As the semester winds down I am looking back and wondering where the time went. On one hand, it seems like we have been in Scotland forever. On the other hand, it seems like we just got here, and now we’re getting ready to leave. Whichever it is, I am so thankful that God has allowed me to have this experience!
For a long time I said that I wanted to go to England. What I didn’t know was that I actually wanted to go to Scotland. I didn’t even know I wanted to go to Scotland until about a week before the deadline to apply for the Semester in Scotland program! I had been trying to make plans to do a different study program, but every way I turned I found a closed door. I was advised to take a different route, and decided that the SIS program sounded great (plus it fit with my major)! I sent in my application and the doors opened easily. So I bought my plane ticket and came over, not sure what to expect, but expecting something good. And it has been good.
I don’t know whether it has been the subject matter, the teachers, the class structure, or a combination of all three, but looking back, this has been one of my best semesters for growth, both in the classroom and out of the classroom. I have learned practical lessons about ministry by working with people of different ages and abilities and applying things that I had read for classes on ministry. I have also learned much from the Bible as I was encouraged to read my Bible, memorize verses, study the works of the Apostle Paul, and attend the Sunday services. This has also been a time for growth as I built new relationships and learned to live by myself. It wasn’t always easy – at some points it was very hard – but I can look back and see that God has been working through it all to strengthen my trust in Him, and that is one of the best things about this semester.
Some of the highlights have been Kids Club, the Reformation Tour, fall break, and our Wednesday trips with different people from the church. I loved Friday nights when I had the privilege of playing, singing, and listening to stories with the children, and helping out with the crafts and snacks. I am definitely going to miss the crazy yet wonderful children who came every week. Going on the Reformation Tour was also amazing, as it brought alive the history lessons we had been taught (plus we got to see some neat places) and helped me to realize how important it is to stand up for the truth, no matter what people say or do to you. Fall Break was really great because I got to go to London (with my aunt and uncle who came over to visit me!) for a few days, as well as spend some extra time in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I enjoyed London because of all the places we went to that I remembered reading about in history books for school many years ago. Stories once again came alive for me as I visited places such as the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. Having different people take time each week to take us to some new place has been wonderful. It was great to get to know some of the people from the congregation better, to hear their stories of faith, and to get to know what life has been like in Scotland for as long as they’ve been here.
I have been told that our group has seen more of Scotland than many other groups before us (and actually that we have seen more of Scotland than some of the folks who have lived here all their lives!). There is still more that I would like to see, so hopefully I will be able to come back sometime. But until then, I will remember and love Scotland and the people who made it better than I could ever have imagined.
It’s my final day here in Scotland and oddly enough I am not asking the question, “Where has the time gone?” That’s usually how it goes for people at this point in the trip. You’ve been away from home for months, and you lost track of time because of all the things you were doing, and now you’re wondering where it all went. I thought that’s exactly how I would feel by now, but it isn’t so. I think it is a small sign that I am ready to return home. And though this is true, I cannot neglect to recount all the great adventures I have had, all the interesting people I have met, and all the distant places I have had the pleasure experiencing. It’s a strange thought that this time of travel and learning is over. In these 4 months I have had the privilege of visiting Frankfurt, Rome, Florence, Geneva, Paris, Northern Ireland, and almost all of Scotland. And if the Lord has taught me one thing through my time away from home, it’s that no matter where I am, and how unfamiliar the land is, He will always be the same. He is the same even in my doubt and uncertainty. That truth is most reassuring. I trust that I will forever remember the things I have learned through this time.
