My family decided to move to Scotland from Peru. The “Project” was to assist our daughter, Steffi, to have the opportunity to study for a degree she couldn’t have in our country and, additionally, perfect her English. This experience had challenges and rewards: despite not being in our country and out of our “comfort zone”, we encountered lovely people and opened our minds to other experiences and visions too.
Before moving to Scotland, we were living in Lima where our daughter was studying at the university. Lima is the capital of Peru, a big city of 9 million people, and our lives were really busy and enjoyable. We liked being with the family and friends over the weekends, living around the best restaurants, and life was good!
Our daughter was in contact on social media with other new students going to Scotland which helped her a lot to start off friendships and get to know people. When we arrived in St Andrews, we met her friends and some of their parents… and we started the process of integration with her. Over time, we met other international students and lecturers and our little community started to form.
Being an international student was an adventure. The priorities and the idea were to study, obtain a degree, and get a professional level of English. In reality, it was much more than that because teenagers arrive in our lovely town of St Andrews needing time to find friends, decide on their activities, and build a new life from scratch. Some students have more difficulties than others if they haven’t studied in international schools with experiences of different cultures, or if their English isn’t really good at the outset, or, sometimes, if they need to work to supplement their income which makes them isolated from student social life if they cannot manage to find free time between studies and jobs.
Many students are working for varied reasons: sometimes scholarships are not sufficient, parents cannot afford to pay study fees, or students want to have money for their social life, travels, or financial independence.
But on a more positive note, meeting people that come from different countries really opens the mind to the other experiences and points of view. During our time here, we met lovely people, and we have nice friends from Scotland, Brazil, Mexico, France, Argentina, India… Empathy and respect are always very important in these processes.
In my opinion, this is a fantastically unique opportunity for young adults to know themselves, to open their minds to other visions, and enjoy diversity of cultures.
When COVID arrived, the situation for the students was very tough. Their extra-curricular activities and “international experience” was curtailed – no travel, parties, social events. For some, this period was very hard. Graduations were postponed or modified to suit new rules – but now the university is back to normal with its proper traditional ceremony! This year, in the summer of 2022, there were three weeks of in-person graduations to catch up with the backlog caused by COVID…..
The traditional graduation at St Andrews is held in the recently refurbished Younger Hall – a large theatre-like building that was built in 1923 and can accommodate nearly a thousand people. The graduation is attended by the University Senate and academic staff with the students and their invited guests. The graduation is chaired by chancellor or vice-chancellor and the degrees are conferred individually to each student by the chancellor using a traditional ceremony that dates back hundreds of years. The University has six traditional staffs or “maces” that are put on display to add a real sense of history to the proceedings. We were so excited to see our daughter graduate with her friends!
After the ceremony, there is a Procession from the Younger Hall to Saint Salvator’s Quad where the students participate in a traditional walk on the lawn. After this there is a Garden Party for the new graduates and their guests.
(66) Class of 2022 – Summer Graduation – University of St Andrews – YouTube
For our family, Steffi’s graduation was a wonderful event, and we are so proud as to how she has educated and improved herself for the challenges that lie ahead as she looks to start working and setting out on her own. After this four years in Scotland, we know she is more confident in herself, she has her own opinion, she has her values and understands others have their values and visions too. To study at St Andrews was more than an education for her – she met friends for life and has wonderful shared experiences she will never forget.
Now, as she starts a new chapter in her life she has many more skills! She has more empathy and respect for herself and others than when she arrived!!
Good luck Steffi and the other students too!!!
By María-Verónica Paredes