Jacob Baxter – Reflections of a Saint
Jacob Baxter, from Sunderland, will graduate with an MLitt in Book History.
What attracted you to St Andrews in the first place?
I first came to St Andrews on a visitors’ day in 2014. The fantastic admissions team here had given a talk at my school, which had persuaded me to come up and take a look. As with a number of my friends, I fell in love with the place instantaneously. I arrived to begin my undergraduate degree here in 2015, and I’ve never looked back.
What are your favourite memories of being a student here?
There are just so many to choose from amidst all the wonderful classes, orchestra concerts, tennis matches, beach walks, coffee afternoons, pub evenings, balls, and many other things I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. Certainly, what underlies them all, I think, is the friendliness which emanates across St Andrews.
What is your favourite location in St Andrews and why?
It is almost impossible to decide, but St Mary’s quad just edges it ahead of the rest. It is a fantastic place, with a wonderful aura of calmness and some stunning scenery.
When you reflect on your time in St Andrews, how do you think it has changed you?
I would like to think that my time here has made me more open about the wider world. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people from all walks of life here, and they’ve shaped my attitude to a myriad of different things.
Where have you spent this year following the initial lockdown period and how was it for you?
I decided to stay in St Andrews. The town emptied rapidly in the space of few days leaving behind a surreal atmosphere. Certainly, there were times that were tough. Celebrating my birthday in early May without seeing anyone in person was especially difficult. Then again, there were points when being in a town with such stunning surroundings, and that mercifully got spared the worst of SARS-CoV-2, made me think: ‘I am so fortunate to be here.’
What was it like finishing your studies during a pandemic?
Whilst clicking ‘submit’ was not quite the same as handing in a physical copy of my dissertation, I was certainly able to celebrate. Happily, a good number of my fellow master’s students had decided to stay around, and by the time of our dissertation deadline, the pubs had reopened, which certainly helped matters!
What are your hopes and plans for the future (both for yourself personally and the world at large)?
I am pleased to say that my time in St Andrews is not over! I am staying to undertake a PhD, which is being supervised by Professor Andrew Pettegree and Dr Arthur der Weduwen.
For the world at large, I hope that we can move forward with a renewed faith in experts.
What will you miss most about ‘the bubble’ of St Andrews?
Whilst I am sticking on for a PhD, not all of my friends have decided to stay. To that end, ‘the bubble’ that I got to know in the past year will inevitably change and I will miss a number of people from it dearly.
How do you think events of 2020 (coronavirus, lockdown life, BLM) have shaped the graduating Class of 2020?
I believe that the class of 2020 has been shaped into one of the most resilient groups ever to have graduated from the University. Wherever and whatever our next chapter is, we can go into it knowing that we can adapt well to the next challenges that will confront us.
What message would you send to fellow Saints, graduating or otherwise, wherever they are around the world?
The past few months have not been without their difficulties, but it has been an honour sharing this bumpy road with such a resilient and supportive group of people. There is no place I would rather be and I know how lucky I am.
And finally, do you hope to come back in 2021 to graduate in person?