Student Profile

Persephone - Second Year Physics - 2015

I am a second year physics student, returning in the next academic year for junior honours. My name is Persephone, and when I am not living in St Andrews my home is up north in the Shetland Isles. St Andrews is not a world away from there in some respects; both are small, energetic communities that can sometimes be described as a “bubble” by those who live in them. However, though some young people choose to stay in the islands throughout their lives, this was never an option that appealed to me. I also have roots in England and South Africa and so I do not have such a strong sense of belonging in any one particular place. The choice to study here suited very well. I meet friends and strangers from all over the globe on almost a daily basis now and it has always been very refreshing to experience many, more varied influences than I have been able to before. I feel that it is easy to become closed off from the rest of the world, and to become overly comfortable and oblivious to alternative lifestyles when other cultures are not directly impressed upon you.

The first move away from home seems to change everyone in different ways. I enjoy the relative independence and the opportunity to direct my own learning to an extent. It is uplifting when the lecturers and other students are all so inspired by the work that we do as a School. It is so much more than memorising and preparing for tests in the way that most students are used to from previous education. We are encouraged to explore and ask our own questions, to become involved in the community and to learn to work towards common goals cooperatively. This kind of supportive structure has greatly increased my self-confidence; it is a good feeling to no longer be compared to my classmates at every hurdle. Here, although the work is far more difficult and probably more stressful, it is also worth much more.

Physics is undoubtedly the perfect subject for me to be working within. All of the time, I am grateful for being able to have this huge, personal opportunity and that makes it even more important to give a lot back to it. Additionally, I have recently learnt just how competitive the places in St Andrews physics classes actually are, unfortunately it seems that I underestimated how easily my future could have been very different. The physics that our class has been taught so far has been a vast insight into the natural world. It is forcing me to question things that I would never have questioned before. In first year, philosophy modules were great to have alongside the maths and the physics as it helped to put these questions into context a little. The field is exciting, changing all the time, with fresh sources of motivation everywhere that you look. Learning and self-improvement are important to me for mental wellbeing on top of everything else.

Other aspects of university life that I love include the sports facilities and societies for every personality and occasion! I felt compelled to try as much as possible during 1st year, and so consequently tried out Dance Society, Triathlon Club, Quaich Society and Women’s Rugby Club before eventually narrowing it down to the Mountaineering Club and also the (recently re-named) Physics Society, for which I am now acting as a social convener.

Life in a hall of residence has been perhaps the biggest new social experience, full of ups and downs (but mostly ups), as many new students and Junior Semester Abroad students find out how many things change when you first move away from your families. For me, this was not a very easy transition as I have always been quite close to my parents and to my younger brother. I went to Andrew Melville Hall, and this was where I met most of my current closest friends from university. It is a highly sociable hall and brings many slightly introverted young people out of their shells for the first time.

Next year I will be leaving the hall sadly, but living with a few very close friends will be a peaceful change and I am excited to be moving on to new areas of study in physics.

First published BDS 28.4.15