This blog was created as part of the Erasmus Mundus Crossways in Cultural Narratives Masters programme, which is the only one of the EU approved and funded Erasmus Mundus Masters programmes to specialise in traditional humanities with a modern languages background. The Crossways Consortium comprises 6 top-class European universities.

For further information, please check the programme's official website and the universities' websites on the Useful Links section on the left. If you wish to have a specific question answered, please click on Email here and submit your query.

Mundus students, here you will find regular posts regarding the universities of the consortium, tips, activities, events, pictures, etc. Apart from checking it regularly to keep yourself up to date, a good way to use the blog is through the search device. We already have a significant amount of information on some universities of the consortium, so if you want to find information on a specific city, type its name in the search field (top left). You will then see all posts related to that specific city (because each post title contains the city's name in it). You can also type "General" in order to find information concerning everybody.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

St Andrews - An informal guide by & for Erasmus Mundus students


An informal guide by & for Erasmus Mundus students

Contributors: Ana Sofia Guerreiro, Nataliya Matamoros, Anuradha Choudry

clockwise: a dog on Market Str.; the ruins of the Cathedral of St Andrew;
the beach next to the Old Course; pipers next to St Salvator’s Chapel (by Nataliya Matamoros)

St Andrews is, for the most part, very well organised so you will receive booklets before and during orientation week, which will give you the general guidelines to where, when and what.

If you look up the information on the university website, you will find out that, during orientation week, the student association can pick you up at the airport and take you directly to your residence. It is a bit more expensive, but we strongly recommend it. If you arrive just before or on the first day of orientation week, you will come across several parties, some of which will be in your residence. If you can, go and mingle. It’s the best way to meet people - some of which will be Mundus students as well. Some of the students will be 2nd year students who will gladly help you with any questions you might have.

St-Andrews is a cute little town with three main streets in the 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.
Public transportation within St Andrews is futile, since it is so small. You are better off walking or riding a bike. Just in case: a week bus pass is 5 pounds (unless they have increased the fare!). The regular one way fare is 80 pence with the student's card.
For supermarkets further away from the town centre, there are some occasional buses, which can be useful. If you want to travel outside St Andrews, the bus and the train (at Leuchars) are equally good. Make sure to buy your train tickets in advance, since the price gets more expensive as the travelling dates approach.

SIM Cards       This is the first thing you should do! With an increasing number of international students, SIM cards tend to be sold out in the first couple of days so don’t delay this task.
Internet access               Don't forget to take your own ethernet cables or you could pay up to 3 pounds for a new one!! The same goes for a multi-outlet adapter for the UK. The voltage is 220, but the plug type is different from European.
@ University:  At the Buchanan Building there is a Postgraduate room and a Computer Lab where you can use the Internet for free, provided you already have the login and password information.
@ Libraries:    Exactly the same but you might have to wait longer. Do not attempt to write or print your essays at the library. It will be extremely crowded during essay and exam times.

a view from the library (by Nataliya Matamoros)

@ Cafés:          There are some coffee shops with Internet available but the prices are ridiculously expensive, mostly because students are usually covered by the university network.

books, photocopying, and printing    Library! You can find most books at the library, even the most obscure ones and the university also has an inter-library loan system. Photocopying can also be done at the library. For printing, we recommend the Buchanan building - less crowded and usually better quality. If you notice any problem with the printers, complain at the library front desk and they will not only fix it, but also refund you for the money you might have spent on bad printing.

post office The post office is in South Street. It is not very big but the people are friendly. If you need to post official Mundus documents, you can ask the Modern Languages Secretariat (Buchanan Building) to do it or you.

Student accommodation is a great idea! If you want something with more space, you can try to look for a flat but St Andrews is a small town so the number of flats available is extremely low. Within student accommodation, there is much to choose from, depending on what you like. Our advice is to check the university website for details.
Ana Sofia lived in Albany Park and loved it! The houses were warm, they were right next to the beach and when it snowed, it was beautiful. However, it is still a good 10-minute walk from the town centre.

the beach in front of Albany Park at low tide (by Nataliya Matamoros)

Nataliya lived in Deans Court, which is a rather expensive option, but it has more benefits than drawbacks. First, the unique medieval building with an unforgettable canteen in the cellar in the style of Harry Potter’s movies and windows facing the shore with the ancient St Andrews castle and its cemetery. Second, the rent includes meals and official dinners with Scottish cuisine. Third, it has a library, DVD collection and even a Wii video game console to have fun with friends. Fourth, room cleaning daily.

views from the builldings of Deans Court (by Nataliya Matamoros)

Anuradha lived in David Russell Apartments, but found them rather expensive with quite a distant location. However, it was undoubtedly very comfortable - a double bed, spacious room, excellent heating, own bathroom, internet connection, phone, TV. 5 people live in a flat where each one is allotted his/her own room and share a common kitchen.
Fife Park is one of the cheapest accommodation options offered by the University.
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 accommodation 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.

