Coronavirus information and guidance

Reflections of a Saint

“I hope that the uncertainty and stripped-back priorities of 2020 have increased people’s hunger to connect with others.”

After the unprecedented – and immensely disappointing – switch to virtual degree conferrals last summer, the entire University community was hopeful of the return of graduation as we know it this winter. Crossing the stage of the Younger Hall in person is not only a rite of passage, but a unique opportunity for everyone – family, friends and teaching staff – to celebrate the culmination of a student’s quintessentially St Andrews journey.

Sadly, with the continued impact of Covid-19, Scottish Government regulations and public health guidance, this was not to be. As with our summer Saints, almost 1000 students, wherever they are in the world, will be conferred their winter degrees instead in online conferral ceremonies, with the option of coming back to celebrate in style next summer.

As a marker of this unique and challenging period, we wanted to celebrate the essence of the St Andrews graduate during these unprecedented times. By recording their thoughts on life in ‘the bubble’ and beyond, we hoped, in a small way, to capture the spirit of our Saints of 2020. In a collaboration with graduating English Masters student Sophia Eve Rink, who came up with the theme of Reflections, we invited seven students still in the area to take part in a socially distanced outdoors photoshoot, in a location that was important to them.

We also asked them to take part in a special pre-graduation Q&A, in which they were asked to reflect on their time at St Andrews, the world-changing events of this year and how St Andrews has changed them as a person.

Their answers provide an inspirational and insightful view of 2020 through their unique experiences: from the importance of empathy to ‘anti-climactic’ online dissertation submissions and spending lockdown birthdays alone.

Here, Sophia and her fellow Class of 2020 Winter Graduates share their thoughts on graduation in the time of Covid and, perhaps most importantly, the value of a hug.

Postgraduate students on swings
Sophia Eve Rink, MLitt 2020 (pictured with Thomas Reid, MLitt 2020)

Beginning to see the light

"I believe that the class of 2020 has been shaped into one of the most resilient groups ever to have graduated from the University."

Date 24 November 2020
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"Many of us learned to slow down and appreciate the little things during lockdown."

Date 24 November 2020
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"I feel as though I am in Harry Potter!"

Date 24 November 2020
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"Walking along the pier looking out at the sea and the town would somehow make my worries and problems seem a little smaller."

Date 24 November 2020
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"I feel my time here at St Andrews has opened up my world significantly."

Date 24 November 2020
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"I’m sticking around to do my PhD – St Andrews won’t be getting rid of me that easily!"

Date 24 November 2020
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"It’s amazing that simply being a student at the University has led to some incredible friendships which transcend location and open a path to adventure."

Date 24 November 2020
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"The events of 2020 have redrawn the academic experience, both for students and for academic staff."

Date 24 November 2020
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With thanks

With thanks to our Reflective Saints Jenny, Iain, Sophia, Forrest (and Zaynah), Jacob, Kristin and Thomas for their time, patience and good spirit, the Graduation Office for their help and to Sophia Eve Rink for her assistance and the original inspiration.

Photography and Q&A by Gayle McIntyre, Corporate Communications. Join in the conversation on social media with the hashtag #ReflectiveSaints. If you are a graduating student in St Andrews and the surrounding area during conferrals week and would like your reflections to be captured, email visualcomms@st-andrews.ac.uk.