Why I Couldn’t Survive Without my Academic Family

My family is better than yours.

I absolutely love having an academic family. Or having a few, depending on how hard you find commitment. I love having someone older and more experienced to talk to, someone who is devoted to making sure you have the best time possible in your new home. As a fresher, it’s a necessity that you make a good few friends, the majority of whom will doubtless be first years too. Within a few weeks of being here I feel safe in saying that I have some truly genuine friends who I can rely on and turn to for support. But at the same time, we are all just as young, reckless and ignorant about St Andrews as each other. We all make mistakes together, which is great, but having an academic mother and father is an excellent addition to a fresher’s circle of friends.

Photo: Nadia Lee

Of course, there’s the most obvious (and fun) element of the academic family – Raisin weekend, which excites and terrifies me in equal amounts. Based on my previous family dinners, I am not expecting an easy ride from my parents, which seems to be the norm for a St Andrews family. Everything about Raisin sounds ridiculous and extravagant and extremely St Andrews, which is what makes it so attractive. Lethal quantities of alcohol, enigmatic Latin phrases and a world famous foam fight – Raisin always has been and always will be the stuff of legends. And the whole weekend is structured around the family. As a fresher, I am a little naive on what to expect, which makes the anticipation even greater. Honestly, the current routine of weekly family dinners has been fun (and tiring) enough so I’m certain Raisin will deliver. After all, we go to a 600-year-old institution, so maintaining our traditions is taken very seriously.

Perhaps a more overlooked element of the family is the mentoring our parents can give us. My mother, who adopted me early on in Freshers’, has been incredibly caring. After nights out she will message my sister to make sure we are safe and not too badly damaged, and will always ask us for all the gossip. She offers up her home as a safe place we can nap between lectures and is always at hand to give us advice on what events are worth forking out £40 for, what societies are worth joining, and how much effort is actually worth putting into classes. I know that our academic parents are nothing like real parents, but it is truly comforting to have someone older looking out for us young and foolish freshers.

Photo: Imogen Clarke

And every academic family has its wider family. You have countless siblings and half siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and even grandparents (although I still haven’t got my head around that one). Your little bubble of friends grows tenfold. You are suddenly related to almost everyone you know and will doubtless see half of your hall at the next big family event. It’s amazing how quickly your messy extended family can make you feel at home in St Andrews. We may live in a tiny town, but it‘s incredibly daunting when it feels like everyone knows each other and you know no one. Academic family does a lot to make this feeling go away and, although I may be speaking for myself, academic family really helps the transition from home to university.

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