Coronavirus information and guidance

Messages from our students

As an incoming University of St Andrews student, you probably have many questions about life at St Andrews, especially amidst a global pandemic. Last semester the University moved to a remote learning system with many students learning from home around the world. Our students who have experienced this remote learning system have shared their experiences below to help answer some of the questions you may have about remote aspects of dual-mode delivery.

Tahira, second-year Psychology student

What is your experience of online learning?

When in-person classes were suspended, almost every one of my classmates (including myself) was worried about the quality of education. In my opinion, I was so focused on the potential problems that I was pleasantly surprised by the benefits of online classes. Our Professors reached out to us more than they would regularly do to ensure we were all on track with the curriculum. Our class representatives were working overtime to ask for our feedback on online learning and communicating our concerns to professors. I even found myself reaching out to people more online via email or Facebook when I was confused. One of my personal favourite silver linings of this pandemic was that I got to take my final exam in my pyjamas.

What are the benefits of online learning?

Personally, one of the biggest pros of having online lectures is being able to learn at your own pace. With pre-recorded lectures, you can pause lectures and make sure your notes are up to date or even have the time to search for anything you’re not sure about. All my tutorials were recorded as well. When I couldn’t make it to a live tutorial due to time zone constraints, my professor changed the time of the tutorial all together to make sure I could attend it. Furthermore, I found Microsoft teams really easy to use and it was simple to navigate.

How did the University support you during the move to online learning?

The University spends a lot of time and effort developing their wellbeing strategies and interventions for students. For example, organisations like Student Support and Nightline have continued to stay open despite the semester ending a month ago. Whether it’s in person or via a video call, knowing that there is always someone there for you if you want to talk is extremely reassuring in these uncertain times.

Have you still been able to join in social events?

Even a global pandemic has not been able to stop St Andrews’ social atmosphere. Every society and club that I am a part of has been finding alternate ways of hosting events that we would have otherwise attended in person. For example, in our Cricket Club, we usually have an ‘End-of-Year’ dinner at the end of the academic year. This year, we had a zoom call which lasted for a few hours with fun quizzes and banter. It definitely made quarantine a lot more exciting and for those few hours, it felt like I was back in St Andrews with some of my closest friends.

What would you say to students who are joining St Andrews in September?

We are all in this together and here with you every step of the way. You are entering a community which values who you are. You will find yourself growing both personally and academically in a supportive environment. I really hope you enjoy studying in St Andrews as much as I do, because the memories I’ve made over the past few years have been irreplaceable!

Sahana, third-year student

What is your experience of online learning?

I have currently completed my third year and am embarking upon my final and most exciting year. This is a very crucial time for me as internship opportunities and grades play a pivotal role in my future endeavors. I was under the impression that attending online classes from back home would have a drastic impact on my grades, however my experience last semester was quite the contrary.

What are the benefits of online learning?

I would really like to use this opportunity to thank the entire faculty and all the staff members of St Andrews, as they must have worked relentlessly to ensure that the quality of education does not dilute for their students. From making sure all the required books were available online to being lenient with extensions when required, the university has made sure that the students have remained their top priority.

My professors have been readily available to video call, answer innumerable questions through emails, and have held regular tutorials to ensure that we have an interactive semester. This has given me the opportunity to get to know my professors even better than I would have if I were physically present at the University. I even ended up making new friends while working as a united bunch of classmates helping each other out when needed.

How did the University support you during the move to online learning?

Initially, when the pandemic began to pan out, many of us were panic-stricken. The university, however, stood strong, kept us calm, and continues to do so today as well. They present regular detailed updates to all students and staff members via email and on the University website. They have even set up a Coronavirus Helpdesk within the Advice and Support Centre to triage all students’ questions and inquiries. Besides being medically equipped, the university has also prepared accommodation for students and staff members who may need to self- isolate in case they contract the virus.

Have you still been able to join in social events?

