Five St Andrews students on what it’s like to stay at uni over Christmas

“my flight was cancelled last minute”

Many students have opted to remain in St Andrews over the Christmas break due to the travelling complications that have arisen as a result of the pandemic. For many, this will be their first time away from home during the festive period.

The St Andrews Tab managed to talk to a few of the students staying over the winter break. Here are their experiences so far:


Nikko is a first year from Thailand and this is his first time staying in St Andrews over the winter holidays.

Nikko had only planned to fly back home once a year anyway, so the pandemic didn’t alter his plans, but he didn’t want to stay “necessarily in St Andrews the whole time”.

What’s your experience been like so far staying over winter break?

Honestly it’s been pretty good so far. Frankly I haven’t done much, mainly recovering from first semester. All my flatmates went home, so I have the entire my flat to myself now (I live in DRA).

It’s not perfect by all means, but what else can I ask for really. The staff are generally really nice.

What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed so far between term time and the holidays in St Andrews?

Normally I leave my room twice a week, once for my workshop and tutorials. So usually I do not spend time in town at all. After I finished my exams I start going outside every day to catch the sun, so everything is kind of new to me.

Just to point out, I arrived in St Andrews mid-semester so I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the town like other Freshers.

Have you been supported by the university so far?

I guess the only kind of support I can think of is the option to be catered? Albeit I don’t think I will get charged extra. I went to try the free meal at the Union today too and it was great.

I was there by myself. All my friends left town already. There was a decent amount of people in the front, and I kept seeing people coming in.

Have you noticed a big difference since your friends left?

Definitely, although I don’t hang out with people outside my household that often due to Covid, I do meet up with my peers to study both online and rarely in person.

Cause of the whole pandemic it’s quite hard to meet people outside my course so now that the semester’s over, there’s not that many opportunities to talk with my ‘main’ group of friends.

What do you think the best part of staying in St Andrews over the holidays will be?

The fact that I have the entire town to explore with considerably less people is a plus.

What do you think the worst part will be?

The worst part is probably the lack of sun and that there’s not many social events going on. I should note that personally my family does not celebrate Christmas nor New Year’s so this time of year does not really have any sentimental values personally.


Denis is a first year from Romania and this is also his first time staying in St Andrews over the winter holidays. He was not planning to stay but his was flight cancelled last minute.

Have you been supported by the university over the break so far?

The uni was quite supportive I would say, they offered me free catering for the winter break and offered me transportation to the airport if the flight restrictions are lifted and I can go home sometime during the holiday.

I enjoy being in St Andrews, I think it is a great place to be stuck in, especially because of the sea.

What do you think the best part of staying in St Andrews over the holidays will be?

The best part would probably be going out a lot of long beach walks and breathing the air from here, since at home the air is very polluted and also being safe in terms of Covid.

What do you think the worst part will be?

The worst part will probably be being lonely for a while, since everybody that I know left St Andrews.

Have you been to any of the university-organised events?

I have only been to some events organised by students/societies in the Can Do tent.

The social distancing measures made it almost impossible to have a conversation with people around in one of the events with a big number of participants. It was very hard hearing people in the tent.

I am glad that they tried, although it was a bit disappointing. Maybe the uni could advertise events more on Fresher pages.

Do you have any plans for Christmas Day?

I don’t have any plans for Christmas Day yet, probably will have Christmas dinner with some people who are staying here and will also talk with family and friends on video calls.


Yizi is a first year from China, although she has family in Cambridge. She said: “I’m already used to spending my holiday in the UK. Because of Covid I couldn’t travel back in the summer and didn’t go back last Christmas, so I haven’t back home for 1.5 years now”.

She added: “I love St Andrews a lot. Such a beautiful town. I miss home a bit of course, sometimes it’s quite tough”.

What’s the main difference between term time and the holidays?

Well the main difference is most of my friends are leaving and DRA has become a really quiet place.

I guess these years of study abroad experience have taught me how to deal with loneliness and now I’m perfectly fine!

Have you been supported by the university so far?

I’m currently doing the foundation programme, IE’s staff are really nice and supportive, we have a Teams chat group for those staying in St Andrews like me and of course there’s Can Do events. Such a pity that sports centre will close from 24th December though.

