Eric Lintala is an economics student at Hamilton College and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland in 2015. He wrote this piece as part of of a reflective project for the IFSA-Butler Global Ambassador Program. It was originally published on the IFSA-Butler Alumni Blog.
Robert Burns Day
Time: Sunday, January 25th, 2015; Robert Burns Day; My first Sunday in Saint Andrews.
Place: The flat of a member of the Christian Union (CU) I did not know.
Reason: I had been invited by a group of students at a pub who I had known for thirty minutes.
Experience: Without realizing it, I had entered the most Scottish party on the most Scottish day of the year. The room was packed with twenty people, the music was grooving, and our host was preparing the infamous Haggis with Whisky Gravy. Before we could try the Haggis, Robert Burns’ Address tae Haggis was recited to us. Brandishing a knife, our Scottish host traipsed through the kitchen growling out Burns’ poem, sending haggis flying with his many stabs, and staring each and every one of us in the eyes. A Burns Day Haggis party is not complete without the many other staples of the Scottish diet: whisky for chill and Irn Bru for the morning after.
Significance: This Robert Burns Party was my very first authentic Scottish experience. It pumped me up to learn about the unique aspects of Scottish culture, and in this very first night I met two students, the guy who invited me and the guy who hosted the party, who became two of my best friends at Saint Andrews.
What I Learned: In order to meet Saint Andrews students and get to experience Scottish culture, all I had to do was enter the right place (for me, it was a church) and say YES! At the beginning of that day, the Scottish culture, like the last stanza of Robert Burns’ Address tae Haggis that follows, were completely foreign to me, but slowly I was beginning to understand.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis
Time: Friday, February 20, 2015 from 10 – 2:30AM
Place: The Kitchen of the Baptist Church; the very same place I had met the guy who invited me to the Robert Burns Party a month before.
Reason: Toastie Bar; I was helping make toasties for a weekly student-run, late night, toasted sandwich stop.
Experience: I had signed up to work Toastie Bar earlier that week with a small group of Saint Andrews students I was doing Bible Study with every week. Not fully realizing what I was getting into, I ended up working in the tiny Baptist Church kitchen for four hours, putting cheese, tuna fish, tomatoes, pesto, and other foods onto buttered bread to be toasted. With a hairnet and apron on, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran blasting in the background, and scores of orders flying in, we toasted over twenty loaves of bread. While the point person was taking the orders and the kitchen team was making the toasties, two other teams of students were advertising in a sandwich suit on the street and delivering toasties to the loud, hungry, and often delusional customers. It was one of the most rewarding and exhausting nights of my Saint Andrews experience.
Significance: There are few better places to truly bond with someone than in a kitchen, late at night, with great music blaring, while serving your fellow students. In many ways, it was a rite of passage for me into the CU and greater student body. Toastie Bar is known to all Saint Andrews students and visitors alike; it serves hundreds of students a semester and allows people of all religious backgrounds to break bread together.
What I Learned: I learned how to serve my fellow students with a more open heart. In giving my time to the Saint Andrews student body, I was finding out what made them tick, how they worked, and where my place within their midst was. Scotland was beginning to make sense to me.
Biscuits and Pancakes
Time: Around 6:00PM on Friday, May 22, 2015
Place: My residence Hall Kitchen
Reason: I wanted to say a last thank you to many of my closest Saint Andrews friends, and my way of showing thanks is through food.
Experience: In preparation for a group of my mates coming over to my kitchen, I made the dough for Finnish sourdough pancakes. When they came over, we ate pancakes and bacon with maple syrup and fresh fruit and for dessert had three different types of biscuits I baked. We shared some of our favorite stories from the semester and bantered back and forth. By no means was it a culinary feast, but it was a time of fellowship over food.
Significance: This experience was, in many ways, the finale to my Saint Andrews semester. I saw The Squad, as we called ourselves, a couple times after and went on a small trip with them to
Sterling, but this was my thank you, my way of telling my new friends that they will always be my mates.
What I Learned: Throughout the semester I had the opportunity to eat with many different students in many different restaurants, pubs, and houses around Saint Andrews. I baked on a weekly basis and even won a baking competition in my residence hall. These are great memories by themselves, but what made food so powerful for me in Scotland was how it gradually transformed me from an American Tourist to a member of the Saint Andrews community. I am still far from being an expert on all things Scotland, but I can say that Scotland, and my friends there, are part of me, and as a part of Scotland, the words of Robert Burns’ Address tae Haggis have newfound meaning:
You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But if you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!