I have never had a dull moment in St Andrews- from a plethora of different committees and societies I've tried out, to all the crazy events and traditions, to just walking around town enjoying the breath-taking views and bumping into my friends every step of the way. I can confidently vouch that this University is just like one big strong family where everyone has each other’s back. Additionally, I have never been to a town safer than St. Andrews. I walk alone on the streets in the wee hours of the night without any fear whatsoever. Probably my most frightening experience till now has been a seagull swooping up and scooping the food from my hand.

What would you say to students who are joining St Andrews in September?

Even though your freshman year experiences may be a bit different than usual, this is only a small hiccup in your journey. You can be assured your overall online learning will be the best possible educational experience where your interactions may be virtual but fulfilling. I sincerely hope that this small deterrent will not come in the way of possibly the best four years of your life at St Andrews.

Mark, third-year Classics student

What is your experience of online learning?

Last semester one of my classes, based around an on-site trip to Greece, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of us in that class were very worried, upset and distressed as much of our coursework was to be based on this trip and the historical and archaeological sites we were to visit. We did not know if we would be able to complete the course. However, the School of Classics did everything they could to ensure we received the best possible education under the circumstances. Our tutor prepared online lectures for the sites we were due to visit, with diagrams, floor plans and everything else we needed to know and we had multiple online classes throughout to ensure we received all of our allocated teaching time and for questions and debate. As the lectures were posted online, we could watch them at times best suited for us and even re-watch them for extra information for our submitted essays and other coursework.

What are the benefits of online learning?

Moving to online learning was a stressful time for students and staff alike but bizarrely it helped us get closer as a class. We found that we were chatting more to each other as friends rather than fellow students. We also used social media to helped each other on areas we were struggling with, be it coursework or our personal lives during the lockdown. Online teaching will never be the same experience as face to face, but it most definitely was not the end of our studies or even an end to making friends throughout the year.

How did the University support you during the move to online learning?

Our tutor provided us with many online resources as access to the physical copies of books and journals at the Library were not possible. I also want to say the library staff worked like crazy to scan copies of books requested by staff and students to make sure they were available online. Staff went above and beyond that which could have reasonably been expected from them to help the students through this crisis.

What would you say to students who are joining St Andrews in September?

You should know that you are coming to a community that celebrates the commitment and professionalism of its staff on providing the best possible educational experience for you despite the restrictions put in place to combat the current pandemic. You will meet new people. You will make friends. This crisis will not last forever but until then you will receive an excellent teaching experience online and you can be assured that any further concerns you may have, your lecturers and tutors will address them and along with your fellow students, help you all along your journey. You are going to rock it!

Vanshika, fourth-year student

What is your experience of online learning?

In these pressing times, the University has decided to take a dual-learning approach, meaning that a part of your course might have to be done online. This may be challenging for some of you, but as a now 4th year student, having completed a chunk of my 3rd year online, I assure you that the University has done and is continually doing the best they can to make this transition as smooth as possible.

What are the benefits of online learning?

Of course, online learning is not the same as a face-to-face approach, but my experience over the last couple of months has been extremely positive and in fact has allowed me to build a stronger relationship with my peers, my professors and the University.

How did the University support you during the move to online learning?

The University have made available pre-recorded lectures, allowing you to access these as many times as you like and in any-time zone. Module lecturers are super hands-on, approachable and quick to help whenever the need arises. The library staff has worked very hard to make all required resources accessible online and the technical support team is available around the clock to assist you with any difficulties you face.

Have you still been able to join in social events?

A big part of your experience at the University of St Andrews will be taking part in all the fun and quirky traditions that the we are so well known for, May Dip being one of my favourites. Every year, on the 1st of May, thousands of students gather to jump into the north sea to cleanse themselves of any “academic sins.” The University didn’t let the lockdown stop us from partaking in this tradition by organising a “virtual May Dip” on club penguin. It was really great to see how many students from around the world virtually came together on this day for one last “hoorah” before the May examinations.

What would you say to students who are joining St Andrews in September?

We’re all in this together and we’re all going to get through it as a community. The University of St Andrews strives to leave you with the best experience, the best of friends, the best education and the best four years of your life, and no pandemic will come in the way of that.