Every year The MV Times asks several recent high school graduates to write about their experiences during their first year after graduation. Maddy Alley is attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. This is her fourth dispatch.
Since arriving back in Scotland after being home for Christmas, I have realized how much this small town is starting to feel like home. I know the streets and stores, the quirks and shortcuts. I have tried half of the 47 flavors at the local ice cream shop. None of them surpass the Ice Cream and Candy Bazaar in Edgartown, but that would be close to impossible. New holidays and traditions around the university and Scotland still surprise me. The first week greeted me with Burns Night, a Scottish holiday celebrating poet Robert Burns, with a traditional meal of haggis, neeps, and tatties, accompanied by readings and singing of Burns’ poems. Pancake Day, an important day in Scottish culture, is approaching, but it feels weird to me to celebrate pancakes anywhere other than the Black Dog. Easter candies and decorations have begun appearing with the equivalence of America leading up to Halloween.
I have started streaming Cat Country online to my computer while studying. Sometimes when I am concentrating on my work, I don’t realize that I have been listening to the traffic report for Warwick, R.I., for the past 10 minutes. My schoolwork has been much more intense since I arrived back at school for the second term. I have replaced my maths module with linguistics. It is very different from all the other science-based courses I have been enrolled in. The class is subjective, and unlike the satisfaction I get when circling the answer at the end of a math problem, I am never sure if my linguistics answers are even on the correct topic. The class is also smaller, the professors more personable, and the classroom more interactive. I am happy I took a class outside the School of Sciences, and outside my comfort zone.
I have started taking golf lessons. There is probably no better place in the world to learn than the “home of golf.” To push my comfort zone even farther, I have signed up for a proposed synchronized swimming team. Other than semi-coordinated somersaults and handstand contests with my cousin on the sandbar off State Beach, I have never done anything like this before. If the team gets enough support to get started, I cannot wait to learn. i
My biggest accomplishment of the semester so far is surviving the Hunger Games–style search for flats that takes over St. Andrews every February. For clarification, I was hoping for a flat in the form of an apartment or house, not a car tire. The school only guarantees accommodation for the first year, so after that students have to form groups and rent flats around town. With more students than flats available, this turns into a mad dash from the real estate office to the first flat on the list. In simple terms: Once the real estate office releases the student list, the first group to get to the flat, view it, and submit all their application materials gets it. After weeks of stressful searching, and seriously considering what size box I could live in because I was not convinced I would find a flat, I have signed a lease with two good friends for a cute house.
Three thousand miles away from the high school that we both attended, I have met a Vineyard student studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh. I had never spent time with her on the Island, but we connected in the nearby city of Edinburgh a few weeks ago. She showed me around the campus and parts of the city I had not been to, and guided me up Arthur’s Seat, a mountain adjacent to the city center. Less than an hour after stepping off a train in the middle of the bustling city, I was standing on top of a quiet mountain looking over the city, harbor, and rolling green hills. In the small community of the Vineyard, it is unlikely not to have a connection to someone, but this Vineyard connection feels particularly remarkable when it materializes in a country an ocean away.