Post Grads: The things you might not know about St Andrews

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Post Grads: The things you might not know about St Andrews

So, you've taken the plunge into postgraduate study, your head is already buried in books and you may be feeling that your undergraduate degree was a walk in the park in comparison.

Postgraduate study is a big commitment, but that doesn't mean you can't take time out. And what better way to take a break from studying than exploring the delights that the area has to offer?

It might be cold most of the year round, but the coastal views are amazing. And is there a more enjoyable way to spend time on the beach than to get involved in some water sports?

Water Sports

St Andrews is a growing haven for beach and water sports, from traditional surfing to modern sports such as kitesurfing, land yachting, kite buggying and traction kiting. For the uninitiated, kitesurfing is an action sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing in one extreme fusion - and you can do it all on West Sands Beach

For those post-graduate adrenalin junkies who have the urge to get out and about, St Andrews is surely top of the list.

Home of Golf

If you want the scenery but something a little less physical, you could get in a round of golf at one of the world’s most famous sporting venues – St Andrews Links. Let’s face it, you can’t go to Scotland and not play golf, it’s unheard of!

This course is widely regarded as the ‘home of golf’ and has a decorated 600 years of history just waiting to be explored – and added to! With a number of competitively-priced courses on the links, you’ll be hard-pushed to find a better place to hone your back swing.


Taste of Italy

After working up an appetite, Jannettas Gelateriahas to be worth a visit. For four generations, since Bennett Jannetta left the small village of Atina near Cassino, it has been producing its much-loved premium gelato in St Andrews and is a must-see-taste for visitors to the university.

Roam Around The Ruins

If medieval British buildings are your thing, you can enjoy some study downtime with a visit to St Andrews Castle. A ruin that was the subject of several battles between the Scots and their English counterparts, it has been a bishop’s palace, a fortress, and a state prison during its 450-year life.

You can even get a realistic feel for how siege warfare would have panned out by visiting the castle’s underground mine and countermine.

Stunning Cathedral Views

Similarly, a trip to historic St Andrews Cathedralis a must for those pining for a study break or simply seeking inspiration. A highly prominent building still to this day, the cathedral is even visible from the ocean.

There’s plenty to see and do, including learning how the cathedral dominated Scottish religion until 1560 as the headquarters of the medieval Scottish Church. Visitors can also discover how worshippers used the site since at least the 700s, when St Andrews relics are said to have been brought there.

And as well as getting up close to the imposing enclosure walls, you can climb to the top of the 33-metre-tall St Rule’s Tower for spectacular views across St Andrews and Fife.

Work-out and Exercise

If sport and keeping fit is on your to-do list, then why not get in touch with the excellent St Andrews Athletics Union, which is a student organisation run by, and for students. Post Grads studying at St Andrews are automatically members of the Athletics Union (AU) and can choose from over 60 Sports Clubs. Take a look at their website to see the massive variety of sports and activities.

For Post Grads staying at Homes for Students East Shore, the bay at East Sands Leisure Centre is part of the Fife Sports & Leisure Trust and boasts a wide range of classes, equipment and health programmes catering for everyone, from group fitness activities to swimming and junior sessions.


The Famous University of St Andrews Traditions Spanning Centuries

Taking the next step of your learning journey at university is a life-changing experience at the best of times. Studying at an institution that proudly honours traditions dating back centuries is the absolute pinnacle.

From the moment you arrive at the University of St Andrews through to your final day there, you feel like you are part of something special. You join a unique academic family established long ago, and you can’t help but immerse yourself in that sense of community.

There is a reason the traditions have lasted so long. Those lucky enough to walk the halls since the 1400s reflect on their tenures with great fondness, and over time their experiences become stories that are told for the rest of their lives.

