Taylor Carey (“My middle name is, honestly, Blue. But please never ask me about this”)
Shoreham-by-Sea (“which I once described as being ‘coastal yet cosmopolitan’. That’s better than anything the local tourist board has ever come up with, although it probably stretches the definition of at least one of those words.”)
This week’s Campus Cutie is slightly unusual in that there was no interview! Sadly our Cutie-in-question came down with a nasty cold traveling back up from Oxford, and is still recuperating at home. As we all know that St Andrews would crumble without it’s weekly dose of CC, Taylor was kind enough to write the interview himself! And while I am sorry to have missed out on an hour of Taylor time, it may be for the best. Taylor has surely represented himself far better than I ever could– though unfortunately he tells me that this has ruined his plans for guiltlessly buying biscuits upon his return, “I would have got away with it if I could pretend at least some were for you!” I was fortunate enough to live with Taylor in Uni Hall and can tell you truly that he is exactly as wonderful (and adorable!) as he comes across here. If you ever get the chance to speak with him, do not pass it up, he is truly a rare find. (Sorry for fan-girling you Taylor, but it needs to be done.)
I sincerely hope this week’s article brightens up your day as much as it did mine! And fear not, Taylor is “making a fairly swift recovery, thanks in large part to a doting mother, comfortable sofa and excellent Sebastian Barry novel.”
Anyway, here goes:
How did you end up in St Andrews?
I’m not entirely sure, but when I stumbled across it, I knew I absolutely wanted to study here. Much like the school I attended at the time, St Andrews struck me as being intimate but incredibly vibrant and exciting, with a sense that the history and traditions here were for everyone to enjoy and participate in. With that said, I had never actually set foot in Scotland, let alone St Andrews, when I arrived as a first year undergraduate in 2011. A bit of a gamble, you might say – and quite out of character, too. But something told me I would like it here, and I certainly haven’t been disappointed.
What’s your favorite part of Uni?
That’s very hard to say. Of course, the opportunity to immerse oneself in study and grapple with some of the most fundamental questions of all, is the reason we are all here. But I think a few things matter here, which speak to the values I hold particularly dear – community, friendships, faith, inclusiveness, and history, in its broadest sense. Being in a small community, you are faced with what I see as some of the most important challenges for today’s society in augmented form – listening to and engaging with the views of others, even if they seem alien and unsettling; realising that every decision about your own life necessarily involves others, and so on. The philosopher Michael Oakeshott (with whom I don’t always find myself in agreement) once gave a wonderful address to incoming undergraduates in which he stressed that a university should be a place for ‘getting acquainted with truth and error’. Well, that’s how I see it, too. You can’t limit that pursuit of truth to a narrow academic enterprise; universities are thus places of moral formation, and certainly not ‘useful learning’. And I think this ever-present sense of community, this tangible interconnectedness here in St Andrews, goes a long way toward making that vision very apparent.
Outside of academia, what do you do?
Of course, the logical conclusion of the point I sketched above is that there must be a flourishing communal life in order for a university to ‘work’. And here, St Andrews is certainly not found wanting. I’m incredibly privileged to be the Senior Student of a wonderful Hall – University Hall – and my duties there take up a good deal of time each day. I could go on about Uni Hall for an obscene amount of time – suffice to say, for now, that I’m incredibly lucky to work with a particularly wonderful Committee and fellow Senior Student. As a team, I think we’ve made a real difference to the communal life of Hall. That’s often been quite hard work, but absolutely worth it, without even a shadow of doubt. I love working with people, and for people – being able to help others is an incredible gift, really.
I’m on the committees of the Mary’s Meals Society and (by very gracious invitation) the Catholic Society, despite being an Anglican. I’m incredibly excited about the work of the Interfaith Steering Group, of which I am the Secretary. We’ve recently reconvened for the 2013-14 academic year, and already we’ve managed a wonderful event centered on the role of feasting and fasting in different faiths. Our aim is to address precisely those questions of community, which I’ve been discussing, and to ask how different understandings and traditions can, with better education and awareness, stand alongside one another and contribute toward this vision of a flourishing, plural society. Absolutely inspiring stuff – inspiring because I get to see incredibly talented, passionate people from a range of faiths and traditions engage with others about what matters to them.
