After two weeks at St Andrews, I can say I’ve learned a lot. On entering this jungle of gowns, independent coffee shops, pier walks and Hunter wellies (worn regardless of rain), I was reasonably confident. The food in halls wasn’t too bad, the weather was warm and we freshers had plenty of time to assimilate to the St Andrean way of life. But when arriving at a new place there is always a learning curve, and the opportunity therein for some major errors of judgement.
Here are some tips to avoid embarrassment and consternation during your first weeks in the Bubble:
1. Do not sprain your ankle
This is an important one. Spraining your ankle is a particularly bad idea, especially when the pain doesn’t go away irrespective of the number of messy bombs you imbibe. When you go to the medical centre, don’t confess to the nurse that you don’t remember how you did it, because she will judge you and tell you that the only cure is not to go out for the rest of the month and never, ever drink again.
2. Do not go to the bike sale
Going to the bike sale will only make you angry. In theory, the bike sale is a stress-free, cheap alternative to the traditional bike shop. In reality, it is a nerve-wracking and patently useless endeavour. Unless you are prepared to spend the night camping out in the Agnes Blackadder car park, or particularly relish the idea of spending three hours in a queue watching other people ride away on your potential bike, I’d give this one a miss.
3. Do not buy a bike online
It sounds like a good idea. The website makes it seem like a good idea. “Order now and your bike will be delivered in two days.” Brilliant! What the site neglects to inform you is that your bicycle will arrive in a million tiny pieces, and putting a bike together when you don’t know how to use an Alan key is incredibly difficult. It WILL break when you ride it, you WILL fall off it and it WILL be raining when this happens (this is Scotland, after all). You will then be late for a lecture, arrive covered in some kind of mud and with an incredibly swollen sprained ankle.
4. Do not join a catered hall and think you are going to make every meal
Buy some cereal bars, because breakfast just isn’t worth it unless you have a lecture some time before 10am. To be honest, considering the quality of hall food, don’t realistically think you will be able to eat every meal – purchase provisions for those nights when the food doesn’t look like anything that should be put on a plate.
Even if these rules are ignored, and future freshers continue to make the same mistakes, it doesn’t matter. Every single gaffe has essentially been yet another induction into the warm community of St Andrews. From the friendly janitor who helped me make my bike, to the people behind me in the queue in ABH car park who happily chatted through a dreary three-hour wait, St Andrews does seem to be, quite literally, one big happy family. Fresher blunders are simply an endearing – if painful – part of the process.