Traditions of St. Andrews
Being that St. Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland, it is steeped in traditions that you will be able to get involved in as a study abroad student there. The following is a summary of some of those traditions:
Red Gowns: The University is very well known for the academic red gowns worn by students for special occasions. These gowns were introduced in 1672 to distinguish students from the rest of the town residents and are worn differently depending on what year of study you are in. You will hear the phrase “town and gown relations” thrown around to signify the relationship between students and the St. Andrews community.
Raisin Weekend: In the beginning (15th century) of the university, new students would be assisted by senior students in adapting to university life. As a thank you, the new student would give his/her senior student (referred to as an academic parent) a pound of raisins (an expensive gift at the time). Now, even though raisins have been replaced, Raisin Weekend may be one of the highlights of your study abroad experience at St. Andrews in the autumn. Each new student still becomes part of an Academic Family and during the last weekend of November, first years are entertained by their academic parents, normally consisting of a tea party thrown by the academic mothers and then a tour of pubs conducted by the fathers. The weekend culminates in a foam fight on the Monday morning in quad of St Salvator's College.
Patrick Hamilton’s initials: The cobblestones outside of the main gate to St. Salvator's College denote where Patrick Hamilton was martyred in 1528. According to tradition, stepping on the "PH" will cause a student to be cursed so that the offender will fail his or her courses. Students will be seen jumping over or avoiding the cobblestones when passing. If you do step on the initials, you must take a dip in the North Sea to remove the curse (see May Dip below).
May Dip: The May Dip is held at dawn on May Day (May 1st) at Castle Sands. Students stay awake until dawn, at which time they all run into the North Sea.
The Kate Kennedy Club: Named for the niece of Bishop Kennedy, this charitable organization was formed to promote town/gown relations. Membership in the club is limited to 60 male full-time undergraduate students. The club holds a few treasured events including the Kate Kennedy Processional and Balls. The May Ball is the main social event of the University calendar. The ball is an exceptionally good value for students. More than 2000 undergraduates enjoy food, drinks, fairground attractions and live bands. The Opening Ball is smaller than the May Ball but is a way to usher in the start of a fresh semester bringing the university together on the main lawn for a champagne toast and a piper.