After 18: Maddy Alley

Roses and Thorns

Maddy with friends heading to a ball at "The Old Course." —Courtesy Maddy Alley

For the past four years, The MV Times has asked four recent high school graduates to write about their experiences during their first year after graduation. High school graduation is upon us again. Seniors from the Charter School graduated on Sunday, and seniors from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will be graduating this Sunday. During the following few months, we will be introducing readers to four new graduates, and saying goodbye to the four we intermittently heard from this year. Over the summer, we will also be checking in with a few of our After 18 alumni.


Maddy Alley attends the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. This will be her final After 18 dispatch.

Goodbyes over ice cream and listing our “roses and thorns” of first year filled my last days of the semester as I watched my friends retreat home to their respective corners of the world. The general consensus was that there were too many roses to pick out one highlight. Many of the roses that make up my dozen were the 600-year-old traditions that drive the University of St. Andrews. Every week of the year ended with a Sunday-morning pier walk in red robes. One night in April, the pier walk was pushed to sunset, and a procession of hundreds of students in red robes carried torches. The student body celebrated May Day by jumping into the ocean at sunrise to wash off all our academic sins before exams. Older students who finished their last exam at University before graduating were celebrated by a “soaking” of buckets of water as they exited their exam.

Other roses that filled the last month included a quick trip to meet my mother in London to see “Angels in America” at the National Theatre, a polo match in which the game ball was flown in on a helicopter, and a black-tie ball at the historic Old Course, the oldest golf course in the world. Once my hours at the library had accumulated, my exams had finished, and the stress of memorization had diminished, thinking about all I had learned in my courses was a rose. My biology course had a large marine biology component, so I am educated and ready to get to the beach. My psychology course started with the science behind senses, and ended with the theories behind perceptions and illusions. Linguistics, my elective, challenged me with its subjectivity, a contrast to my science courses.

My thorn is more of a rose in disguise. The student body of St. Andrews is incredibly international, and I made friends from all over the world. I learned about so many different cultures, which I loved, until I had to say goodbye to everyone for four months with no hopes of a “quick visit” from my friends in Europe and elsewhere. I finally got used to the five-hour time distance away from my family; now I have to adjust to being away from my friends.

I flew back to America in the middle of May, and was greeted with a party of Vineyarders celebrating my cousin’s graduation from Endicott College. After a fun weekend of family, graduation festivities, and a bad sunburn, my parents and I drove to Quebec City. We spent a few days exploring the quaint old city, eating crepes, and challenging my mom’s French skills, before departing to come home to Martha’s Vineyard. My mom loaded up the car with my bags from school and drove back. My dad and I loaded up two panniers with granola bars and sleeping bags, and rode our bikes back, from Quebec City to Oak Bluffs. The 540-mile journey took us eight days. The first two days were spent riding out of Canada, which was the most challenging section, partially because neither of us speak French, and many people in Quebec, especially once we got further from the city, do not speak much English. There is also a difference in the way they design roads in Canada. In Quebec, the roads were straight up-and-down mountains, with no consideration of the hill’s steepness. In America, roads bent more, and curved around peaks, giving more leeway when climbing.

Once we crossed the border, which was at the top of a mile-long hill that was so steep it was hard to even walk our bikes up, we spent a few days riding down the Connecticut River. When my dad and I began planning this trip, he gave me a few options for routes we could take. I choose to go down the river, because I figured a river cannot go up a hill! We followed the river to my aunt’s house in Amherst before shifting east and riding through Providence to the boat. Our days consisted of pedaling, eating, and sleeping. We rode an average of 75 miles, and about 10 hours, a day.

I couldn’t stop smiling as I rolled my bike off the boat in Oak Bluffs. Not only would I not have to pedal again until I wanted to, but I was finally home, to Martha’s Vineyard in the summer. Since last on the Island in January, I have been to 11 countries, finished my first year of University, and made countless magical memories, but none of that compares with the ice cream cone I ate while in line for Back Door Donuts with my best friends on my first night home.