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A Solo Day in St Andrews, Scotland


If you know much about me, you’ll know that I have long held a fascination with St Andrews, Scotland, and have been desperate to visit since 2020 during my freshman year of high school. I am fully aware that this is a strange fixation but here me out. I was bit by the travel bug at a very early age. Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out how to move abroad. Studying abroad is the first step in that goal.

Here’s where it gets interesting. When Covid shut the world down, the world moved online. At this point, I had already been researching St Andrews University and considering going abroad for my undergraduate degree. Specifically, I was interested in St Andrews’ Comparative Literature degree. Naturally, I signed up for multiple information sessions, watching livestreams from my living room.

Ultimately, I decided that 17 was a bit too young to move across the world but that didn’t mean I forgot about St Andrews. Not in the slightest. As soon as I booked my trip to Edinburgh, I made it clear that I would do everything I could to go to St Andrews. After all, when else would I be closer or in a position to just hop on a train and go?

I did my research and booked my train tickets just before bed from the comfort of my hostel. Really, I had no idea what I was doing. The next morning, I got breakfast, stored my bag, and made my way across the street to Waverly Station. My train departed at 9:10 from platform 19. To be quite honest, I was scared to take public transportation alone (something I tend to avoid) but I was also excited to have a solo travel moment.

Unsurprisingly, I fell in love with train travel. The views out my window were stunning and it was honestly very easy. I crossed over the Firth of Forth, through seaside towns, past farmland… Seriously, it was amazing. Arriving at Leuchars Station, I took the bus into St Andrews and was blown away.

St Andrews and its university are blended into each other, bound by cobblestone streets and confined by the sea. Wind whipped through the buildings, flinging sand and spray through the air. Sun beamed down and clouds floated in the semblance of sheep. I popped in and out of numerous bookstores, some chains like Waterstones but most independent shops with towering shelves and library ladders.

Making my way toward the cathedral ruins, I found myself in a graveyard. Classic Anna, I know. Still, it was beautiful, names and dates filling in every space available on many of the stones. Most of the graves were old, some marking the fallen of the World Wars. One marker was commemorative, honoring a family member buried at Ypres. Some were the graves of children, aged three or four. The span was remarkable, both striking and sobering.

From there, I made my way down to the first of three beaches. Once again, I dipped my fingers in the water, feeling the cold salt as it rushed over the sand, the stones and shells marking the shore. Near one of the benches overlooking the beach, I saw a bundle of wilted tulips tied together with string. They looked to be placed gently but I didn’t know why and I didn’t know what it meant.

I climbed back up the hill and made my way to the second beach, this one below the castle. It’s a small stretch of sand, but a popular one. People gathered there to picnic and sun themselves on the rocks. The wind was clearly something to be ignored on a sunny day.

Eventually, I moved on and continued exploring, walking up and down cobblestone paths and looking at the buildings around me. I’m convinced that they’ve seen incredible amounts of history and I wish I knew their stories, however mundane they may be.

Popping into the Wardlaw Museum, I wandered the small collection of exhibits, viewing the papal bull that granted St Andrews university status in 1413 (making St Andrews University Scotland’s first) and the Peter Pan statue gifted by J. M. Barrie who was the Rector of St Andrews University from 1919 to 1922. They also had an exhibit on the University traditions and I was surprised to see how many of them I remembered from four years early.

Leaving the museum, I continued exploring, walking up and down streets and honestly just feeling at home. I tried to go to another museum but it was closed on Sundays. I also tried to go to the Botanic Gardens but they were closed due to the high winds. Still, walking to these locations allowed me to explore the town even further so it wasn’t a total loss. Plus, the more I walked, the more I glimpsed students and, yes, they do in fact walk around in their red undergraduate robes. (Look it up; it’s fantastic).

I ended my day by popping into the University bookstore and buying a sweatshirt and t-shirt combo pack. It was a bit of a splurge, but, for four years of dreaming, it was worth it to me. I took my bag and some crisps and made my way to West Sands Beach, fighting the wind every step of the way. You think Lake Michigan winds are bad? Try the coast of Scotland.

But seriously, full sun, sand dunes, pristine beaches, and a cobblestone town crammed with learning and bookstores made for my dream day. One day, I am certain I will return to St Andrews. Maybe it will be as a student. Who knows? But that’s all in the future, a dream that may take four more years.

Here’s my advice: don’t let anything stop you from embracing your ‘saying yes era.’ Yes, it’s scary to step outside your comfort zone but if you stay you may never grow. Make your dreams a reality rather than a fantasy. Go forth and live your life to the fullest!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

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