This, we will leave to you. The trick is to try many different places, and there are plenty of them. The scones at North Point are a must (as many people think, since that spot was always full).
Definitely try the Scottish specialty called ‘haggis’ made of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs. As a snack, fish and chips will be perfect for any get-together with friends.

top: haggis; bottom: sticky-toffee cake (by Nataliya Matamoros)

Culture                        St Andrews is full of cultural clubs, which will host many events in the beginning of the year. My advice is to try as many as you would like and then pick 2 or 3 clubs tops. You think you will have the time for more, but you won’t. If you arrive during the second semester, you can still join but you will need to catch up with the activities. Tip: it is great to build your CV!
It is a definite must to learn to dance ceilidh. There is a great chance to do it at Boy's Brigade Hall, which is on Greenside Place street. There local students teach everyone the basics of this dance and even practice for the annual ceilidh show which takes place at the Castle of St Andrews on the 1st Sunday of May.

St Andrews Castle (by Nataliya Matamoros)

To get some adrenalin don’t miss the student tradition of May Dip (on the first early morning of May), when you can join crowds of students jumping off the shore into the ice cold water. 
Another extreme event takes place on one of the weekends of November. It is Raisin Weekend, for which you will need to be ‘adopted’ by one of the students from St Andrews university and become their ‘child’. On this weekend your academic ‘mothers’ dress you up in fancy costumes in which you proceed to St Salvator’s Quad for a portion of foam. The grand foam fight organized there will change your appearance beyond recognition and leave unforgettable memories! 

the foam fight (by Sakshi Tandom)

In February or March participate in the night-time torchlight procession from St Salvator’s Quad to the end of the main pier in red academic gowns, if you are lucky to be there for the rector reception. It happens once every three years.

the pier during daytime (by Nataliya Matamoros)

You can always go the beach, when you have a free hour, and marvel at the tide, people doing blokarting on the beach. Just remember to always dress up warm as even in summer it tends to be windy and cold there.

the magic tide and beach sports (by Nataliya Matamoros)

Try the Befriender's Scheme, which 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. 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.
For more insiders’ suggestions go to www.thesinner.net
Sports              The university sports center is further away from other facilities, but still it is within walking distance. Unlike in other universities, here you will have to pay for all sport activities both per semester and per visit, but they are absolutely worth the investment.
Don’t forget to try golf! St Andrews has the best and oldest golf courses in Europe. 


top: St Salvator’s Quad; bottom: student procession (by Nataliya Matamoros)

St Andrews is one of the top UK universities, which was also chosen by Prince William as his academic alma mater. However, this does not mean it is perfect. In fact, you will face some major issues. There are still some problems to be solved, namely the lack of varied course options. This is something you can fight for or accept, as you prefer.
Grading is done by two professors and is usually tough, so your first couple of essays might be a reflexion of that. The most important thing to do is understand what is expected from an essay and what each lecturer wants, because they will all want different things. However, ask around about the different classes and lecturers, get as much information from other students as possible, and you should be fine. Also, keep in mind that if you come from a country where many sources are valuable, things will be different here. At this level, you will be expected to show original thought, which should then be properly backed-up.

This can be tricky, as St Andrews is a very expensive town. For daily groceries like bread and milk, I would go to Tesco in the very center of the town on Market Str. However, for weekly/monthly groceries, it is recommended to try Aldy or another supermarket in the northern part of the city.

There are some shops, but most of them will be unbelievably expensive. It is better to take an afternoon and go to Dundee or Edinburgh.
However, for a unique memory of Scotland try the shop called “Ness” on Market Str. Here you can buy the cutest ever clothes, bags, accessories and toys made of Scottish tartan. Expensive, but absolutely worth the money!
For warm clothes - if you don't want to carry much (you'll need them believe us! ) there are several charities on Market and South Str 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.

the irresistible tartan Ness bunny (by Nataliya Matamoros)

Whether you are covered by European Health Insurance or the programme’s insurance, you can use the British NHS. There is a health centre located in the northern part of town, where you’ll be welcomed by the staff and assisted very politely. Don’t attempt to walk there - a bus or a taxi might be your best option as it is still quite the stretch. You will need to make an appointment but once you are there, it goes pretty fast.

by Nataliya Matamoros


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