5. March 2013 Jonáš Jelínek

Spring in St. Andrews

Being back in St Andrews after almost five weeks of holidays feels surprisingly usual. I find myself accustomed to being a university student. Being back also means that I passed my first exams and I am ready to take up my second semester with more enthusiasm and focus.

To summarize the rest of the first semester I should first talk about the final exams which were without any doubt the academic highlight of the whole semester. Due to the changes that had been made to the semester dates, St Andrews was for the first time in its history confronted with a very intense Martinmas Semester. Having almost two weeks less of teaching for the same amount of work and thus also two weeks less for studying, both the staff and the students faced a challenging exam period. Although the vision of my first university exams was a bit scary, I prepared thoroughly and managed to pass the exams quite well. Unlike in the Czech Republic, all exams here are in written form. The only oral exam I had was Arabic. Even though we do get a bit of time to speak in classes, the oral exam was a surprisingly vigorous one. So was the International Relations one which consisted of three essays in exactly two hours (for example Is the new wars thesis persuasive? or Must nation and state go together?). The Economics exam was rather applied, six mostly mathematically based question. Overall, the IR one was the most difficult one as writing three solid essays in a row requires consistency, precise arguments and a lot of concentration.

With less time spent on socializing and adapting to the new environment, I try to allocate my time more efficiently. I attend the Model UN which, like a plethora of other similar models all around the world, simulates the negotiations and procedures within the real UN. Furthermore, I often go to weekly debates organized by the St Andrews Debate Society which have somewhat peculiar and distinguished atmosphere. Not only the debaters, always truly excellent, but also most of the students in the audience wear traditional red gowns that are distinctive to the university. As the Sports Representative of my hall, I organise and gather a team from my hall to participate in inter-hall tournaments. It was during the hall-sport when I realized there was a significant demand for dodgeball among first year students. That led me to create a dodgeball league which will be hosting its first session very soon. Hopefully enough people will be interested and will get involved.

With summer looming, I have started to look for things to make the most of it. I would like to dedicate most of my summer to volunteering as this idea has been in my head for a while now. I have chosen Tanzania as my destination since it is quite an accessible country and I have found some interesting volunteering programs there. However, the problem is money. Despite its voluntary nature, an average programme in Tanzania costs between 500$ and 600$ the cost of flights and vaccination excluded. I am currently trying to get some sponsors to support my volunteering.

Overall, I am doing really well in St Andrews. I try to concentrate on things that really matter for me in the long run and profit from them as much as I can. As I feel more confident, I gradually improve my efficiency and I more and more enjoy the overall experience. And with spring almost here, I find walking to classes somewhat enriching.

 

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