problem or doubt. 

The other option regarding Accomodation is to check on Facebook where the students have set up a site providing information about places on rent. But I can't vouch for that as I have no experience with them.

You will find the Scottish people very friendly and since students form a large percentage of the town's population they are usually very helpful to foreigners. That reminds me to make a special mention of a scheme called the Befriender's Scheme which I would highly recommend to all students going to St-Andrews. It is a programme organised by the Hope Church (at the corner near the Bus stand) that finds local befriender for foreign students - this means that local families 'befriend' some students and introduce them to Scottish culture during their stay in St-Andrews and often invite them home and make them acquainted with Scottish life style. Personally I found this progaramme a very warm gesture on their behalf and I have very loving memories of my befrienders Christine and Eleanor who gave me and my friends the feeling of a home in foreign lands! Regarding this you could get in touch with Fiona of the Christian Association. This Association also organises excellent 1 Pound lunches every Thursday and a sumptuous opening meal for anyone who is free to attend before classes begin.

But frankly, once you are there .. you will come to know of all that's going on by word of mouth in the hostels and from the notices on the boards everywhere.

I know this mail has got far longer than intended but a last and important note regarding visas - please ask the University to send you admission letters directly as the UK Embassy might ask for it. Either way it is a useful document to have when entering the UK. Moreover, in case you are not given long time visas that would cover the duration of the course, do contact Wendy in the Visa Section in the Student's Union building and follow up at the earliest for an extension or you would end up paying for a new visa like I did!!! :(

And a parting tip - for warm clothes - if you don't want to carry much (you'll need them believe me! ) there are several charities on Market and South St and around - like Oxfam, British Heart Foundation etc that have very good second hand clothes, boots, gloves, caps and a variety of other interesting things (sometimes new ones as well!) for very reasonable prices ... Moreover Dundee is not very far and a trip to Primark (clothes store) can keep you all day choosing stuff for yourself ..(I speak as a woman and realise that men don't necessarily suffer from this tendency! :)) . but it's a cheaper place to shop if need be ...

And a last last note of advice ... We would have an account with BNP Paribas which implies that the ATMs in St-Andrews would take a commission every you withdraw money. Barclays (in Dundee) doesn't charge a commission ..so you might just want to make your trip to Dundee a 'wee' bit more useful!
And for the road ... There is a Tesco Supermarket on Market St but an early visit to Morrisons, once you are comfortably settled in your rooms, would be worth the trouble as they have a huge range of products at very competitive rates!!
To sum it all - Enjoy your stay in St-Andrews!!