September 21, 2012 by Abby Gomulkiewicz
Looking out of my dorm window, I find myself wondering how recently I could have been in Virginia enjoying humidity and Colonial American architecture. Now, my dorm window reveals a fierce Scottish wind and the rolling hills of Scotland. I walk along cobbled streets—not that Colonial red brick—but brown stone.
It has taken me two years, but I am here in Scotland about to begin my second year of study at the University of St Andrews—the oldest university in Scotland. This last week, I have participated in the St Andrew’s tradition of Fresher’s Week—sort of a Scottish version of Orientation week with fewer rules and more pubs. My hall, St. Regulus, has about 100 students and is full of hall spirit. We participated in clan warfare where my face got painted with black and red butterflies. There was a traditional Scottish Ceilidh dance. In high school I was a Highland dancer, so I quite enjoyed the polka, dashing white sergeant and the Virginia reel. They take these dances quite seriously with a live band and refreshments. We also had a hall party where everyone dressed as something which begins with the first letter of your name.
On Monday, classes began. I am taking three classes, or modules as they call them here. My first module covers the British Empire in the modern age—apparently that means 1500 onward. This last week, we covered the Reformation and its effects on the various parts of the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales). In this class, I have many of my fellow WAMSTAs. We all sit in a row and meet before class. My other history module is the High Middle Ages. To be honest, I am not always a fan of medieval history, but am enjoying the class so far. We have discussed the evolution of towns in the 13th to 15th centuries and the blossoming of international trade in that time period. My final module is Spanish. In fact, as I write this blog, I am about ready to head to my first Spanish tutorial. Tutorials are smaller classes outside the lecture with two to seven students. They are all led by professors and I have them for each of my three classes.
So anyway…it has been a busy almost two weeks. I am starting to settle into life at St Andrews. Of course, I have worn many dresses and my Hunter rain boots. Everything has been done in true Abby style.
August 28, 2012 by Abby Gomulkiewicz
It is incredible that in a little over two weeks I will be in Scotland walking up and down the cobbled streets of Fife. I will have traveled thousands of miles away from my family in Washington State and my friends in Virginia who started at William and Mary several weeks before me. I will be journeying to the land of kilts, bagpipes, Highland dancing and the place where Prince William met Kate Middleton. In this completely new place is the University of St Andrews—the oldest university in Scotland. It will be my home for at least a year possibly more. I am very excited for the new classes, friends and opportunities.
But, whenever we embark on anything new, we often take a moment to stop and reflect on how we reached this opportunity or path. My journey to St Andrews actually starts on a family holiday (that is what they call it in the U.K.) to Colonial Williamsburg. Although I was only eight years old, I fell instantly in love with the history, the reenactment and anything that had anything to do with Colonial Williamsburg including the College of William and Mary. Okay…but how does that get me to Scotland you may ask. Well…I took a tour of William and Mary and got added to their email list which announced the introduction of this Joint Degree Program. It was and is an opportunity unlike any other. Quite frankly, I could not pass it up. The program gave me the benefits of the typical U.S. university experience (breadth in courses) with the benefits of the U.K. university experience (the ability to choose and focus on your major earlier). From the instant I stepped on campus, I was a history major and able to concentrate on what I loved.
My freshman year in the Joint Degree Program gave me many opportunities both to take classes I was excited about, but also to meet the incredible group of people in the program. We call ourselves the WAMSTAs (William and Mary and St Andrews students). If you had to characterize us pretty much envision a bunch of type A overachievers who are passionate about many things and interested in the world. We are also risk takers—pioneers (at times guinea pigs) for this program. Soon, I will be with them in Scotland and I am sure they will play a major role in my adventures and blog.
That is how I became a WAMSTA plus writing a 1000 word essay which someone in the admission office, thankfully, liked.
Anyway, I look forward to keeping you updated and hope you can live vicariously through my tea drinking Scottish adventure. Don’t worry…I will ensure to accomplish everything in true Abby style—aka most likely in a dress and with my red hair flying behind me.