How scholarships transform lives III – Georgia Spencer-Rowland

Margaret F K Fleming graduated from St Andrews with an MA in French in 1933, and a Bursary was established in her name in 2010 for students of French to enable them to study in France. Georgia Spencer-Rowland received the Bursary in 2015, and she describes here the wonderful opportunities it gave her.

Thanks to the Margaret F K Fleming Bursary, I was lucky enough to spend six months in Paris studying International Relations and Humanities at Sciences Po University.  I lived in the heart of the 2ème arrondissement from August to January and my time in the city was simply wonderful: I made friends for life, was challenged academically and seized every opportunity both inside and outside of the university environment.

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My first day at the Embassy

I attended the University’s invaluable week-long Welcome Programme. Here we learned a completely new approach to research, presentation and in-depth data analysis and critique, without which I would have been lost once term began. My classes and professors were extraordinary and I feel privileged to have been included in what was, to date, the most intellectually stimulating environment I had witnessed outside of St Andrews.

I studied a range of subjects – all in French – from Terrorism and Asymmetric Warfare, to Ethics, French Philosophy and the Literary Culture of the Middle East.  Unfortunately, my study of terrorism changed from the abstract to a real-life experience after the attacks on the city that November. However, well-rehearsed security measures and the positive attitude of professors and students meant that evacuations and false alarms did not impede our learning, nor our desire to attend classes.

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Outside the Sciences Po main building on my last day

Classes not only developed my language skills, but also influenced my choice of International Relations modules on return to St Andrews: studying an introductory course to Ethics at Sciences Po led me to take the Ethics and the Use of Force module in Senior Honours. I remain in touch with my professors from Sciences Po, all of whom have kindly written references for when I apply for a Masters course at the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA).

Outside the classroom, I took advantage of the unparalleled cultural opportunities on offer around Paris by visiting museums, art exhibitions, jazz shows and countless other unforgettable activities. The Bursary also enabled me to enjoy university sports classes, including swimming and weekly pilates classes. This provided a much-needed break from the library and allowed me to meet other students, who introduced me to debating and to foreign affairs and film societies – all of which I subsequently joined.

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View from Le Ponte des Artes taken on the walk to my first classes on my 21st birthday

Alongside my studies, I managed to get a job in the British Embassy in Paris.  Having originally applied for diplomatic work experience, I was then offered and accepted a job as a server and interpreter.  It was incredible to go straight from lectures to serve at state functions where guest lecturers from Sciences Po would often be dining. The extra travel costs associated with this were covered by the Bursary, meaning that neither my academic nor social time in Paris were compromised.

 

I cannot thank the donors of the Margaret F K Fleming Bursary enough for the astounding opportunities it afforded me. Not only was I able to engage fully in the academic rigours of such an incredible institution, but the analytical and critical research skills that I learnt there will serve me for the rest of my academic life. I was able to participate fully in all aspects of student life, from sports to the arts, all of which would have been financially inaccessible without the assistance of the Bursary.

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If you would like to know more about the range of scholarships and bursaries available at St Andrews, you can find out at: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/fees-and-funding/scholarships/ 
You can support future generations of students to fulfil their potential by giving to one of our scholarship programmes at: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/development/support/other-fundraising-projects/scholarships/ 

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To Graduation and Beyond

As Graduation Week 2018 comes to a close and the University sends over 2000 graduating students out into the world, it seems like the perfect time to reflect upon the week’s events. From prestigious speakers and ceremonies to Balls, Bops and Garden Parties, Graduation Week 2018 was not to be missed. Development Summer Intern, Rosie Catcheside, takes us through the week from her perspective.

This year saw our largest ever graduating class cross the stage at eight ceremonies over four days. The Scottish weather was on the new graduates’ side and it was great to see the town sunny and bustling with student life again. The first graduation day was a perfect start to the week, with a large graduating class including students of English, Mathematics, Theology and Divinity.

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One aspect of St Andrews graduations which parents and students particularly enjoy is the tradition. Ceremonies take place in Younger Hall, where graduates cross the stage and are capped by the Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor before being handed their degree certificate. After the ceremonies, they join the academic procession along North Street and into the Quad. As a spectator, it is easy to imagine the generations of students who have taken part in these traditions over the years.

