Once more, for the last time

Two boxes, suitcase, and a backpack. Four years in St Andrews packed into four pieces of luggage. Inside of them are mainly books but also posters, letters, dance shoes, a collection of seashells. Postcards, notes, newspaper cut outs. I’m bringing home hundreds of pages more than necessary, and yet hundreds of pages less than I’d want to. My last semester is defined by a gradual farewell.

I haven’t stayed for long. I got back only in April, just in time to write the final essay, sit the final exam, and manage to celebrate being done with my degree. My last modules were the art of the apocalypse and the theory and practice of speechwriting. I was hoping to get both of them, and they still ended up being way better than I expected. The latter was led by an academic who used to write speeches for the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Her excitement for the history and use of rhetoric was contagious.

Meanwhile, the town became alive again with such speed and certainty as if no pandemic had ever happened. Scottish summer (meaning any temperature above eighteen degrees Celsius) is beginning, and with eased lockdown St Andrews is – after more than a year – busy again. There are queues for fish & chips on Market Street, and for ice cream by the beach. People are smiling in the streets, conversing freely. The town’s scent and atmosphere are more reminiscent of the Mediterranean, than of a North Sea coast.

Submitting the final piece of coursework (on the depiction of Antichrist in 13th century English manuscripts) then felt even more uncanny. The Sun of an otherwise ordinary afternoon felt like a sudden full stop after years of studying. I spend a couple of days in a limbo, with a feeling of restraining freedom. I will probably never again write an essay in St Andrews. Never again will I run late for a lecture, nor will I spend evenings in the university library. What now?

Before flying home, then, I am trying to manage everything I’ve been postponing for years – and days suddenly feel more hectic than the exam period. I composed a list of notes about the sea and the hidden gardens and the hardly accessible places. In the mist I am roaming around the golf course. For the first time I am entering shops I have known about for long. With my friends we go to the Tentsmuir Nature Reserve to watch eagles and seals. I will miss Scottish nature as much as the university itself.

My last blog entry may feel inconsistent and fragmented, but that’s how my last weeks felt. A mixture of emotions and events, excitement and uncertainty, the contrast of a town brought to life against the diminishing academic year. I want to write more, and yet the whole experience feels unspeakable. What’s left to say is: thank you to my family and friends for all their help and kindness, without which I wouldn’t have finished my degree. And thank you to the Kellner Family Foundation, without which I wouldn’t have even begun.

For the time being I have returned to the Czech Republic, where I will focus on journalism and translation. But I know I will be returning soon. I cannot leave St Andrews fully – a part of me will continue to live somewhere between the aged grey-brown buildings and the tens of small ships setting sail, circulating the town.  

Ještě jednou, naposledy

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