How to Survive May Dip

If you go to the University of St Andrews, you should be familiar with our prized tradition known as “May Dip.”

In a nutshell, it involves plunging into the North Sea at daybreak on May 1 - it’s absolutely frigid and you will feel as though your heart and lungs are stuck high up in your throat, but I would not trade the experience for anything.

May Dip is a quintessential part of the St Andrews experience and is a rite of passage, of sorts. Now, it is a bit unfortunate that it falls in the middle of our second semester revision period, but at least the ‘swim’ is supposed to bring some good luck for exams.

However, it is crucial that one be prepared for the event, and there are a variety of ways to ensure the best possible experience.

1. Get absolutely plastered.

            This is the method most students choose, but if you’re like me, you probably do not want to drink your troubles away whilst in the middle of revising. No matter how tempting that bottle of gin may look, it just did not seem worth it to me to risk a hangover and feeling ill the next day. That being said, this is definitely the option that is the most fun and will efficiently minimize the bite of the North Sea.

2. Bring lots of spare clothes and a towel.

            Be prepared - this is essential. Bring a bag that you do not mind getting wet/sand filled and pack it up with a dry towel, socks, and something cozy. Make sure whatever you chose is easy to put on while shivering on the frozen sand and that it will keep you warm and protected against the wind. Gloves, hats and scarves are great for this - I brought my red robe so that I could wrap it around me and say that I’ve used it more than once.

3.  Know what you want to wear into the North Sea

            Some people go in naked, and I have serious respect for them considering how cold the water is at 4 am. However, bear in mind our “rule” of cleansing Academic Incest, which is to take the plunge in the nude… If you are not guilty of Academic Sin, there really isn’t much that you can wear that will protect from the water (other than the alcohol….see tip 1), so just go for something that will be easy to take off and will dry fairly easily. A lot of people go in underwear or a swimsuit.

4. Know who you want to be with at May Dip.

            The best part of this day is not wading into a freezing body of water but the hilarity of sharing the experience with close friends and getting to splash icy seawater into their faces. Afterwards, there are dozens of bonfires dotting the beach, with groups of students congregating around them, huddled and shivering but as one community. The fire is honestly the best thing you will ever feel in your life…

5. Treat yo’ self afterwards.

            Please, please, please get something hot to drink after this brush with hypothermia. Whether its queuing for North Point or running home to fix yourself a hot cuppa, it is essential that proper circulation be established and preferably with a treat. You are in the middle of revising but you’ve taken the plunge, so the North Sea will bring good fortune. Reward yourself with a nice breakfast or brunch so that you’re ready to get back to working.

I hope all of you have a safe and lovely experience. While it is certainly the coldest I’ve ever been, the sunrise was beautiful and I brought in the day with some of my closest friends. Enjoy your May Dip, and good luck with revision!