Remember when we all arrived last semester? On the third of September, we entered our halls, fresh-faced, tanned from summer, excited to meet new people and learn new things and find ourselves, or whatever it is you’re supposed to do at university. We went to our first meal in the canteen, we went to those super-awkward socialising events our Hall committees put on, we introduced ourselves in an endless cycle of name-hometown-degree. It was daunting, but exciting all the same.
And then we discovered those strange, mysterious beings known as JSAs. Despite their living in halls and knowing nobody, easily blending into our freshers ranks, they turned out to be much older than us! And had been at university for much longer than us! They hailed from universities as well-known as Harvard and Trinity College, or from tiny American liberal-arts schools in a state you’ve never heard of.
Either way, as we came to know St Andrews, our classes, our neighbours, and our friends, we came to know them, too. We accepted them into our hearts and theatre productions and academic families. We fell into friendships, beds, and relationships with them. We loved them. But all too soon, it was the end of term, and suddenly we realised that these JSAs, who had become all-too-vital to our St Andrews experience thus far, would be leaving us, never to return. At the end of term, we hugged them hard, and wondered what it would be like next semester without them. They would be returning to their homes, their old friends, their old classes. Would they forget us? Would we forget them?
So it’s natural that this semester, we have some resentment towards the new JSAs. They will never be as good as Joe/Dana/Mia/etc who were here last semester. Besides, we have our other friends still. We don’t need new friends. We don’t want to be harked back to that uncomfortable time in the first week when we didn’t know anyone, didn’t have people to sit with at meals, etc. We’ve carved out spaces for ourselves here, and there simply isn’t space for new people to enter our social bubbles.
But there has to be. That’s what we don’t realise. These JSAs are just as valuable as the ones last semester. They deserve just as much love and acceptance as the previous ones did – if not more. Remember Freshers’? While somewhat hellish, it was also a very good integration process into St Andrews. And these guys don’t get that. They arrive and are immediately thrust into classes and living and have no chance to uncomfortably hover around the edge of a ceilidh and make friends like we did.
I’m not saying you have to abandon all of your current friends and throw yourself at the nearest JSA. But have some sympathy. Maybe introduce yourself to your new neighbours. Make conversation in the kitchen. If you see one sitting alone at a meal, maybe bring your friends over to sit with them and make them feel welcome. Invite them on your nights out.
JSAs are incredibly brave, to leave their home universities for just a semester, sometimes having to change the language they learn in, and learn to find their way around our town, for just a few months’ worth home-grown Scottish cultural experience. Personally, I commend them and don’t think they should be ostracised for this bravery. So to us four-yearers, let’s try to remember how scared we were in Freshers’, and stretch out a hand of friendship. And to the new JSAs – welcome to St Andrews.