Forrest Pando, from Charlottesville, USA, will graduate with an MLitt Film Studies.

What attracted you to St Andrews in the first place?

The location was a big reason for choosing St Andrews. My partner and I fell in love with Scotland and thought it would be the best place to continue our academic endeavours.

What are your favourite memories of being a student here?

My favourite memories often involve spending time with friends. One standout evening was Christmas Eve with my partner, Zaynah, and our friend, Sophia. We attended the candlelight carol service at St Leonards. After that service, we walked down to the pier and then had dinner at Forgan’s. That night will stick with me for years to come.

What is your favourite location in St Andrews and why?

I really love the town in general. Walking around the streets and seeing the ruins as you go about your day never gets old.

When you reflect on your time in St Andrews, how do you think it has changed you?

I considered myself pretty worldly before attending St Andrews but, oh boy, was I mistaken. I have come to know many excellent people from around the world who I believe have become lifelong friends. I feel my time here at St Andrews has opened up my world significantly.

Where have you spent this year following the initial lockdown period and how was it for you?

I feel very fortunate that my partner and I moved into a farm cottage shortly before lockdown. We have mostly kept to ourselves in our little cottage and walk around the farm fields. A couple of times we have hiked to Tentsmuir Forest and would camp by the dunes. We also brought our dogs with us, which has made isolation much more comfortable. We also became closer friends with the few neighbours we have; we enjoyed many socially distanced garden parties over the summer.

What was it like finishing your studies during a pandemic?

We had a small cohort which dissipated rather quickly after the lockdown began. A couple of us stayed close, but it was weird how quickly the dynamics changed. The pandemic forced some of my cohort to return to their homes, and I have not seen them since. Working on my dissertation over the summer was tough. On the one hand, I had way more time and less external events to distract me. Still, the tensions in America and the global pandemic were mentally taxing. I finished my dissertation on time nonetheless, and I’m very proud of the finished piece.

What are your hopes and plans for the future (both for yourself personally and the world at large)?

I am actually switching careers entirely. I have decided to pivot into video game design. The pandemic pushed me to ask myself hard questions about what I want to be doing and how I am going to make a living. This coalesced into me applying to do a professional masters at Abertay University, which I start this January.

What will you miss most about ‘the bubble’ of St Andrews?

I’ll miss how peaceful and magical this place is. Where else am I going to go where there is a magical vending machine that vends the best doughnut in the world when you find yourself stumbling out of pubs late at night?

How do you think events of 2020 (coronavirus, lockdown life, BLM) have shaped the graduating Class of 2020?

I hope that the events of 2020 have demonstrated that we should make no time for nationalistic tendencies or racism. We’ve seen how deeply seeded and systemic racism is across the globe. I hope this year is seen as an amplified call for change in the institutions and hearts of countries around the world.

What keeps me hopeful is the number of people who have, and continue, to stand up to hate. Here at St Andrews, I have known and seen many students who are passionate and are fighting for the rights of themselves and others. I hope the class of 2020 becomes the most civically engaged class and are known for standing up to hate. Black Lives Matter.

And finally, do you hope to come back in 2021 to graduate in person?

I do hope to come back to graduate in person as long as it has become safe to do so. It would be great to have a celebration with my cohort and friends to celebrate the hardships we overcame like the pandemic and union strikes.