St Andrews Life Lessons Learnt:

11425287_10153018618127695_963620140_n[1] Class of 2014 graduate Parker Burns, now studying at Baylor Law School in Texas, imparts some wise words to current and graduating students of St Andrews.

After graduating from St Andrews, I moved back to Texas to pursue another degree. Continuing my education in a different environment revealed to me the many benefits that I gained from my time in Scotland.

The best advice I can give to a current student is to never stop. By this I mean taking advantage of every academic and social opportunity you can at St Andrews. Even if down the road you find yourself in a similar environment, it is unlikely that you will have the time you currently have to take advantage of the experiences St Andrews has to offer. Travel, go to social events, join any number of student societies, and take classes that interest you. Go to a pub and have a deep chat about anything, try to learn from your friends in other disciplines, work attentively on your coursework, and make sure to have fun every once in a while. At no other point in your life will you be surrounded by such a diverse group of people or wide-ranging opportunities.

For me, as an Arts student, it was important to learn how to work hard as it could have been tempting to procrastinate – especially with only four contact hours a week in my final year. Learning to work hard, research, and write efficiently will make your transition into further education or work experience that much easier. Trust me when I say that while undergraduate life is difficult, your first step out of university is unlikely to be easier and will require a similar skill set.

As a graduate, your St Andrews education will continue to benefit you in many ways. In addition to your formal education, you will have the chance to learn from and interact with other students in a rigorous environment. When I first arrived, I remember thinking that I would seriously need to “up my academic game” to even be able to hold a conversation with some of my classmates. For this reason, the academic reputation of the University will precede and continue to benefit you long after graduation – even as far away as Texas.

While I enjoy what I am doing now, what I will miss most about St Andrews is having so many friends in one place. You will realise upon graduating that your experience is roughly 30% the University and town and 70% the friends that you make. Make sure to keep in touch with them through social media and Skype. Even if you are two or three thousand miles away from most of them, it is surprising how often these friends will reappear in your life.

Originally, I was nervous about attending a university so far from home. However, after an amazing four years, and now as an alumnus, I am so happy that I chose St Andrews.

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To the Class of 2015:

Third-year student Charlotte Andrew raises a glass to the Class of 2015 as we send them on their way into the ‘big wide world’. Charlotte is currently undertaking a 6-week internship with the Alumni Relations and Annual Giving teams in the Development Office, and was recently elected to be the Students’ Association’s first ever Association Alumni Officer for 2015-16.

It’s an odd feeling to know that I’ll be here this summer to watch my friends graduate. It’s strange enough to know that I will be graduating myself this time next year, especially given that this means I and many others will be beginning the dreaded search for a graduate job in the months to come. As much as this terrifies virtually all incoming final year students at St Andrews, it is likely felt a hundred times over by those actually leaving this year. Whether the Class of 2015 have jobs lined up, a gap year to look forward to, or are happy to have no immediate plans, this summer will mark the beginning of a whole new chapter of their lives.13LW4632

But that is a sentiment expressed thousands of times at graduations around the world and although that makes it no less true, I’d like to say something that is less often discussed. For many of those being left behind in St Andrews, who still have years of leaving the Library at 2am, of enjoying the ridiculousness of Raisin Weekend and being woken up by seagulls in the early hours to look forward to, those graduating this year have had a profound effect on our university experience. The unique networks made across year groups, academic departments, within societies and halls yield an extraordinarily cohesive student bond that makes the parting at graduation all the more bittersweet.

“It’s an odd feeling to know that I’ll be here this summer to watch my friends graduate”

As happy and proud of our friends as we are for achieving their goal (or for deciding, after all, that a 2.1 will be just fine), saying goodbye will always be difficult. For many, the international nature of the University means it’s unlikely they will see some of their friends again in person.  Saying goodbye to people who have shaped you during some of your most formative and experimental years, who have given advice, helped you gain confidence, improved your skills outside of academia and encouraged you to make the most unlikely of friendships can prove to be a hard task for many.

For the majority it’s not really goodbye though. A key asset of St Andrews is the number of graduates that return to visit friends or help out with their old societies, or simply keep in touch for years to come. As much as we remaining students feel the loss of our friends and role-models, watching their successes and mistakes in the wider world only serves to continue the trend of guidance begun at University.

So to all those leaving St Andrews, as usual, good luck – but additionally, thank you.

We’ll be following your progress with interest!