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Travel Culture and Affordability in St Andrews

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

When I arrived in Scotland for my first year of university, I left my hometown 5,000 miles away. Where I come from, ‘vacation’ and ‘travel’ equal road trips. Only occasionally it means flying to another state, in my case, visiting my grandparents in the UK every few years. You can imagine my state of shock when only weeks after arriving at the university, it seemed like everyone around me was talking about their reading week plans. Someone wanted to go to Madrid, but their friends voted for Paris instead. RyanAir flight tickets were purchased, and Hostels or Airbnb’s were arranged – and in only a matter of time, the trips were finalised. 

​For international students, the travel culture in St Andrews comes as a surprise. It’s exciting and nerve wracking, but with the accessibility and affordability compared to, for instance, air travel in the US, (where cross-country flights average around 500 USD) a completely new lifestyle opens up. For many of our friends back home, Euro-Trips often last for weeks and cost thousands of dollars. While many of the Scottish and English students around me return home or visit friends at other unis for their reading weeks, I promptly noticed that many of the American students living in my halls decided to take Europe by storm, travelling from destination to destination instead.

​By the time Spring Break rolled around, my friends assumed that we would be travelling somewhere together. While the trip we had taken the semester before was certainly more affordable than it would have been back in the States, there was an assumption that everyone would have the budget to travel. I, however, had to explain to my parents why spending an extra few hundred dollars from my work savings was worth it, making it hard to justify to parents across the sea that if I hadn’t gone, I would have felt like I was missing out. To be honest, I found myself forgetting that being able to go on these trips is a privilege, because of how normalised it was in my environment.

I have heard countless stories of friendships ending over trips, due to anything between spending extended periods of time together, and the varying range of budgets. My own anecdotal theory is, that it’s easy for students to forget that though travel within the continent of Europe is certainly more affordable than international travel, it is not conventionally affordable for university students. While I am a firm believer in the importance of learning through travel and experience, the expectation of travel culture in St Andrews, and the overall privilege, has an air of exclusion. Many students are fully financially supporting themselves, and so travel has to be thoughtfully budgeted or in some cases, is not possible at all.  

The affordability of travel becomes another obstacle, as almost every other social activity in St Andrews comes with a price. Sports and society memberships, events and nights out, trips to Edinburgh – even entry to the Student Union. Being a part of a community and consistently socialising undeniably adds up throughout the semester. That being said, we all have a responsibility to be aware of the way we talk about our travel expenses and we should be compelled to think critically about how each of us may contribute to the normalisation of these expected, but nevertheless extravagant, international trips.

Isabella Paterson

St. Andrews '25

Bella is second year student studying International Relations and Spanish. She is also a news and columns writer for different publications in St Andrews.