How right were Monty Python to conclude their infamous film Life of Brian with the echoing lyrics, “Always look on the bright side of life.” Looking back on the past six weeks of my Laidlaw Scholarship experience, a notable ‘bright side’ (in particular in the face of the ongoing covid restrictions) has been the scholars’ network events…albeit occasionally via Teams or socially distanced.
The 2021 cohort’s programme began in the form of a Leadership Training week; whilst excited by the range of useful activities lined up for us, its virtual format did not initially strike me as the apex of fun and games…especially after being informed of our missing out on a free meal at a local hotel. Despite such preconceptions, the sessions which ensued proved to be not only valuable for both my personal and broader understanding of leadership, but the frequent ‘break-out room’ activities, involving students from Tufts University, provided a great opportunity to interact with scholars outside of the St Andrews circle.
With the same enthusiasm I had experienced from meeting people during Freshers Week, I found myself staying connected with people beyond the world of Teams calls. Ranging from beach bonfires, to café meet-ups, or simply bumping into fellow researchers in the library, I have reconnected with otherwise forgotten faces from my first year and met people so similar to me and my interests that I feel I should have known them long before!
As the weeks of reading, note-making and library-visiting ploughed on, I found I had people to turn to and to look forward to meeting in a town otherwise emptying of its familiar students. The weekly Action Learning Sets, also involving the 2020 cohort, became an important chance to help and listen to others, regarding their respective experiences of the project – leadership most definitely involves care for others, as well as for yourself.
One of the most frequently mentioned points of advice, raised in the opening meetings for this project, was the importance of staying connected with others and making the most of the network provided. Having now experienced part of the Laidlaw journey myself, I will not only confirm such a necessity, but want to further emphasise it for the years of scholars to come.