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As an intern with the Annual Giving team in Development, my main role in Graduation Week was helping at the Garden Parties. I had never attended these events before and was thoroughly impressed by what I saw, from the marquees to the food (mini fudge doughnuts!), drinks and atmosphere. Graduates, meanwhile, enjoyed the opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate their success.

The most enjoyable aspect of the week for me was the opportunity to chat with students and their families. Students pinned luggage tags on our maps to show where they were going after graduation, and this proved that St Andrews’ graduates are both international and adventurous. With locations ranging from London, to New York, to Hong Kong, South Africa and even Antarctica, the world really does need to prepare itself because there is nowhere that St Andrews graduates aren’t excited to go.

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It was also exciting to meet Family Programme Members and graduates at the Parent Cocktail Receptions at MUSA. With MUSA preparing to close for its extension and refurbishment, the cocktail parties gave parents and donors the opportunity to look around the museum and mingle with fellow parents, the Principal, and other University staff. The impact of donations to the University cannot be overstated, and it was great to chat about projects in the pipeline, and to thank donors for their impact.

Whilst parents particularly enjoyed these more ceremonious aspects, many graduates were especially excited for the final celebrations of Grad Bop and Grad Ball. The Bop included a glass of prosecco on entry and songs from the last four years and gave our newest alumni the chance to let their hair down on a St Andrews night out for the final time.

The big event, however, was the Graduation and Summer Ball on Saturday night. From the illuminated St Salvator’s Quad to the marquees on Lower College Lawn, the ball was set up in true St Andrews style, combining elegance with great fun. Graduates were dressed to impress and ready for a wonderful evening, and a fantastic final St Andrews’ memory.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed experiencing Graduation Week from the inside this year. As a member of the Development team I was able to appreciate how much work goes into graduation, and as a student watching friends graduate I was also able to see how much the week meant to new alumni and their families. Now our 2018 graduates venture outside of the Bubble and join almost 60,000 fellow alumni all over the globe, and I am confident that they will continue to do St Andrews proud, wherever their adventures take them next.

You can see more photos and videos from Graduation 2018 on the University’s Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/uniofsta/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/uniofstandrews/) pages and more stories from the week on the Alumni Network Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/USTAAlumni/)

Magical memories of the Gatty

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Elspeth Smith (BSc 1968) and her sisters Frances and Christian spent idyllic childhood holidays in St Andrews, exploring the rock pools in the East Sands and carrying specimens to the Gatty marine laboratory, at that time unaware that their great grandfather James Gillespie had designed it! Here she describes her memories of the old Gatty and how delighted she is about the construction of the new Scottish Oceans Institute.

Some of my happiest childhood memories are of days spent in the late 1940s and early 1950s on the East Sands in St Andrews. Granny Tetlow (my father’s mother) lived on the Grange Road, and my sisters and I would often run down the farm road – sometimes barefoot and already in our swimming costumes – and onto the beach!  Then, more often than not, we would head for the rock pools where, with a bit of luck, Mr Patrick would be. We knew him as ‘Pat’ or ‘Mr Pat’, and he worked at the Gatty.

Pat always took the time to answer our endless questions about the crabs and limpets and seaweed or whatever else we could find. He showed us animals such as lug worms and live razor shells that we would never have spotted for ourselves, and he explained what mermaid’s purses and whelk egg cases were.

He also allowed us to carry buckets of specimens back to the Gatty for him. Once there, we went in through a small back door, past a tiny office and into a magical room smelling of the sea and containing huge tanks full of a wonderful assortment of marine life including sea anemones, urchins, crabs and molluscs of every size and shape, and a variety of fish. Some of them seemed huge at the time, but that’s probably because we were very small!

I always had a love of nature study and that was probably partly inspired by these wonderful early experiences, so when I came here to study Zoology and then Biochemistry, I already felt at home.

It was while I was a student at St Andrews that I became aware that my great grandfather James Gillespie of Gillespie and Scott Architects had designed the Gatty building. It has certainly changed a lot since then!

In 2012, when I was President of the After Many Days Club, it was my great pleasure to welcome the Director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit as one of our speakers. New facilities were already being discussed at that point to enable the work of the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) to be continued and expanded.

