Will Lord, a Class of 2014 graduate now studying in America as a result of securing the Thouron Award, gives his thoughts on the impact of a St Andrews education.
After graduating in 2014, I have been studying for a Masters in World History at the University of Pennsylvania. It has been an incredible year. At the same time, I have never forgotten the place that made it all possible. This year I have had the opportunity to delve into the archives of the Library of Congress, take speechwriting classes, knock on doors for a gubernatorial election and explore the exciting city of Philadelphia.
Looking back, I come to appreciate the world-class education I received at St Andrews more and more. I’d assumed most students I’d meet this year would not have heard of our eccentric little university off the coast of Scotland. Yet time and again, I was met with raised eyebrows and impressed expressions when I said I went there; St Andrews’ reputation travels very far indeed. Graduate school in the US is not an easy ride and is very much treated as a full-time job. I have to admit the expectations were a little daunting at first, especially with so many classmates coming from other Ivies. But it turned out a St Andrews education is no less formidable than a Princeton or Yale one.
In terms of advice for students, I know for most of you study means knocking off essays, but don’t forget you are at a renowned seat of learning. At the risk of sounding like a frustrated professor, I would say there is more to your academics than grinding through and doing the minimum required. Obviously you don’t have to be the next Nobel Prize winner in your subject, but do take some time to ask questions of your tutors, find little niches of your subject you enjoy and really throw yourself into them. You will have few better opportunities to enrich your understanding of a complex world.
Having left undergraduate study, I also realise you never quite have the same freedom to do extracurriculars and explore your passions. You are privileged to go to a place with so many great student societies, so get stuck in! Personally, I’m fairly sure I’ll never act on stage or preside over debates on a wooden throne draped in a blue and silver gown again, but I am certainly glad I had the chance to at St Andrews. Go the extra mile and try something new. At the very least, you will have good anecdotes for dinner parties.
I do of course miss having so many close friends in one place, but I do my best to keep in touch and know I will see them again. There is something comforting about knowing that the friends you make, the memories you share and the education you receive do not disappear. I am now certain that wherever life goes, there is a red-gowned, slightly curious part of me that will forever be St Andrews.