When I first applied to St Andrews, I had no idea that I would be arriving at a University better described as the “fifty-first state.” In hindsight, the very fact that St Andrews is one of the few British universities on the American Common Application system might have been a bit of a giveaway.
Perhaps it’s a combination of expensive tuition fees and a Dorito-faced president that has led many Americans to consider a transatlantic education. While Oxford has more American Students, St Andrews has the greatest percentage of American students studying here of all the British universities. If someone told me that every state was represented, I would believe them. The lecture theatres of the IR, Economics and Management departments are filled to the brim with American students, keen to proclaim how unique they are for deciding to make the journey over to Europe to gain an international education.
Now in my third year of St Andrews, I sometimes wonder if I’m in Scotland, or just a preppy east coast college in the US. The St Andrews social calendar is a funny one – a testament of how cosmopolitan this seaside town is. I have witnesses three Thanksgivings, all of which have been celebrated with greater exuberance than the three St Andrews Days I’ve seen in the same period. Numerous Facebook events advertising typical “frat stuff” (solo cups, beer pong etc), such as the Frat Party and Goat House. Even everyday fashion features backward baseball caps, distinctly American choice.
Walking down the three streets, it’s not uncommon to catch a glimpse of the star spangled banner hanging from someone’s window, or at a flat parties where the host might be a bit of a patriot, bringing out the flag. I think it’s completely fine to be proud of your country – but there is a line that needs to be drawn between being proud of where you hail from, and merely transplanting your culture into a new locality. It seems as though the presence of high street brands and the accent isn’t enough to remind them of home.
The attempt by members of the student body to transplant aspects of their home cultures seems like a bastardisation of the local culture of Scotland. Fraternities and Sororities were the very aspects of US university life that I sought to avoid by coming into The Bubble, and like I said earlier I often forget I’m even in Scotland. I applied to this university to experience the culture of the UK, and all the old world charm and history it brings, not be forced to keep up with Americanisms.
Now, two quick caveats here: Firstly, I don’t think for a minute that Americans are unique in these behaviours. I’m sure overseas students of all nationalities exhibit these behaviours – it’s just the sheer number of Americans that makes them more noticeable. Americanisation in St Andrews has also led to some very worthwhile initiatives – DONT WALK, the charity fashion show that was started by students as a response to 9/11, has raised over £220,000 since it began in 2001.
But, with the the annual Super Bowl weekend having just passed, and my newsfeed filling up with events based around this most American traditions, I have to wonder: Are we missing the point of being a Scottish University?