Christian and I were therefore delighted to be invited to look round the Gatty again recently by Deputy Director Dr Dave Ferrier, and to hear of all the wonderful plans afoot for the new SOI. The building designed by our great grandfather has served its purpose well and it is fitting that some of the stones from the original structure will be incorporated into the wall alongside the public pathway: the spirit of the old will live on in the new.

I hope that students and townsfolk will form as many happy memories of the new building as we have of the old.

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Blanket solutions

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Current students Alice Bugeja and Alex McGregor, both studying Management, founded their own unique St Andrews-focused company – selling custom-made, St Andrews themed blankets. Our intern, Francis Newman, interviewed both of them to see what the business is about.

What made you decide to start this project?

We started this project as part of our second year Management module ‘Enterprise and Creativity’. We wanted to create a unique product that St Andrews students could treasure while at university and then take away to remind them of their memories of St Andrews. Our project was very successful so we decided to rebrand and relaunch St Andrews Blanket Co. We expanded and developed the company to reach a broader range of people. As well as our original saints/sinners design we now have a “town” design for people that don’t have a relation to the University, but who have a love for our historic town.

What are some of the challenges that you’ve come across and how have you tackled them?

This was our first time setting up a business which was a challenge in itself. Everything was new for us and so we had a lot of queries regarding the branding, marketing, production and funding. Our main difficulty was sourcing the blankets and getting them printed to the high quality we wanted. After finding a company and placing our order we were informed the blankets were out of stock and it would be over a month before we would receive them. Sourcing the blankets has continued to be a challenge however we have changed supplier which has been very beneficial to us as they are more communicative, enabling us to ensure we have appropriate stock levels.

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How has St Andrews helped with creating the company or knowing what to do?

The Enterprise and Creativity module allowed us to bring our idea to life. It gave us the opportunity to trial our idea and conduct market research. We both learned a lot from this experience which has enabled us to successfully continue and run St. Andrews Blanket Company. Other Management modules (including Accounting and Finance) have been very beneficial to our business, giving us the knowledge we need to successfully manage our finances.

What are your plans beyond St Andrews?

We are both in our 3rd year at St Andrews. Alice is studying Management and Spanish and is on her year abroad in Spain interning with Nissan Motor Cars. She has learnt a huge amount working for an international company and loves using her language skills, so hopes to return to a similar organisation after her degree.

Alex is currently studying Management and after university hopes to go into the financial business sector.

What’s your favourite place in St Andrews?

We both absolutely love the coastal parts of the town – West and East Sands are our favourite places to go for a walk or a run. We have had a lot of fun taking photos at these locations for our business and we have even been lucky with some sun!

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Find out more about St Andrews Blanket Company!

Award-winning medic, championship-winning dancer

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Lindsey Karmen (BSc 2017), who won the Principal’s Medal on the day of her graduation, won the award for Best Undergraduate in Scotland at the British Education Awards ceremony in Manchester in January. Our intern, Francis Newman, spoke with her about the award and her experience at St Andrews.

“I loved being at St Andrews,” Lindsey says. ‘The degree structure, the town, and all the activities you can get involved in make it a really special place.”

Lindsey’s academic record is stellar and her list of non-academic achievements continues to grow, but her enthusiasm for St Andrews is very evident.

Last year she won the British Dance championships with St Andrews’ dance squad, the Blue Angels, and then won the Principal’s Medal in June 2017 when she graduated from the St Andrews leg of the Scottish-Canadian Medical Programme. This year she’s won the award for the best undergraduate in Scotland at the prestigious British Education Awards, which recognise student achievement at every level.

How did she end up with the award? “The St Andrews Alumni Association nominated me for this award. I was selected as one of three finalists in Scotland and was invited to attend the awards ceremony gala in Manchester.

That ceremony was a special occasion in itself. “It was great to be in a room with such accomplished people from all types of educational backgrounds. The awards are special because they recognize vocational, and co-curricular successes alongside academic achievements.”

Winning the Principal’s Medal was also a major highlight of her last year. “It was a wonderful endorsement of the work I’d done, both for my degree and within the community,” she says. “I was lucky enough to do be part of some special activities in St Andrews – able to participate in so many different societies – and it was awesome to have that recognised.”