Scotland really has become a second home for me. I can recall on multiple occasions actually calling this cottage “home”. It’s where we always returned to at the end of the day. Away for the entire day, driving into the wee hours of the night, and returning back home to this cottage exhausted was at times the most satisfying feeling. I’ll miss it, and I’ll think about it often I am certain, but I am ready to say goodbye. I have grown to love this place. I have grown to love it for the way it reminds me of God’s handiwork, for the way it brings me to a state of humility, and for the way it urges me to want to travel more. There are places here that I never thought I would see outside of a photo. It’s amazing really; when you begin to travel you just don’t want to stop. I remember my time in mainland Europe, I just wanted to keep going, and I wanted to see more. There is so much out there to experience, and I never thought I would want to see so much of it. Unique places to visit, and unfamiliar people to meet, I just wanted to be a part of that. And now, at the end of my time here, I am realizing that it is time to return home and I am content with that. I don’t want to go to another country right now, or a distant land. I truly want to return home and see my brothers, sister, parents, nieces and nephews. I want to just sit down on my couch and talk to my siblings about life and what God has taught me. I am ready for that. God has taught me (as stubborn as I have been about it) to be content these past four months. He taught me to be content whether I was in Italy, Germany, a different church, my cottage, or a stranger’s house. It has taken time for me to come into that, but I am finally getting it. And now, I am most content to return home. As I said, I will miss this place, and I will fondly remember it as the days pass by. I hope one day to travel again; to see new lands and far off places, but for now, it is homeward that I journey. I am thankful for the Lord’s steadfastness in my life.
God has been gracious to me these past four months. He has provided me with a good community in Airdrie RP, friends to spend time with, great teachers to learn from, and wonderful traveling experiences.
Although I have made many memories from traveling around Scotland and Europe, I know more than anything else that the things I have learned will continue to affect me the most. The Semester in Scotland program is a very unique opportunity that I wish more ministry majors could take advantage of. We were able to spend a lot of time with Andrew. Not only did we get to learn from him in the classroom, but also through seeing him work in the church. Because he welcomed us into his life for the past four months, we were able to greatly benefit from getting a little bit more of an understanding in how ministry works.
The classes we took and books we read were spiritually challenging and caused me to grow. I look forward to getting back home and looking through them again.
We did end our stay in Scotland with a bang however. Last Saturday Nate, Tim, Kelly, Beth, Karen, two Australians, and I went on a trip to the Isle of Skye. It was really everything you could ever hope for in a trip. The drive there was long, yet enjoyable. We stayed the night in Fort William on Friday and then continued on to Skye the next morning. It was a wet day – I have never felt so wet in my life. There were also winds blowing at 70 miles per hour. Regardless, we carried on and saw several places in Skye. We went to the Fairy Pools, Portree, an inn with no electricity (which was very cool looking), and stopped at Loch Ness on the way back.
I think regardless of where we went (within reason) it would have been just as enjoyable. Being able to spend time with both old and new friends one last time was really the joy in the trip. It’s a funny thing how close people can become in a short period of time. The people I have met in Scotland over the past four months will certainly be missed.
All memories aside, I look forward to getting home. Living in the UK has been a great experience, but I feel like a giddy child on Christmas morning with the thought of being back in Pennsylvania. I am excited to see my family again, no doubt. People keep asking me what’s the first thing I am going to do when I get home, so I figure I will answer the same question now: play with my two golden retrievers Rylie and Charlotte.
Thank you to all who have made my stay here in Scotland an enjoyable experience. It continues to blow my mind how large and loving God’s church is. So many people have sacrificed their time to take us out on day trips to see parts of Scotland, made us meals, drove us to and from airports, and welcomed us into their homes. I can truly say you have made my stay in Scotland feel like another home.
Four months ago, I had never left the country, I had never been away from home for more than a week’s time, and I had certainly never swam with the Loch Ness monster. Over the course of this semester, I’ve been to five different countries, been blown around at the Fairy Pools by hurricane force winds, and even have been swimming in Loch Ness…in December. I have walked through numerous castles, I have eaten award winning fish and chips, and I have seen more sheep than people. Needless to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here; however, it isn’t the sight seeing that I’m going to miss about Scotland, but rather my new family.
While I have been here, I have seen what the church of God is supposed to look like. On Sunday mornings, we should not feel as though we are going to a service and sitting next to stranger. Rather, there should be that feeling you get when you come together with you extended family, if you like them of course. That is what the church in Airdrie is like and over this semester I had the chance to become part of that family. It truly was a blessing, not only to be able to come and worship here but also to be able to form relationships with its people outside of a Sunday morning. It’s hard to believe that, as close as we are, I’ve only known my friends here since August. It will certainly be difficult to leave this beautiful country, but it will be much more difficult to say goodbye to a number of my friends here.