BA International Honours Programme – a student’s perspective

Are you interested in studying abroad, but don’t want to limit yourself to just a year or a semester in another country? If so, the BA International Honours Joint Degree Programme could be for you!

This unique programme is offered in collaboration with the College of William & Mary in Virginia, USA. Students can study Economics, English, History or International Relations, spending two years in St Andrews and two years in the USA, combining the best of the Scottish and American education experiences.

We interviewed Carter Lyon, a current student on the programme to find out more about the programme from a student’s perspective:

Name: Carter Lyon
Hometown: Richmond, Virginia
Year of Study: 4th
Major: History

What was it that attracted you to the BA Int Hons programme?

Growing up in Virginia, I was very familiar with the College of William & Mary by the time I was ready to start applying to universities. The BA International Honours Programme, however, was just starting up at that point. After doing a bit of research on the University of St Andrews and reading more about the Programme itself on the William & Mary website, I felt like it would be the perfect fit for me. I had always planned on studying abroad for at least a part of my degree, so the opportunity to spend two years at William & Mary and two full years at St Andrews seemed like an opportunity too good to miss.

Which route did you take through the programme and why? 

I opted to do years 1 and 3 at William & Mary and years 2 and 4 at St Andrews. Going into the programme I knew that I wanted to write an honours dissertation at St Andrews. I was also pretty sure that I wanted to pursue postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom, so it made sense for me to spend my final year in Scotland so to attend postgraduate visiting days.

The idea of switching back and forth between Virginia and Scotland also appealed to me because I felt like it would be far too hard to leave St Andrews if I spent two consecutive years here. However, I have several friends who took the opposite route and cannot understand why I opted to switch schools every year—I suppose it’s a decision that we each have to make for ourselves.

How different are the University of St Andrews and the College of William and Mary? Are there any similarities?

St Andrews and William & Mary are both (relatively) small schools with long histories, but they are quite different from each other.

Those differences become apparent from day one of your first year at each place: at William & Mary, Freshman Orientation is very hands-on, with Orientation Aides whisking new students from one event to another. At St Andrews, Freshers’ Week is much more relaxed, with lots of optional events put on by various societies and student organisations. Freshman Orientation and Freshers’ Week both offer students the chance to get out and meet people, but each experience is completely unique.

Academically, you take a greater quantity and variety of classes at William & Mary than at St Andrews, but the modules at St Andrews tend to go further into depth on their subjects (especially for honours modules). Each has a unique social scene, too. Student life in St Andrews seems to be centered around different society functions and balls, whereas at William & Mary, clubs, sports, and Greek life compete for students’ time and attention. Luckily, both places offer a wide variety of activities and it’s very easy to meet other people who share your interests.

What has been the best part about studying in both the USA and Scotland?

There are so many great aspects to studying in both the US and Scotland. I have met people from many different walks of life and made lots of dear friends at both St Andrews and William & Mary. As a student, I’ve enjoyed studying at two prestigious universities with fantastic history faculties. I’ve also benefitted from having access to two academic advisors, two careers centres, and two alumni networks, all of whom have helped me navigate the programme requirements and pursue extracurricular projects and summer internships.

In my second year, the Careers Centre at St Andrews helped me get in contact with an alumnus in London who set me up with a summer work placement. The next year at William and Mary I applied for and received a generous grant from the Charles Centre to conduct a 10-week summer internship in Washington D.C. Both were fantastic experiences.

Are there any challenges that you have had to overcome during the programme?

The transitions between schools were always challenging—it is never easy to say goodbye to my friends, and because I switched back and forth between William & Mary and St Andrews every year, I had to say goodbye often! Knowing that I’d be back at William & Mary for third year and St Andrews for fourth year made those goodbyes easier in my first and second years. Leaving the comforts and familiarity of William & Mary after my first year was also quite intimidating, but it did not take me as long to adjust to St Andrews as I initially anticipated.

What advice would you give to any prospective applicants?

I would encourage everyone interested in the programme to give it a go. It is unique and very rewarding to be a part of both the St Andrews and the William & Mary communities, and—if you’re willing to be flexible—the challenges of navigating two different universities in two different countries become worth it.

Visit our website to find out more about the BA International Honours Programme and how to apply.


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