Jenny Govier – Reflections of a Saint
Jenny Govier, from Toronto, Canada will graduate with an MLitt English (Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture).
What attracted you to St Andrews in the first place?
I’d visited the town a few times before and thought it would be a great place for my family to live if I managed to drag them along with me for my master’s. The history and the reputation of the school were also big factors. And I’ve always wanted to live by the sea.
What are your favourite memories of being a student here?
Studying in Martyrs Kirk. It’s so beautiful and peaceful, and there are blankets! Also, as a mature student, I wasn’t sure if my classmates would feel comfortable with me. But they were wonderful, and the times I spent with them were special. The small class sizes help make that possible.
What is your favourite location in St Andrews and why?
It’s hard to pick one. I love the beaches: East Sands in the morning, Castle Sands in the afternoon, and West Sands anytime. I love the Old Course on Sunday – it’s just crazy that we can wander all over the most famous golf course in the world. And I love the view of town from the coastal path past East Sands.
When you reflect on your time in St Andrews, how do you think it has changed you?
I was getting stuck in a bit of a rut with my work, so my hope was that I would sharpen my critical thinking skills. I believe I’ve done so, but at the very least, I think that I’ve come away with a broader sense of perspective. As we get older (even a little), we may think we’re keeping up with contemporary thought just by being aware it exists, but unless we’re actively involved in the discourse, we’re probably not.
As an editor, I must be sensitive to inclusivity, but as a grown-up, I spend most of my time in a very small circle. Communicating with young people has been vital to helping me become aware of how easy it is to fall into old patterns that are irrelevant or outdated and how important it is to expand my outlook and continue learning.
Where have you spent this year following the initial lockdown period and how was it for you?
I’ve stayed in St Andrews. My husband works here, so that’s one reason, but we also felt more comfortable staying in a small town than returning to a crowded city right now. I miss my family at home, but I’m grateful to be in a safe place (and a beautiful one), so it’s mostly been positive.
There’s a lot I miss of pre-Covid life – we were going to travel so much! all our friends were going to visit! – but I have many treasured memories of this time sheltered with my family in our Scottish cottage and enjoying long summer evenings with neighbours in the garden.
What was it like finishing your studies during a pandemic?
Good and bad. All I really want to do with my life is stay home and read (ha!), so having to research and write my dissertation was kind of my best-case lockdown scenario. However, I regretted not being able to meet in person with my supervisor and classmates during the process. I think my dissertation would have been better for it, and my experience of working on it would have been richer.
What are your hopes and plans for the future (both for yourself personally and the world at large)?
Although I’m going back to doing what I did before my master’s, I plan to do so with more care and thoughtfulness, both for what I choose to work on and how I do my work. For the world at large, I hope for the same care. Many of us learned to slow down and appreciate the little things during lockdown. Many also found new ways to be creative with limited resources. We don’t need to do things in a massive way to have an impact. Being thoughtful about how we do things – how we consume, create, communicate, whatever – is a habit we should all take away from the pandemic.
What will you miss most about ‘the bubble’ of St Andrews?
It’s a bit strange still being in St Andrews but not in the bubble. Many of the non-student friends I’ve made are people who grew up here and went off to do things elsewhere but came back to raise their families. I absolutely think that young graduates need to leave and live and work out in the world, but – huge cliché ahead – St Andrews is a great place for families. I grew up in a small town that provided a comfortable environment for families but had few opportunities for enrichment. St Andrews is small and comfortable, but because of the University and tourism, it also offers diversity and opportunity that you normally can’t find in towns of this size. I wanted that for my family, so I’m happy to stay longer. But what I will miss about the bubble is walking down certain paths as a student, as someone who belongs in that place.
How do you think events of 2020 (coronavirus, lockdown life, BLM) have shaped the graduating Class of 2020?
I think the pandemic has made us more flexible. Things aren’t always going to be perfect, we’ve learned the hard way, so we have to do everything we can with the resources we have, and we have to be willing to learn to work in new ways and within shifting systems. This has been hard – I can’t even have a conversation with my parents over Skype without us talking over each other the whole time – but there are far worse things than an awkward video call. This class has found ways to unite and support and protest under circumstances more likely to isolate and divide. The rest should be easy.
What message would you send to fellow Saints, graduating or otherwise, wherever they are around the world?
That question is the hardest! I suppose my message would be to please know and stay true to your vision for yourself. Outside of school, where measures of success aren’t based on marks, you need to determine what your definition of success for yourself is. It’s important to be inspired by great people and aim high, but success can take many forms. Reminding yourself of what your personal version of success will look like, as opposed to all the amazing things other people, including fellow Saints, seem to be achieving, can help you see that actually yeah, you’re doing just fine.
And finally, do you hope to come back in 2021 to graduate in person?
Depending on when in 2021 that actually happens, I may still be here, so yes.