Scottish Studies at St. Andrews, Scotland


August 23, 2017





Two POLAHS seniors, Damaris and Nohemi Morales, received the honor of participating in the University of St. AndrewsScottish Studies Summer Program. The twin sisters were selected independently, following a rigorous application process overseen by the POLAHS History Department. Their journey was funded by a generous private donor! 


Founded in 1413, the University of St. Andrews has established a reputation as one of the world’s leading research and teaching centers. The Scottish Studies program highlights vibrant Scottish poetry; art history in Scotland; Scottish history from ancient to present day; Scottish music; Scottish cinema history; and theological studies. 


Damaris and Nohemi boast a 4.0 overall GPA, respectively, and participate in school activities such as Journalism; Computer Science and Engineering Club; Aquaponics Club; and Foreign Language Club. In their application essays, the girls both described the life-changing experience of hosting international students from China at their home during the summer of 2016. Teaching the students English, observing them navigate a foreign culture, and engaging in new perspectives piqued their interest in studying abroad. Just four months later, they applied for St. Andrews 2017. 





Breakfast:  8:15am to 9am

Classes:  9:30am to 12pm

Lunch:  12:45pm to 1:30pm

Classes and tutorials:  2pm to 5pm

Dinner:  6:45pm to 7:15pm

Evening activities:  8pm

Check in and roll call: 10pm




Friday | 2017 June 23


On the flight from Toronto to Edinburgh, Damaris and I were next to each other, unlike the flight from LA to Toronto. We discovered a new world that rested 20,000 feet in the air: a second layer of clouds. They stretched far and wide across the sky in the form of mountains, valleys, and cliffsides. 


Monday | 2017 June 26


Today was the first day of classes. We got a glimpse of Scottish literature. We analyzed how some Scottish poems emanated “Britishness” instead of “Scottishness.” This is juxtaposed to how English poetry was often emanating “Englishness.” 


Thursday | 2017 June 29


I am really interested in art and studying the “classics.” There was an artist named G. Hamilton that loved to paint classical themes, such as the scenes from Homer. There was a contemporary artist who built a garden and scattered meaningful art throughout it. There was a subsequent drama class. We read a play about King James of Scotland. 


Saturday | 2017 July 1


We took a bus to Wallace’s Monument first. They had a lot of information about William Wallace and how/why he became a symbol for independence to Scotland. After that, we made our way to Stirling Castle. Surrounding the castle was an empty moat. The castle defenses were truly remarkable for their time. The Queen’s room was larger than the King’s room. That surprised me. I would go again with 10 hours to explore the whole castle. 



Sunday | 2017 July 2


Today is the hike from Crail to St. Andrews. This is about 23 kilometers (14 miles). I must say that it was daunting. My feet were hurting from 6 hours of walking. After that, we got ice cream. I regret nothing.



Monday| 2017 July 3


Today’s lesson was on the wars of independence. One of our friends wanted to celebrate 4th of July. She called it “American Day.” I thought that was kind of funny.


Tuesday| 2017 July 4


Today we learned about the Renaissance and Mary Queen of Scots. I thought it was interesting how a Catholic monarch managed to rule a Protestant nation. That was complicated and difficult, but she managed for a while. 


Saturday| 2017 July 8


We took a bus to Edinburgh. When we got off the bus, we visited the cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. In the middle of the cobblestone street there were five guys playing Scottish folk music. They used the violin, guitar, banjo, cello, and other instruments. 



Monday | 2017 July 10


Scone Palace was one of the best places I’ve been to. Mary was our wonderful guide that had cool and interesting gems of knowledge. I will never forget that 42 kings were crowned at Moot Hill. I felt so connected with all of the historical figures. I learned that William Murray couldn’t stand prejudice of any kind. I saw the tapestry that Mary Queen of Scots and her ladies made whilst in captivity. 


Friday | 2017 July 14



Our class today focused on Scottish music, mostly from Robert Burns. I hung out with my friends all day and night. Yes I pulled an all-nighter. St. Andrews (Fidfe, Scotland) had become my home and I didn’t want to leave. I would stay until the end of the summer if I was given the chance. I will never forget this opportunity and will always be thankful.


Q/A:  Around the World



The 130 students were from all around the world: Russia, France, Italy, Australia, Africa, and many more diverse places. I made friends from the states, Turkey, Hong Kong, and Poland, and I will definitely keep in touch with them. 


Q/A:  Excursions



We went to Glamis Castle, Stirling Castle, the William Wallace Monument, Scone Palace, Edinburgh, and even more places. Visiting the castles was a serene experience because I stood where history was made. 



We also went to watch Spiderman for free at a picture house. My favorite outing is between the hike from Crail to St. Andrews, and going to Scone Palace. There were beautiful beaches, unimaginable cliffsides, inviting fields of long grass and flowers, and a tranquil forest. 


Q/A:  Scottish Culture



Although you do see bagpipers with kilts roaming the streets of bustling cities like Edinburgh, hardly anyone dresses that way regularly. Scottish people do love their tea (but I just think that is a British thing), while Americans love their coffee. Scottish people drive on the left side of the road, while Americans drive on the right side (unless they’re really bad at driving). 



Historic buildings are very old and made of cobblestone. The portions are smaller in Scotland and you eat a ton of potatoes. Also, the spelling is different in Scotland. American culture has bigger cities, and the historic buildings are not so old. I think what surprised me the most was that the town was oddly homey. I did not feel like I was far away in a foreign land, instead, I felt at home. The people there were not as diverse as in Calfornia but there were a handful of tourists. 


Q/A:  Scottish History



Scottish history is so rich and intriguing, especially its origins and complicated relationship with England. I bought "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" because of a lecture that I listened to. At the university, there were two types of environments: lectures and tutorials.



Something interesting that I learned about Scottish history overall was that the British oppressed the Scottish. They claimed that the bagpipes and kilts were too Scottish (it was like that for a long time). 



The most interesting (and romanticized) figure, in my opinion, was Mary Queen of Scots. She was resourceful and escaped from death more than once. Some of the most notable events, to me, were the Jacobite Rebellions in 1715 and 1745. As a result of these rebellions (or the failure of these rebellions rather), there was the Disarming Act and abolition of Heritable Jurisdiction. The Disarming Act banned the use of bagpipes and kilts.  


Thank you, Amazing Donor!



I’d like to thank my donor for this wonderfully amazing experience of studying in a foreign land. Words cannot express my gratitude. Meeting new friends from around the world and experiencing this adventure of independence in a new place was truly spectacular. Scotland has a unique and rustic beauty that I will not forget. Words do not really do justice to how much this means to me. I will cherish the moments forever. 



This wonderful trip to Scotland was one of the most fun and exciting 3 weeks of my life. I definitely want to at least study abroad for a year in the UK, if not go to university there. I met so many wonderful people that I am proud to call my friends. I engaged with so many lecturers that so graciously gave me knowledge about Scotland. I met a wonderful fiddle player. I got to experience an independence that gave me confidence. Again I want to thank our donor from my heart. This is an experience I wouldn't have been able to afford on my own.