She retains fond memories of her time with the Blue Angels – especially their competitions. “When we won the British Dance championships, we first had a long trip to Loughborough. When we got there, no-one there had heard of us, we were complete underdogs – and yet we won, thanks to all the hard work that everyone had put in, including freshers who’d come in that year.

“What was most important about it, though, was that it was about having fun, working together as a team.”

I ask what her favourite place in St Andrews was.

“This might sound a bit sad,” she chuckles, “but in the Medical building there are a load of tutorial rooms on the ground floor and before exams a group of us would often use them for ‘revision’. We ended up ordering pizza to tutorial room 4! During revision, St Andrews essentially shrank from three streets to one tutorial room.”

Since graduating last year, Lindsey went on to Edinburgh for the next stage of her medical training. She works at the Royal Infirmary, visiting wards, speaking to patients, and learning from doctors. She’s building up towards a career in medicine, though she’s not sure at the moment what specialism she wants to head towards.

“The three years of BSc Medicine training at St Andrews were outstanding. Initially  we thought our education was good. Now, I know that the foundational knowledge from St Andrews is so good that it sets you up for success in your clinical years – it’s better than the training at this level from many other universities.”

It was more than good academic foundations that she gained from the University, however.

“I matured a lot in St Andrews,” she says. “Being an international student, coming to a different country – it was a  great stepping stone.

“Also, I made friends who I know I’ll keep forever. Our class scattered across the UK, and I’ve seen so many of them since. It’s amazing how when you leave the Bubble, you keep the connections with people.

“Being in St Andrews was probably the best three years of my life – it will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Reasons to be Cheerful: Alumni Festival Weekend 2018 in review

The 2018 Alumni Festival Weekend was a celebration of all that is good to have once been a St Andrews student. Alumni Relations Officer, Phil Pass (MA 2009), blogs about some of the best moments of the weekend which saw alumni from across the last half a century return to St Andrews to take part in events with their old sports clubs and societies.

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What would bring you back to St Andrews for a few days?

For many alumni, the opportunity to join in with their old sports clubs for a game of netball, tennis or hockey, or the chance to see a Mermaids play in the Barron (Crawford) Theatre again, to experience the Bop just one more time, or to catch up with old friends over dinner proved the catalyst for a return visit for the Alumni Festival Weekend 2018.

The fourth edition of the Festival provided almost 50 opportunities for alumni to re-engage with their student life over the weekend of 13-15 April.

Here are some of the highlights from weekend’s activities, in photo form!

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Alumni James Martin, Juliette Camburn, Hannah Brownlow and Iain Anderson (L to R) at the Careers Panel with the Careers Centre’s Kristyn Emmer

  • Friday started with a Careers Panel event at the Byre Theatre where four alumni from the fields of environmental management, e-learning, creative writing and communications and policy answered questions from the student audience on their careers and how to transition from St Andrews to the world of work.
  • The School of Economics also held a Careers panel with input from some Economics alumni and the School of Classics invited alumni to attend a seminar and reception in Swallowgate.
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Photo by Lightbox – Julia Caira

  • The Students’ Association also welcomed alumni back into the building for Jurassic Bop – photos on Facebook

Saturday

  • The annual Rugby 7s tournament kicked things off on Saturday with teams coming from all over the UK to take part. The carnival atmosphere was brought about by large crowds, a dj and various food and drink outlets across the site with matches taking place on three pitches throughout the day.
  • Tennis alumni came back to St Andrews to try out the brand new indoor tennis centre, recently opened as part of the multi-million pound redevelopment of the Sports Centre.
  • Netball alumni took on current students in mixed games on the indoor and outdoor courts.
  • The annual Kate Kennedy Procession this year coincided with the Alumni Festival Weekend and saw a plethora of St Andrews characters from the past march from St Salvator’s Quad through the streets.
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King Charles II (right) surveys the scene around St Salvator’s Quad following the Kate Kennedy Procession

  • The Principal, Professor Sally Mapstone, hosted a very special “In Conversation” in Parliament Hall with alumni Iain Anderson and Susan Stewart. Iain and Susan were contemporaries at the University, both serving on the Students’ Representative Council and campaigning on matters of equality and diversity. They joined the Principal to discuss how these experiences helped to shape their careers and how they feel about the St Andrews and the wider education sector now.

