Sarah Ramage. MA (Hons) Geography, 30 June 2021
What attracted you to St Andrews in the first place?
I had never considered studying at St Andrews until the University reached out through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) whilst I was at college. Living nearby I was then able to visit several times and I was attracted to the academic prestige, all the fun traditions, and the huge range of societies. The staff of the University’s access programme made me feel special and current students happily shared their positive experiences which reassured me that I would be happy here. By the time it came to accept my offer I knew St Andrews was the place for me.
What are your favourite memories of being a student here?
I have so many fantastic memories that it’s hard to choose just a few. In my first year I joined the ‘Lifers’ subcommittee which helps students from non-traditional routes to get involved in University traditions and other student experiences. Through this I made many fantastic friends and we took part in the Gaudie, May Dip, Halloween at the Union, and all the usual Raisin fun with mass adoptions. We’re one big family and one of my favourite nights was when more than thirty of us went to Glitterball. I was a student at the same time as my two daughters and I enjoyed when they came to events with me such as GeoBall as well as library study dates. In third year, I took part in Race 2 Valencia which was an amazing experience. Raising money for charities chosen by students whilst meeting all the great people that gave us lifts was something I will never forget.
When you reflect on your time in St Andrews, how do you think it has changed you?
Attending St Andrews has changed my life. I have enjoyed the academic challenges and learned many new skills, e.g. I certainly never imagined my dissertation would involve R and statistics! Outside of academics, being a Student Ambassador helped my confidence grow and I took as many opportunities as I could to help promote higher education, and especially St Andrews, to potential students.
Where have you spent your time since the outbreak of Covid-19? What was the experience of virtual life, teaching and playing for you?
I have spent my time at home in Forfar. I live on my own and found the isolation at the start of the pandemic really difficult. At the end of third year I remember studying on my doorstep with my neighbours chatting to me from theirs, encouraging me in my studies. Over summer break I started working in a supermarket and I very much enjoyed being a key worker. It also provided me with much needed social interaction with colleagues and customers. At the start of fourth year we built up an excellent virtual student community which helped us all with our studies and with the pandemic in general. We also had some fun socials such as an online murder mystery night and in person events in the Can Do tent.
How do you think events of 2020/1 (coronavirus, lockdown life, BLM) have shaped the graduating Class of 2021?
I believe world events have affected everyone in the Class of 2021 however I think the way it has impacted us has greatly varied from person to person. Some people have struggled much more than others, for a variety of reasons, but I think everyone seems to have more patience and understanding. Graduates may have more limited opportunities just now, with travel restricted and less jobs available, but we have all managed to finish our degrees and have developed resilience and creativity.
What was it like finishing your studies towards the end of the pandemic?
It was a struggle and there were times that I really did not think I would be able to finish. However, I had amazing support from my family, friends, the Geography department, and Student Services. My classmates and I arranged study calls which were great for social interaction and support and it really was a team effort to graduate!
What are your hopes and plans for the future (both for yourself personally and the world at large)?
I feel that I have been an excellent ambassador for higher education, and especially the University, and I hope that this inspires peoples to realise that lifelong learning is for everyone. I feel that the pandemic has brought people together in unexpected ways, and I hope that this sense of caring and community continues into the future. The pandemic gave me an opportunity to evaluate what was important to me and what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to change jobs last summer, and this had led to a great opportunity as I have been offered a place on the graduate scheme of the company that I work for starting in September.
What will you miss most about ‘the bubble’ of St Andrews?
I will miss the Commuter Room! I loved our little room under the ASC where there was always a friendly face and a cup of coffee to help you sort out any worries or to share in your successes. I’ll also miss late night study sessions in the library. St Andrews was such a small and friendly university that you always met someone you knew wherever you went.
What are your plans for your own virtual conferral day?
I’ll be spending the day with my family. We plan to have a picnic in the garden and watch the ceremony live on a video call with my classmates so we can cheer each other on. We started together and we’ll finish together.
How do you feel now that we are beginning to see the light at the end of this pandemic?
I feel an enormous sense of relief and I can’t wait for an even greater sense of normality.
And finally, do you hope to come back in 2022 to graduate in person?