I already feel like Uni of St Andrews is such an ANGEL! Free food in uni accommodation for catered students, free transport to airport or station, and free lunch pack in the Union cafe.

Everything has been take care of for me by the uni. Staying is because I don’t want to take the risk of getting infected in the travel back to Cambridge and China is just too far away and required 14 days quarantine in a hotel and the costs of going back were just too expensive!

Yizi added: “I go to the gym quite often, and I find it more important in current circumstances, the positive vibes, seeing people fight (working out) just like you have lots of allies you know. However the temporary closure is understandable”.

What do you think the best part of staying in St Andrews over the holidays will be?

I’m glad that St Andrews has a small population size compared to other unis, and it’s a small town which makes it safer. The uni really looks out for students, I don’t have much to worry about, it makes me feel secure and like I’m being taken care of.

What do you think the worst part will be?

Probably some negatives will be it’s kind of lonely, I can’t spend time with family, and for an international student that’s the worst part.

But I feel like with the incoming Tier 4 lockdown, anywhere in UK it’s pretty much the same.

Do you have any plans for Christmas Day?

I don’t have any plans yet.


Nitika is a first year student from India. She said: “I was going to travel back to my home country on the 26th but it’s cancelled. I am staying in Newcastle with my friend’s family”.

How’ve you found it so far?

It’s been good in fact great. I really thought I was getting close to home. But the lockdown. The funny thing was more people messaged me than they would do on my birthday to inform that I can’t come back which was kind of a bummer.

I think it will be fine if I don’t think about the fact that it’s been a really long time I have seen my family. At least we have video calls.

What do you think the best part of staying in the UK over the holidays will be?

The best will be experiencing things with a different point of view and yes definitely the English Christmas which is beautiful, even Covid has no control over it.

What do you think the worst part will be?

I think the worst part will be not being able to see my family and not getting authentic Indian food!

Do you have any plans for Christmas Day?

Yes I will be with my friend’s family.


Annie is a postgrad student from the USA and this is her first time staying in St Andrews over the winter holidays.

Why have you decided to stay in St Andrews over the holidays?

It’s definitely a strange time for me to have moved abroad. I wish I could be going home for Christmas, but my home is in the USA and unfortunately there are way too many cases there right now for me to feel comfortable traveling.

I had a flight cancelled because of Covid on the way here that I had to pay for, and I didn’t want to risk that happening again.

I was scared there would be some big thing that closed the boarders while I was gone and I wouldn’t be able to get back in (like with this mutant strain from London).

How do you feel about staying in St Andrews over the winter break?

I’m partially dreading it, and partially looking forward to it as a time to reset? It’s already very lonely because my flatmates left, and with Tier 4 restrictions I honestly have no idea how I’m going to stand being so alone.

But I’m trying to stay optimistic and FaceTime my family a lot, and get into my own art and music. The fact that the music centre is closed over break is hitting me HARD though, because my degree is sacred music and I planned on dedicating a lot of time to practicing.

Do you feel you’ve been supported by the university?

For the most part yes, but I do really wish there were more options given to students staying here.

I really really love that the Union is giving away meals, I think that’s incredible. But some more Christmas activities would be ideal! Anyway, I’m trying to make the most of it.

What do you think the best part of staying in St Andrews over the holidays will be?

The best will be seeing how beautiful our town is at Christmas. There’s something so sweet about when all the streets are quiet and the Christmas lights are up everywhere.

And what do you think the worst will be?

I think the worst thing will be the loneliness and all the shops being closed. I really love spending time in the cafes and going into the school buildings to read. I’m sad they’re all shut.

Do you have any plans for Christmas Day?

Yes I’m hanging with flatmates. We’re cooking and drinking and opening Christmas crackers for the first time for me.

I’m really thankful for all the University is doing for us, and I’m looking forward to a nice relaxing break.

If you’re struggling with loneliness or anything else over the winter break please email Nightline at [email protected].

Alternatively the Samaritans provide a 24 hour listening service if you call 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258 to be connected with a trained Crisis Volunteer. 

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Five top things to do in St Andrews throughout the Christmas break

• Nine types of flatmate you’ll find if you study at St Andrews

• All the moments in season four of The Crown that St Andrews students can relate to