Laurent Bélanger explains why he loves St Andrews.
St. Andrews offers a world-class education in countless fields. Don’t take my word for it — any look at the league tables will tell you that: 1st in the UK for Politics, Philosophy, Psychology, Physics, Theology and Computer Science; top 10 for most others. Yet you are already aware of all of this. You want to know not so much the what but the why, something that lies not within the eminent institution, but rather, around it. So why should you be here?
You have undoubtedly already seen St. Andrews’ great landmarks: St. Salvator’s Quad — the beautiful central greens, the picturesque old Schools; West Sands — our long beach, seemingly paved by the hands of a cosmic artist; St. Andrews Castle — a wondrous remnant of ages past; the old Cathedral — straight out of a Ken Follett novel, one might imagine. What you haven’t seen are its gems: a park hidden around a street corner, a small bookstore whose shelves hold many a rare volume, a sneaky passageway to the sea. While I will not reveal them to you here, these are the unseen treasures that make the town a precious place, one that you will never stop discovering from your first day onward.
Not all that St. Andrews offers is hidden, however. What the town lacks in size and glitz, it makes up for in a constant flurry of activity. Many doubt whether they can live in such a small town for four, five, six years and not grow bored of it; whether they can have fun. After but one year, I saw my doubts dispelled. The town is small — within the first week you will know your way around its main streets, buildings and points of interest — but it isn’t dull. The Bubble is persistently bustling. During the day, myriad social gatherings and talks from eminent figures. Under cover of darkness, dozens of Societies hold their Pub Quizzes and sports teams their Crawls; not far away, perhaps in one of the College Halls, guests are taking their seats at a black tie dinner.
St. Andrews is an old town, and opulence seems to be its tradition. The black tie dinners give way to formal galas and balls, thrown for varying occasions at various times. Yet under such glittering frivolities lie the town’s truest, oldest traditions. This is simultaneously the most confusing and delectable experience that the University has to offer. At first you will be struggling to catch up — what in the world is an academic family — but you will soon become enrapt in our rich history. You might timidly observe the annual Kate Kennedy Procession, and will religiously avoid the “PH” stamped in the shadow of St. Salvator’s Chapel. You will let loose on Raisin Weekend, and cling to your Red Gown — the centuries-old symbol of the University — as you walk down the Pier on a Sunday morning. And yes — no matter what you may think now — you will race your friends into the North Sea on the 1st of May.
St. Andrews lies before you, ready to be discovered. Now it is only up to you to do so.