Vacation is drawing to a close and so I find myself once again thinking about top tips for heading back to the bubble. For me, second semester is weirdly more nerve wracking than the first. In my first year I felt the pressure to get it right this time after 15 weeks of crazy highs, but also some weirdly low lows (shout out to strepsils for getting me through that reading week!) Furthermore, vacation is the weirdest when its so much longer than all the other unis. You find yourself arriving back home with barely enough time to whip out the Christmas jumper before Christmas is over and all your friends from home start disappearing. For me, the quiet hours when my siblings are at school tend to find me planning ever stranger schemes for the new semester, highlights including an absurd commitment to drafting all my essays by hand first (plot twist, it didn’t happen). However, I do think I have some things which help me kick off semester two right, which I hope will help you too! So, without further ado, my top tips for surviving and thriving in semester two!
- W E A T H E R. Oh yes. I know that face. That smug look of satisfaction that says “I’ve got this, I get the eco system here on the east coast. Put away the flip flops Mum, an umbrella is all I’ll need.” Well shock and horror, but I have to break it to you that it does actually get quite sunny in beautiful Scotland . Whilst you should 100 % still bring back all your snuggliest winter clothes (February here is a time) don’t get caught out when come Easter it’s all looking rather pleasant. I’m a catastophiser so this has never actually been a personal problem. From day one I’ve carried flip flops, sundresses, thermal gloves and extra layers all in one suitcase just to be safe. However, I have first hand witnessed the pain of a person trying to make a woollen kilt work as a summer skirt. Just remember to be prepared because the St Andrews weather system is truly out of this world!
- That being said, do watch out for snow. Although rare, St Andrews has seen some pretty heavy snowfall recently and if it happens again you need to be ready. I would advise international students that the United Kingdom deals with an inch of snow as if it were 50 and you don’t want to be stranded in Edinburgh like I was last year!
- Please don’t worry about grades. If you’re a third or fourth year, of course it matters but if you’re second or first you don’t need to take a bad grade to heart. This is advice I really struggle to follow as exams are absolutely my kryptonite and the long wait between the test and the result seems to make the stress all the worse. However, there is no need to stress. First and second year don’t count for a reason and this is the perfect time to identify and work with your tutor to correct recurring errors in your work that are likely to pull you down later on. If you’re third or fourth year please don’t listen to my advice as I haven’t been there yet, but I’d be inclined to say that nothing is ever so cataclysmically awful that it can’t be fixed. Work with your tutors, they love it, real ego boost.
- Spring break. I found spring break really difficult last year as it felt like everyone was jetting off to sunny holiday spots in Europe. Although this may feel true, it likely isn’t. If you’re staying in town seek out those who are staying with you. I know this sounds silly but the East Neuk is utterly stunning and you can get some amazing days out via bus for just £7 return. Last year a trip to Europe was not on the table for me due to the fun of house deposits and pricey catered accommodation. If it won’t happen this year there’s a good chance that with enough forward planning a weekend away next break may be doable. Try looking on price comparison websites or money advice sites.
- Get organised. I touched on this in my previous article but I will say it again. Any time of transition is the perfect time to get organised or reorganised. After semester one I always find myself in a haze of papers and laundry. Although I do tend to finish the laundry before I go home, actually putting it away is a whole other story, and the papers? Well don’t even ask. Alongside the rest of the population I’ve recently been introduced to the KonMari tidying method. Whilst some of her ideas aren’t quite my cup of tea, I do like her idea of maximising happiness and minimising clutter when it comes to your possessions. Take the start of a new semester to have another go through your wardrobe. After a term at uni you may find that the things you liked enough to keep in September aren’t doing so much for you now. With papers, discard everything. The beauty of the St Andrews system is that, at least in the arts, you’re unlikely to ever need that lecture handout again. Find time to look through the folder of important documents you came to uni with, work out what you need versus what’s online. If you get into good habits with your important documents now it will be easier to keep them in line when your income gets taxable after graduating or you actually need that national insurance number on the reg.
- Also, get hunting for things to do this summer! If you thought that Christmas vacation was long wait until summer hits you! I like to divide my applications into three categories, enrichment, career, and short term financing. Enrichment is anything which will get you out the house and making memories. Things like Camp America will incidentally look great on your CV but are more about helping you see the world and have fun. Career covers internships, anything that employers will be looking for in the next few years. The more you apply to, and the more times you apply, the more chances you will have. Equally, don’t panic if you’re a first year and you can’t find anything. When you’re on a four year course UK schemes are often for second year students up, so there’s always next year. Finally short term financing is any jobs you can get to keep the cash ticking over until the new semester. There is nothing worse than being stranded in a small town with no money, so consider looking around now. When I was looking this summer, some employers told me that they’d have been more interested if had approached them over Christmas as it would have given them time to work out where l could fill in for staff on holiday. However, jobs like NCS counselling also require an early application so look around and make some lists!
- Remember that it’s never too late. Whether you’re a first year, second, third or fourth year there is always time to start anew. If you’re worried you haven’t made the friends you thought you would, try joining new societies and looking round for smaller clubs at refreshers’ fayre. If you’re worried about exercise don’t be put off joining a club, turnover is actually quite high at the start of the new semester so there will be lots of other newbies there too. It’s also never too late to ask for help. St Andrews can feel like a huge mass of people who all seem to get the system really easily, but that’s not true. If you are feeling overwhelmed you are not the only one and the university has a whole range of amazing people and resources that are here to support you. It’s not too late to reach out to talk about how you’re feeling. Your degree is a process that will go through phases of feeling good, ok and terrible, so do not worry about asking for help. Struggling is more than natural.
Finally, and most sincerely, remember to never take advice from a student article too seriously. Don’t go and refold all your pants into envelopes if you don’t feel it will actually help. Uni is a rough time, it’s like driving school but for adult life. As per my last point remember you can always reach out to people in the uni or the local health authorities if it’s all getting too much. For me, second semester is a great opportunity to enjoy St Andrews at its absolute best. Get around the local villages, enjoy the ancient traditions of May dip, and eat all the Jannettas. So much Jannettas.