I’m involved in some of the worship that the University Chaplaincy provides, through being Chief Usher at St Salvator’s Chapel – even if that makes me sound like I belong in the Ottoman Empire. Actually, I think the University Chaplaincy is fantastic, and being able to work with Donald, the Chaplain, has been incredibly inspiring for me, especially as I consider my own vocation to the ordained ministry.
My other formal role is as a Student Ambassador, which I absolutely love. Aside from all of that, there’s a residual politics junkie lurking there somewhere. So, I write for the Foreign Affairs Review and occasionally pop up on STAR’s ‘This Week in Foreign Affairs’. I imagine that very few people notice, though I have been told that I have a good radio voice. I think that means don’t listen to what I say, just how I say it…
All this doesn’t leave much spare time, really. But when I do get it, some things really matter: loved ones, prayer, music. And books by Rowan Williams.
Why did you decide to do these activities and how do you feel they’ve helped you grow/shape your uni experience.
I think it would be difficult to make it through St Andrews without being involved in the wider life of the place; there is such a culture of giving here, especially when it comes to volunteering and charity. But if I were to take Uni Hall, for example: in my first year, I was elected to the committee, and in my second and third years to executive posts. Suddenly, you become a vessel for others, which is both challenging and an immense privilege. I think, without trying to sound pretentious, that this experience has helped me see the irreducible humanity at the heart of everything we do. In my studies, in my extracurricular activities, in my own moral and spiritual development, the encounters I’ve had with people, and those moments of unselfing relation, of shared stories and overlapping contexts – these are cemented at the core of my experience here in St Andrews. I’ve learnt so much.
I couldn’t imagine being in Hall without playing some part in the communal life of the place. Now, people are always popping by my room to share ideas or concerns, or sending me messages or grabbing me in the Dining Hall. And I really think we’ve managed to build something here. Gone are the days of Hall being an institutionalised drink culture; now we have a Hall Choir, music groups, arts & crafts groups, book readings, regular formal dinners, coffee & cake afternoons, cheese & wine receptions, and a flourishing and re-engaged graduates’ association. I’m so extraordinarily proud of everyone in Hall, and all those who have worked so hard to make this happen – my fellow committee members, the Wardens and certainly the current residents! I love them all, and I’m so very thankful.
Are you single? If so, are you looking for a partner?
No I’m not. That killed that question.
What traits do you look for in a partner?
Oh dear me, that’s not how love works, is it? In St Luke’s Gospel comes the famous story of the Road to Emmaus. Two disciples are journeying along it, mournfully mulling over their very fixed memories of who Christ was and what he was like. Christ appears alongside them, and they don’t recognise him, even though they find what he has to say absorbs them and draws them in. Then, finally, as he breaks bread, they realise who this stranger is. There is a cosmic, chaotic moment when their entire universes crumble and are reordered around this one action, the breaking of bread. Well, that’s a bit like what falling in love is, surely? Love is an un-selfing phenomenon, which tends to break down your pre-existing categories and (often chaotically) reorder your world. You can’t contain love within yourself; love is completely free. Only by completely losing yourself to another person, and forgetting all your private habits of control can you do justice to it.
Thank you so much for writing to us from your sick bed, and we hope you make a speedy recovery and come back to St Andrews soon!
Favorite place to get a drink: Can I say Number 40, without being labeled a red trouser-wearing sort of person? I actually haven’t been so far this year.
Favorite place to go for a meal: Some of the best meals I’ve had have been at the Glass House, so I think I’d say there. But everything in moderation, and all that…
Little known fact about you: I was, for quite a while, a complete Army nut. My vaguely philosophical self squirms, but I was a Warrant Officer in the Combined Cadet Force at school, and absolutely loved being an outdoors action man. Green paint, rations, rifles, the lot.
Biggest fear: Failing to serve others as I should. [If you’re now wondering if this kid is for real, yes. Yes he is.]
Big night out or quiet night in: I’ve hit twenty, which must mean the nights just get quieter from here, surely? Quiet night in, every time, precisely because I value people. I fill my day with them. So, in the evenings – a pleasant meal or something social aside – I value the chance to find myself and be with one other person in particular.
Describe a good night for you: Well, sleep, hopefully. I’ve now come down with glandular fever twice since being at St Andrews. I’m beginning to get the hint.
Are there any girl-habits that confuse you: Well, one or two may have tried flirting with me. I can’t say I see the logic in that. [I can]