Marissa in Britain

Marissa is a junior University and Mustang Scholar from Dallas majoring in international studies and anthropology in Dedman College. Through the SMU-in-Britain program, she is spending the academic year at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, studying international relations and modern history.

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Filling in the Blanks

IMG_0213.JPGWell, it is good thing I’m in the UK for a year, because my blogging is pathetic. Here I am sitting in my room, nearly two months since my last post, thinking, “Wow, so much has happened and nothing to show for it.” Thus, it is time to fill in the blanks.

But first, a quick disclaimer; at times one may find that my spelling is a bit unusual, well, this is because I am using British spelling. This is a result of adjusting to a writing style that is slightly different from the U.S., from reading texts that are predominately British and from changing the language setting on Word.

The Coursework

The St. Andrews system is different from other UK universities, in that the year is broken up into two semesters instead of three, and most courses are a semester-long rather than a year. These are the only ways in which it is similar to the American system, other than that it is completely different.

As an Honour student – a third-year student or above – I only have two modules, or classes, a semester. Depending on what you are studying, you might have any combination of a seminar, a lecture and tutorial, or a lecture and lab. I have the first two. Hence, I have a total of four hours of class a week. Sweet, right? Wrong.

I have spent the majority of the last two months in the library, including weekends, studying. Courses here are very much reading intensive, and you really cannot get by without knowing the material. It is not that you have pop quizzes every day – in fact, you might only have one or two assignments the whole semester – but you are expected to contribute to discussions, and essays are expected to have a 10 or more sources cited. So, reading is what you must do. However, on the upside, if you read throughout the day, you don’*t feel guilty going out to the pub at night with friends. It’s a perk that is well deserved.

IMG_0222.JPGA Hogwarts Halloween

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but St. Andrews is known for the red gowns worn by students. Undergrads wear these gowns on special occasions, and this year Halloween was no different. My residence hall put on a Hogwarts-themed dinner complete with wizard cakes, pumpkin juice and, of course, the Sorting Hat. The tables in the dining hall were lined up to create the four long tables representing each Hogwarts House.

This was a real treat because everyone wore their gowns, and most students made makeshift wands and put on witch hats. To be honest, I got such a kick out of it; it was like I was living my childhood fantasy.

IMG_0241.JPGThe Presidential Election Abroad

When they said the whole world was watching the U.S. presidential election, the whole world was watching. As the days drew near to November 4, it was, literally, the talk of the town. An all-night election party was held at the DRA Bistro, and the place was packed to rim. There are a large number of Americans at St. Andrews, but we were probably the minority group at the watching party.

IMG_0234.JPGThe main room was covered in red, white and blue, American flags everywhere, and two Donkey and Elephant banners hung from the ceiling. I’m not going to sugar-coat it, however; the majority wanted Obama to win. And when the final results came in around 4 am our time, and Obama was declared the winner, the whole place exploded. There was even a balloon drop and Champagne. Everyone stayed through Obama’s acceptance speech.

I remember looking over to one my friends, a proud Scotsman, and he was literally in tears as Obama spoke. It’s funny because November 5 is Guy Fawkes Day, and as everyone left the building in the wee hours of the morning, we all shouted down the streets “Remember, remember, the 5th of November!”

Well, this is it for now. Raisin Weekend will have to be its own post; there is just too much to tell there.

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