Sponsio Academia

To encourage respect between new cohorts and their surroundings, all students start life at the university by declaring that they agree to the ‘Sponsio Academia’ when they enrol:

“We students who set down our names hereunder in all good faith make a solemn promise that we shall show due deference to our teachers in all matters relating to order and good conduct; that we shall be subject to the authority of the Senatus Academicus and shall, whatever be the position we attain hereafter, promote, so far as lies in our power, the profit and the interest of our University of St Andrews. 

Further, we recognize that, if any of us conducts themselves in an unbecoming or disorderly manner or shows insufficient diligence in their studies and, though admonished, does not improve, it is within the power of the Senatus Academicus to inflict on such students a fitting penalty or even expel them from the university.”

This is essentially an opportunity for students to make a pledge to align themselves with a set of principles that apply to all their activities, be they academic or otherwise. It is also a promise to treat other students, members of staff, and St Andrews staff in the same way they would wish to be treated.

The Gowns

The St Andrews Red Gown is one of the university’s most instantly-recognisable traditions. It is usually worn at formal occasions, giving the function a delightful dose of pomp and ceremony, but students are also welcome to put on the famous garment on any given day.

Many choose to wear the gown on a regular basis regardless of whether they are in a lecture of exploring the local area during a break. They can also be spotted during the popular Sunday pier walk.

The way in which the gown is draped is another tradition. In the first year, it is worn formally over both shoulders. By the second year, it tends to be shrugged back, although still covering both shoulders. Year three sees the gown case off the right shoulders by Science students, and off the left shoulders by those studying Art.

In the fourth year, however, students wear them around the elbows, to demonstrate their intention to ‘shrug off’ university and move on to the next stage of their lives.

For Post Grads, the colour of the gown changes to black and burgundy suggesting a progression in academic maturity.

Mentoring – Academic Mums and Dads

The benefits of having a role model from whom to learn cannot be underestimated, which is why there has always been a strong emphasis on mentoring at the university, further enhancing the spirit of family and community.

This tradition sees older students ‘adopt’ their first-year counterparts as ‘children’ and provide invaluable support, advice and guidance along the way. This makes the settling-in process significantly smoother, and of course the tradition is passed on, ensuring the St Andrews family remains as close-knit as ever.

Raisin Weekend

While the mentoring tradition is in place to predominantly offer a helping hand to students, it also brings with it some light-hearted activities which are effective in breaking the ice and familiarising ‘children’ with their ‘parents’.

Raisin Weekend sees the younger cohorts dress in elaborate costumes before embarking on a shaving foam fight. This is the culmination of a fun two days, during which the ‘children’ are entertained by their ‘parents’ and encouraged to play pranks and games.

The May Dip

Not one for the faint-hearted, this tradition comprises students leaping into the freezing cold North Sea at dawn on the first day of May. According to folklore, this pastime is designed to bring you good luck ahead of the exams.

Affectionately referred to as the ‘May Dip’, hundreds of participants swap their normal attire for bathing costumes and defy the elements by running into the water, often hand-in-hand in a show of solidarity. Those who choose to watch the drama unfold, rather than join in, are often given the important responsibility of guarding their friends’ clothes until they return.

The event follows The Gaudie, which takes place on the evening of 30thApril, at which point students join a torch-lit procession along the pier to honour John Honey, who saved five sailors from drowning in 1800.

The PH

Located on the cobblestones outside St Salvator’s Quad, this tradition marks the burning of Protestant martyr Patrick Hamilton. It is seen as bad luck to step on the initials, which is why students can be spotted walking around the ‘PH’ on the floor between lectures, to avoid touching them and therefore putting their exam results at risk, if the superstition is to be believed.

The Kate Kennedy Procession

Organised by the Kate Kennedy Club, this much-loved event sees students and local residents don costumes of historic university characters and parade through the nearby streets.

Since its inception in 1432, a new member of the club is nominated to portray Kate, who is the focal point of the procession. She rides in her coach with the club president, who plays her uncle, Bishop James Kennedy, founder of St Salvator’s College.


This post was written by Chris Lynham for Homes for Students East Shore,student accommodation in St Andrews.



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