Cassie Joynes Scotland

January 2020

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I spent my first couple days at St. Andrews doing many of the unglamourous things that have to be done when settling into a new place, especially a new place in a new country. I bought bed sheets, a laptop charger that fits the outlets here in Scotland, and got a SIM card and phone plan so I now have a UK phone number. During these first couple jet-lagged days I also completed advising to officially register for my classes (or as they’re called in Scotland, modules) and attended orientation sessions to get used to differences in academics here (namely that much more of your study is self guided, which I’ve found mostly just means the libraries are always very crowded). I also spent a lot of time walking around town half lost -- the good news is that even though I am quite directionally challenged there are only three main streets in town so I could never really get too lost, no matter how hard I tried. And a second good thing, in my semi-lost state I saw many of the cool sights St. Andrews has to offer such as the ruins of a cathedral and of a castle, a statue of a cat whose name is Hamish McHamish, and the cafe where Will and Kate used to have dates while they were studying at St. Andrews. 

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Because the classes at St. Andrews require more independent study they each carry more weight so I’m only taking four this semester, they are: The Problem of Evil, a Divinity course; Explorers and Revolutionaries, an English class; Neuromodulation, a neuroscience class; and Developmental Psychology, a psychology class. I’ve been really enjoying my classes and the locations I’m taking them in are just as stunning. I’m currently writing this blog post in a library on St. Mary’s quad which is quite possibly older than our nation, the walls are filled with old books and the floorboards creak as people walk by. The buildings that make up St. Andrews University are peppered in between the cutest little boutiques and cafes; I’ve decided it’s my mission to try every coffee shop in town before my time is done (the photo at left is from Rector’s Cafe, a coffee shop attached to our Student Union building, like LaFortune or Duncan at Notre Dame). 

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In addition to large lecture classes two of my modules also have tutorials where we meet once a week in a small group to discuss the readings and ideas from lecture. These discussions are a great complement to the lectures and I find myself looking forward to them each week. I get especially excited for my tutorial for The Problem of Evil, a class that has been deeply intellectually challenging and within the first two and a half weeks has already given me a great basis in how theologians throughout history have attempted to answer the question of how an all good all powerful God could allow evil to exist in the world, I can’t wait to learn more about the topic over the course of the semester. 

Outside of classwork I’ve joined a couple societies (St. Andrews’ name for clubs), most notably knitting society and astronomy society. There are also societies for dog walking, hiking, and yoga, just to name a few. Pretty much anything you can think of has a society for it! During my first week here I went to a Cascada concert put on by the Student Union (which serves a similar function to SUB and Student Government combined at Notre Dame). Just like students at Notre Dame, St. Andrews students take an active role in shaping their student experience and are quite civic minded and community oriented. All-in-all the campus atmosphere is so much fun and the student body has been incredibly friendly to me, a newcomer. I’ve made many friends, both those like me who are studying abroad and those who attend St. Andrews full time. Last weekend I was able to make a trip into Edinburgh (which is about a 2 hour bus ride away) with some of my new friends. We saw the castle, complete with a tour of the grounds and a historical reenactment describing crime and punishment in medieval Scotland.  After the castle we saw part of the Scottish National Museum but I’ll definitely have to go back to the museum, there’s a lot more to explore there. 

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Suffice it to say that time has been absolutely flying by. While walking to class I realized that today was the end of my third week in Scotland and I was simultaneously stunned and unsurprised. While I’ve certainly settled down in some regards -- I no longer have to use Google Maps to get to class -- in others I continue to be filled with a sense of awe. This awe is especially strong when looking at the history and the natural beauty surrounding me. Speaking of, this upcoming weekend I will be taking a trip to Lock Ness, to see what I’m sure will be absolutely breathtaking views! I’ll tell you all about it next month :)