Lisa Kamsickas, a fourth-year student from the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, has written an open letter to the graduating class of 2020, reflecting on four years of life in St Andrews that she and her fellow students have experienced, which has come to an unexpected end due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In her own words Lisa details the experiences, trials and tribulations the graduating year of 2020 have overcome and the spirit of St Andrews.
Lisa, in her own words:
“The past four years have challenged us.
“The summer before we came to St Andrews in 2016, the Brexit vote happened.
“A few short months later as first years, we navigated our university experience amidst a turbulent and divisive American presidential election. Everyone had an opinion, and many weren’t afraid to share theirs.
“In our second year, the Beast from the East storm brought cold weather and cancelled classes.
“One of our friends, Duncan, went missing. His face all over social media and in every store window caused a palpable eeriness around town.
“During that time, the first round of industrial action also happened, leaving us to learn module content independently.
“We then navigated our way through Honours in our third year, a noticeable academic jump for many of us.
“In our fourth year, the strike action happened again – twice.
“And on the last day of strike action, the coronavirus officially reached St Andrews.
“Now, I sit here attempting to pack up my belongings and memories, something I thought I’d have three more months to do. For some, it may feel like the coronavirus robbed us of our final semester, but did not rob us of our character.
“Amidst a turbulent and combative presidential election, we learned to be open-minded and respectful. We had the opportunity to lean into the diversity St Andrews offers to learn about how others live, what motivates them, and what forms their beliefs.
“The Beast from the East taught us to be flexible and to plan ahead (and to wear layers!). And, hey, we got a snow day out of it.
“Duncan’s disappearance, while a tragedy, spearheaded an even stronger sense of community. Hundreds of people on search teams went exploring each and every crevice of St Andrews for him. And amidst the uncertainty, we mourned, grieved, and prayed together.
“Those late nights in the library trying to understand material and finish essays while our lecturers were on strike honed our persistence and determination. The camaraderie felt between the 1000+ people in the Main Library during revision led us to be closer (metaphorically and certainly literally). Perhaps this academic push helped us manage the trying times we had yet to face in Honours.
“And we all survived the dragged-out Brexit, lasting nearly our entire university career.
“The life we’ve spent 3.5 years building suddenly vanished within 72 hours. We didn’t get to take a picture with our completed dissertations in front of our schools’ buildings, have our soakings, cleanse our fourth year academic sins on May Dip, ceremoniously walk around the quad, or voluntarily step on the PH post-exams. Many friends won’t be returning for Grad Ball or Graduation, assuming those events continue as planned. We didn’t get to say goodbye to some friends who shared in our sufferings and joys over the past few years. And for the few who stayed, we couldn’t even give them a fist bump. A “thumbs up” just isn’t the same.
“But we are resilient. It wouldn’t make sense to have self-pity; we have come out of each trial stronger than before. We’ve grown in more ways than one – academically, emotionally, spiritually, physically (perhaps too much Dervish or Courtyard?). Now, we need to dig deep and trust that this, too, is an opportunity for us to grow.
“This isn’t an easy time for us. For anyone. But thank God we have had three and a half of the best years of our lives, which an unexpected, uncertain three months can’t take away. Thank God we have people who care about us enough to want us home and technology to keep us in touch with those we leave. Thank God for the hard times, giving us opportunities to be challenged and to look beyond ourselves.
“While we may not be ready to leave St Andrews, I guarantee that we are ready for “the real world” our lecturers kept rambling on about. Yes, being in a beautiful location surrounded by beaches, historical buildings, and golf courses is a plus, but it’s the people who have made our time in St Andrews so great. Four years ago, getting ready to hop on a plane to start a new life in this little town by the sea, I had no idea of all of the great experiences that were to come, and it was the buildup to leaving that was the hardest part.
“As we get ready to hop on planes to start our lives in “the real world,” I trust that we can’t begin to anticipate the good that will come from this trial. We’ve been preparing all along, and we’re more than ready. Yes, the past four years have challenged us, but they have also changed us.
“Ever to excel!”
With gratitude and in solidarity