 

  • This year marked the 10th anniversary of the first graduating class from Sustainable Development. To celebrate, Professor Bill Austin, Dr Charles Warren and Dr Rehema White from the School of Geography and Sustainable Development welcomed back alumni from the course to a reception where they could meet with current students.
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Alumni, students and staff from the School of Geography and Sustainable Development

  • The Alumni Dinner on Saturday evening brought together alumni and students from the last 65 years (spanning graduation from 1952 to 2017!) where they enjoyed a University update from the Principal and enjoyed a short set from a cappella group, The Hummingbirds.
  • Other events throughout the day included Lacrosse, Hockey, Basketball, Badminton, Fencing, Dance Society’s 50th birthday dinner, Music Society, Postgraduate Society ceilidh, Yoga, Aikido, various Mermaids shows, Volleyball, Surfing, the Design Team showcase and a very special alumni edition of ‘Just a Minute’ on St Andrews Radio (STAR)

Sunday

  • The traditional Chapel service and pier walk started the day for many alumni on Sunday.
  • To celebrate the Sustainable Development 10th anniversary, a special tree planting and picnic were held near the University Observatory. This was a joint event with the University’s Transitions team as the first stage of managing the woodland areas around the Observatory.
  • The Festival’s final day for 2018 also included Yoga, Dance, Women’s Cricket and Cheerleading Societies holding open training sessions and events for their alumni, while John Burnett Hall opened its doors to former residents for afternoon tea.

Keep an eye on our monthly e-newsletter, St Andrews in the News, for information on upcoming alumni events in St Andrews and around the world! 

If you would like to plan a return visit to St Andrews, the Alumni Relations team may be able to help – find more information on our Reconnecting web pages

You can follow the Alumni Festival Weekend on Facebook

*Photos courtesy of Oli Walker for Tilted Frame, Elaine Cartwright, Phil Pass and Lightbox

Ambassadors of the Bubble II: Outside the Bubble

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Megan Alexander

See the first post in our ‘Ambassadors of the Bubble’ series here.

The student Ambassadors are well known in town for their work on visiting days, where they show prospective students around the University. Their other work is less well known but at least as important. Behind the scenes, dozens of Ambassadors regularly visit schools around Scotland, especially in underprivileged areas, to encourage students to attend higher education, and to consider St Andrews. Alumni Relations intern Francis Newman spoke to Megan Alexander, Vice-Principal Ambassador for Widening Access and also a student studying Classical Studies and English, about the programme.

“We work with children of a very wide age range,” Megan tells me. “From about the age of 8 up to the end of high school.”

I’m surprised – eight years old perhaps seems young to be thinking about going to university?

“With the younger children it’s about getting them familiar with exciting concepts and trying to inspire them,” she explains. “For example we once taught kids in a school how to programme some basic robots – which really excited them.”

Meanwhile with older students – about aged 14 or above, who are starting to tackle important exams – the Ambassadors help by tutoring them on projects and by talking to them about their plans, and about access to education.

“Many of these students are foster kids or could end up being the first people from their families to come to university.”

The Ambassadors also work with charities such as the Sutton Trust, which runs summer schools in St Andrews for underprivileged students. The Trust helps them to learn how to apply to university and what is expected in a personal statement, as well as providing subject-specific teaching.

Sometimes the Ambassadors have to tackle stigma against the idea of going to university, or attending St Andrews, especially among some parents. How do they deal with it?

“It helps,” Megan tells me, “that most of the Ambassadors on the widening access programme came from similar backgrounds to the students we’re working with. For example, none of my family went to university. All of the Ambassadors who help with the Sutton Trust programme did the same programme themselves before coming to St Andrews.”

The Ambassadors don’t only work with students thinking of applying – they also work with those from similar backgrounds who are about to arrive.

“We have a mentorship scheme where third or fourth years mentor incoming first years – telling them what they’ll need to bring, or how the module system works.

“That’s what made me want to become an Ambassador – to be a part of such a willing, encouraging and important team.”

Visiting days occur regularly, and other visits can be arranged with the Admissions team. Find out more about St Andrews’ student Ambassador scheme.