Another long night travelling, using almost all forms of transport and writing a blog at half three in the morning whilst sitting on the floor of Luton Airport marks the beginning of another summer adventure. It’s surprisingly busy actually, lots of people arriving, sitting around and chatting, and the lucky few sleeping slouched in comfy chairs and sofas at the courtesy of Starbucks.
My last week in St Andrews definitely ended at the highest of highs. Last weekend marked the CAPS conference, where Physics and Astronomy students from all across the UK come together to give talks and take part in all sorts of (frivolous but entirely worthwhile) activities. The students couldn’t believe the hot and sunny weather we were having, and sometimes I even heard a complaint or two! I first attended CAPS two years ago in Sheffield and was pleasantly surprised by how much fun Physics students can be. I remember understanding not very much when it came to the lectures, and I also remember giving a talk about the Northern Lights, feeling terrified of what questions people might ask. Indeed, someone fulfilled my fear by asking a scary physics question of which I didn’t even hear so I panicked whilst trying not to run away.
How different this year was; I understood much more of what people were talking about and I ended up winning an incredible prize for the best undergraduate talk! I hope Feynman’s lectures won’t be left to sit around and collect dust… It seemed necessary to find another way to rattle my bones however, so I ended up singing a couple of songs at the Burns’ Supper. I don’t remember my heart ever racing so fast or feeling so faint before a performance, so I have attributed it to the sheer exhaustion of hardly sleeping and running around making sure that everyone is content (at the bare minimum). ‘My luve is like a red, red rose’ went somewhat well, I managed to remember the tune vaguely. However, singing ‘Ae fond kiss’ without any recollection of the tune and just making it up would likely be called idiocy by some. The ceilidh afterwards was one of the best ever, and I have some beautiful bruises to prove it! Since then, I’ve heard that some people were genuinely terrified of being my partner, as I tend to resemble a hurtling tornado.
Before I knew it, CAPS was over and it was time to graduate. It was extra special because Dad managed to come up, and it was probably the first time that the family has been together for at least seven years. Some of my closest friends were there too, people who have known me since I was a baby in the hospital, or vice versa. Most of them had never been to this part of Scotland before, so most of the time was spent perambulating many of the picturesque walks that St Andrews has to offer. The actual graduating bit itself went so quickly that all I remember feeling is the sudden dread of standing on my gown and hoping desperately that somehow the gown would displace itself from underneath my heel and I would not fall over. Other than that I was terribly excited that Higgs was in the vicinity and I wondered whether or not he would be around later and how I would go about getting a photograph. Indeed he was around later; I waited for the opportune moment, sat down next to him and the only words I could utter was simply saying how excited I was. I ended up telling him I was an Astronomy student and I’d be living in Europe for the next two years at which I heard all about how he learnt French as a child and knows a decent amount of German too.
The evening ended with drinks in Aikmans and a boogie in the Lizard. Many people flinch when they hear the name Lizard, the only club in St Andrews, but in fact it is a great club, even when sober. The DJ played endless 90s classics from Eminem to Wheatus to Nelly and we loved it. Then one last chips and cheese from Empire and we were off home.
When I think of the Physics department, all I can feel is deep gratitude. They have always gone above and beyond what was needed to make me feel welcome, and given me endless opportunities for growth and nourishment. The staff care so much that they even went to the lengths of cropping me into the graduation photo. I will miss being a part of the family, and I hope that many others will have as wonderful time there as I have done, for many more years to come.