Sophia Eve Rink, from Canada, will graduate with an MLitt Romantic & Victorian Studies.

What attracted you to St Andrews in the first place?

Instinct. When I was 15, St Andrews was mentioned very briefly in an Etsy blog post – nothing more than the fact that the author had studied here. I knew nothing about the University, and wasn’t anywhere near applying to programmes yet, but I read “the University of St Andrews” for the first time and thought: this is my school.

After eight years and a Bachelor’s degree in two other countries, I found out that St Andrews offered the perfect postgraduate programme for me, applied, and was accepted to the School of English! I love it now as much as I thought I would years ago, heart and soul.

What are your favourite memories of being a student here?

Some of my favourite memories of being a student at St Andrews have been made outside of St Andrews: spending the Christmas season in Berlin with new friends, or going into Edinburgh and Glasgow with Sara for a day in town, or taking a road trip through the Scottish Highlands and islands with some dear friends, Forrest and Zaynah, who feel as though they have been in my life for years. Despite physically being outside of St Andrews, it’s amazing that simply being a student at the University has led to some incredible friendships which transcend location and open a path to adventure.

What is your favourite location in St Andrews and why?

It’s so hard to pick a favourite. I love the garden at St Mary’s Quad as much as I love the pier and the cobblestone streets. I have precious memories of walking down Lade Braes and of celebrating my birthday in lockdown in my own kitchen with a sweet friend. I think my absolute favourite is the big rock on Castle Sands – at dawn in summer it’s almost completely surrounded by the North Sea. I love sitting on the rock when it’s in the middle of the sea, watching the sun rise over the Castle and reflecting in the quiet morning.

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

When I arrived, I knew I had a really limited amount of time in Scotland. My programme is only one year long, so I felt that I had to do everything all at once. Living in a small university town has helped me learn to slow down, because sometimes I jump from one thing to the next so quickly and don’t focus on enjoying little things.

The friendships I’ve made here have also been life-changing: there are so many genuinely good and kind people in St Andrews, and I think it’s amazing that they’re in my life now. I’m really inspired by the wholeheartedness of their friendship.

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

I spent all of lockdown in St Andrews, trying to enjoy the sea and beaches as much as possible on daily walks. At the height of summer, I would spend afternoons in my sweet friend Olivia’s empty garden – imagine reading Jane Austen novels with an enormous sunhat on, surrounded by flowers! Having the safe outdoor space of the garden really changed lockdown for me.

What was it like finishing your studies during a pandemic?

Completely bizarre, I don’t think there’s another way to describe it. Virtual seminars were a little alienating at first, and it was odd to have meetings with my supervisor and not be able to sit and drink tea in his office. But it also opened some surprising doors: I organised and presented my research in a virtual conference in August 2020, which wouldn’t have happened without social distancing measures and the lockdown.

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

I’m excited to see more of the world and to keep learning, which is something I hope for myself and for everyone: I hope that the uncertainty and stripped-back priorities of 2020 have increased people’s hunger to connect with others, encouraged them to make deliberate and conscious decisions for themselves and their communities, and inspired them to explore passions they may have felt they never had time for.

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

I loved having friends just down the street, so I could simply walk down the block and knock on their windows if I wanted to chat. Having such a great community so close was really fantastic, and I’ll miss having friendships in the bubble – there really is something around every corner.

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

I think we’ve all learned that university isn’t just about education, it’s about creating and supporting a community as well. We’ve been very viscerally reminded how important empathy is in a world which tends to focus on success and progress.

What message would you send to fellow Saints, graduating or otherwise, wherever they are around the world?

Believe in yourself and believe in your dreams – even the ones that might seem unreachable because they’re from a long time ago, or because you feel that they’re less attainable because of recent events. Dreams and goals are only ever as important as you choose to see them. This year has been so strange and unsettling, that I think the only way forward for graduating and graduated Saints is to ask for support and give support in return, while focusing on what makes you happy and doing as much of that as you can.

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

YES! I couldn’t imagine it any other way! I don’t think graduation will truly feel real until I’ve walked the stage in St Andrews.