St Andrews students reflect on graduating during Covid-19 pandemic

Students from the University of St Andrews graduating virtually this week have taken time out to reflect on what it means to be conferred their degrees during a pandemic.

Seven ‘Saints’ took part in a special socially-distanced photoshoot and shared their reflections of their time in St Andrews, and how they felt about completing their degrees from a distance.

Almost 1000 students, predominantly postgraduates, are being conferred their degrees with virtual ceremonies, in line with current Covid-19 restrictions. They join the cohort of St Andrews graduates who were – for the first time in the university’s history – officially granted their degrees online this summer. Virtual ceremonies, which were filmed in advance with no students present, are being aired ‘as live’ on the university’s website and YouTube channel.

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In a pre-graduation Q&A, published on the university website, students still in the area spoke of the importance of slowing down, empathy, kindness, community, friendship and the value of a hug. They also shared their experience of online dissertation submissions, spending lockdown birthdays alone, and their hopes for the future.

Those who took part in the creative campaign include two mature students, a married couple, and representatives from Canada, the US, Sweden, Scotland and England. They include Sophia Eve Rink, a graduating English Masters student, who helped devise the campaign which was spearheaded by the university’s remote graduation working party.

Sophia (23) from Canada, first fell in love with St Andrews at the age of 15 via an Etsy blog post.

She said: “I spent all of lockdown in St Andrews, trying to enjoy the sea and beaches as much as possible on daily walks. It was completely bizarre finishing my studies during a pandemic.

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“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 (safely) explore passions they may have felt they never had time for.”

Images were taken in and around St Andrews from a safe distance by university photographer Gayle McIntyre, with students nominating their favourite local haunt as a location.

Not surprisingly, several of the images were taken at the famous St Andrews’ West Sands, as well as the pier, St Andrews Cathedral and the Lade Braes.

Thomas Reid (24), a Russian Studies scholar from Inverurie, wore a kilt especially for the occasion.

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He said: “2020 has without a doubt been a challenging year for everybody in many ways. But I do think that it has shown us all that we are resilient, and adaptable to the challenges beyond our control, and when it matters, we can all come together.”

The seven reflective Saints were Sophia Eve Rink (MLitt Romantic & Victorian Studies, from Canada), Jenny Govier (MLitt English [Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture[, from Toronto), Iain Todd (PhD Geography and Sustainable Development, from Dundee), Jacob Baxter (MLitt Book History, from Sunderland), Forrest Pando (MLitt Film Studies, from Charlottesville, USA), Kristin Lund (PhD Astronomy and Astrophysics, from Skansen, Norway) and Thomas Reid (MLitt Russian Studies (with Distinction), from Inverurie).

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