It is a really busy part of the semester, but I figured I’d drop in for a quick update. Studying abroad has given me a passion for exploring the world. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I have been working on making travel plans with some friends over the past few days. I have to get back to work now, but I’ll be able to share more soon.
A brief update
You’ll only see this at St Andrews
Netflix has arrived on campus to shoot the final season of their Emmy-winning series The Crown, which will focus on Prince William and Kate Middleton as they attend the University of St Andrews. I caught a film crew preparing to shoot a scene outside of my class building yesterday. Tomorrow, they’ll be filming in the common room of my dorm. I haven’t seen the show before, but I might have to give it a try.
Tracing my roots
My family traces our roots to Ireland but we were never sure what connections we still had to the homeland. When we discovered our many Irish relatives over the winter break, I knew I had to visit.
Last Wednesday, I landed in Belfast and met my family for the first time at the airport. Over the next few days, they showed me much of Ireland, and we made our way west to the farm my grandmother grew up on in County Mayo.
Along the way, I took in the emerald countryside. We stopped at Classiebawn Castle, an idyllic estate overlooking the Atlantic, and the grave of the Irish literary great and Nobel Prize laureate W. B. Yeats. I was becoming immersed in the beauty of Irish culture and history.
A long drive later, we arrived in Mayo. We visited my grandmother’s farm and the church where she made communion and was confirmed. It was moving to walk in her footsteps and reconnect with my family’s homeland.
While in Mayo, we visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock. There, on August 21, 1879, an apparition of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and Saint John the Evangelist, surrounded by angels, is said to have occurred. It was humbling to be in such an important place of pilgrimage, one visited by Pope John Paul II in 1979, Pope Francis in 2018, and many millions of people over the years.
On the morning before I flew back to Scotland, we made one last drive up the Glenshane Pass, a massive mountain that cuts through the Sperrins in Derry. Sheep were, as always, everywhere. We took in a view of much of Ireland from the top, with green fields and mountains stretching far into the distance.
Studying abroad has not only broadened my horizons but expanded my family tree. I am so glad I was able to explore Ireland and meet my relatives this year.
Packing my bags
Our break has begun and I could not be more excited for the days ahead. Next week, I will be traveling to Ireland and meeting some family for the first time. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my journey, but right now I have to get back to packing my bags. Watch this space.
Walking through St Andrews
It’s hard not to get into the habit of taking pictures when you’re living in a place like St Andrews. Follow along as I share some of what I have captured while walking through this incredible town.
St Salvator’s Chapel
Founded in 1450, St Salvator’s Chapel is a center of spiritual life at the University, with its breathtaking Gothic architecture and warm atmosphere. Whether attending a service or simply stopping in to reflect, the chapel never fails to leave a lasting impression.
I captured this picture while walking along Market Street on my way to a class in the Mediaeval History building. This is how a lot of the streets look on campus: peaceful, colorful, and invariably steeped in history.
Tesco (and the newsstands)
Tesco is a staple of British life — and so are the tabloids. They never fail to grab my attention. As an outsider looking in, it is always interesting to catch a glimpse at how this great country consumes its news. And, of course, the sometimes-outlandish headlines are often good for a few laughs.
Holy Trinity Church
Locals paid tribute to the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II following her passing last semester. I saw this memorial honoring the Queen’s seventy-year reign while walking past one of the churches in St Andrews.
St Andrews Castle
Last week, I explored the ruins of St Andrews Castle. Built around 1200, the castle served as a residence of St Andrews’ bishops and as the site of numerous battles and sieges throughout the medieval period. It was fascinating to walk through what remains of a castle that played such an important role in Scottish political and religious history.
St Andrews’ beaches make it one of the most breathtaking places to study in the world. I have made so many great memories down on the sands. As my dorm overlooks the beach pictured above, it’s always nice to crack my windows open and hear the sound of the waves.
The Old Course
St Andrews is renowned as the home of golf. Established in 1552, the Old Course is the oldest and most iconic golf course in the world. I pass by almost every day, and its rich history and legacy in the sport of golf never fail to inspire me.
What better way to end a day than by lifting weights at the sports center?
My first few assignments of the semester are coming due, so I figured I’d keep this week’s post brief. Keep an eye out as I have some exciting updates to share with you soon.
Seeing the world
Studying abroad has offered so many opportunities to travel Europe. Last semester, I set out on a week-long trip with some friends through Barcelona, Rome, and Vienna—a lot of traveling for a guy who had never been off the east coast up to four months ago.
Barcelona was unlike any other city I had ever experienced, with its welcoming, easy-going culture and rich history. The legacy of the seminal Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí could be seen throughout the city. Our first glimpse of his work came in Park Güell, a vibrant park featuring colorful mosaics, musicians, and incredible views overlooking all of Barcelona.
We also saw the awe-inspiring Sagrada Família, an enormous basilica that towers over its surroundings. We quickly found out that we could find our way to the heart of the city by looking for Sagrada Família in the distance—it’s so large that we could almost always see it. Of course, we couldn’t leave Barcelona without enjoying its lively beaches and viewing some of the works of Picasso.
Next, we spent twenty-four momentous hours in Italy. We made our way to the Vatican to hear Pope Francis deliver mass in Saint Peter’s Square. From there, we explored all the unbelievable history Rome had to offer, stopping at the Colosseum and many other sites. We ended up logging close to 40,000 steps by the end of the day.
Our last stop was in Vienna, which has to be one of the nicest cities in Europe. The food was great, and we even ate at Café Landtmann, a famous coffee house that, over its 150 years of history, has hosted a range of figures from Sigmund Freud to Paul McCartney. We also visited the Hofburg and a few other spots related to the Habsburgs. It was incredible, to say the least.
I never believed I would have traveled much of Europe by the time I finished college, but studying abroad opens up so many possibilities. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on where life takes me this semester.
Returning to St Andrews
A few flights later, my second semester at St Andrews has begun.
I am all settled back into my room at St Salvator’s Hall, which we more commonly refer to as Sallies. The dorm is renowned for its impressive Gothic architecture, unbeatable location, and its historical significance as the place where Prince William and Kate Middleton first met. I couldn’t imagine a better place to call home for the year.
This week, I hiked along East Sands, climbing up and down rocks overlooking the vast North Sea. It’s experiences like these that set St Andrews apart and make it an unforgettable place to study.
Choosing to study abroad was a difficult decision. For a while, I struggled with the thought of building a new life so far away from home. But going to St Andrews for my junior year was undoubtedly one of the best decisions of my life. I have made lasting friends and become a more confident, adaptable, and intellectually curious person. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you this semester.