Reflecting

Looking back on my time abroad, it almost doesn’t even feel real.

Did that really happen? Did I actually live in Scotland for four months? A brand new country where I didn’t know a soul? Where I wasn’t able to see my family and friends for a whole season?

Yeah, I actually did that.

I’m about to start back at Hope again in a few days, and I honestly feel like a completely different person. I’m returning having experienced four months of new accents, foods, adventures… and I don’t know how I’m going to put it into words for people. I’m moving into my first apartment. I’m going to have to cook for myself for the first time. I’m about to finish my second to last year, and yet, I know I can do it because I’ve conquered my Scottish semester.

That’s the thing that’s really different. Things aren’t as scary to me anymore… or rather, I have something I can tell myself when I do get scared. For example, I recently met my new boyfriend’s friends over break. I was so incredibly nervous about making a good impression… I honestly didn’t know how I wasn’t going to be my normal awkward self. However, I thought that whole time, “Becky, you studied abroad in SCOTLAND. This should be a cake walk.” And it was compared to my international semester. I’ve made it through the worst homesickness ever and come out of it a better cultured, more mature person. Bring on scariness of growing up!

I also feel like I’m a more empathic person, which is something I struggled with before. Seeing more of God’s world changes you. You interact with people that are just so unlike you. This even became apparent when meeting other people from the States that were studying abroad in Aberdeen. I got to go outside of Hope’s “Christian Bubble” for a semester and experience what the “Real World” is like. At times, this was really hard. I had to look harder for people who shared my beliefs, would hold me accountable, and could talk about Jesus with me. However, those who didn’t share my faith made great impacts on me. Through them, I learned how to better evangelize and how to quietly nudge people towards Jesus. Also, I learned how to just be a better listener. That’s a lesson I desperately needed.

I also learned that it’s okay to be alone. Before this adventure, I had serious FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. Not all of that has gone away, but I actually spent a lot of time alone in Aberdeen and loved it. It helped that I had my own dorm room. Taking breaks from people allowed me to have times for reflection. I also became comfortable with walking around the city by myself, and I look back on my solo adventures and smile. I definitely will need to carve out more alone time at Hope.

Overall, though, I don’t know how anyone could ever think that studying abroad is a bad idea. I’m sure I’ve learned lessons from my Scottish semester that I haven’t even realized yet. Like I said, it’s still hard to even fathom that it happened. If you’re debating on taking the leap and traveling abroad, go for it! You won’t regret it.

 

Trying to “Hope” Again

So… Hope’s 2nd semester classes are about to start up, and it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that I don’t remember how to be a Hope student.

Someone the other day asked me if I have experienced culture shock since arriving home, and I confidently answered, “No!” I mean, jet lag definitely affected me the first couple days; 7:00 p.m. would hit and suddenly a weight of exhaustion would come over me. However, other than that, I could honestly say that it hasn’t been to difficult to ease back into my States life. That is… until I started thinking about Hope.

I move back to Hope in just five days, so I’m starting to get things together, and if I’ve learned anything from doing this, it’s that I have no clue what I’m doing. I kind of feel like a freshman all over again. Just today I realized that I have to order books, but I couldn’t even remember how to find Hope’s book list. It didn’t even dawn on me until halfway through the process that I usually rent my books from Chegg. Also, I’ll think back to people who go to my church in Holland, and I can’t remember their names for the life of me! I can’t even remember some of the names of Hope buildings! What’s going on?!

On top of this, I’m moving into an apartment for the first, so I really don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what to bring, I don’t know what groceries to buy, I don’t know where to park my car. It’s a whole new world in Holland, Michigan for me.

I know that logically everything will be fine. My Hope friends have already been a huge help, answering all of my questions and expressing excitement to see me again. However, returning to the American schooling system definitely scares me a little. Hope’s classes are much more rigorous and demanding than the ones I took at Aberdeen. I know this for a fact. I know that I will have to find motivation and retrain my brain to be a Hope student.

Also, I’m taking Statistics this semester, and math is my biggest fear.

Luckily, I know that Hope’s Study Abroad Department is always here for its students. I’ve heard Amy and Kendra talk about students they’ve met with who have been through similar experiences when returning to Hope. I trust this team will be able to help me if I end up desperately needing it.

That’s why I’m so glad that I chose Hope. Not only did Hope allow me to go out and experience more of the world, but it’s always assured that I’d have a safe place to go to. Amy and Kendra promised this from Day 1 of this adventure.

Therefore, I’m excited to go back. I have hope that all will be well.

Flying Home

I haven’t written in a while, and that’s because I’m finally home!

Home for me is Southeastern Ohio, so a traded granite Scottish buildings for cornfields and green pastures. It’s exciting to be in America again, weird but exciting, and my adrenaline was high the whole day that I was flying home.

My day started at 5 a.m. U.K. time (midnight Ohio time), and I frantically finished emptying my room before my taxi arrived. This was perhaps the most stressful part of my whole day. There was only so much packing I could do the night before; I’d still need sheets to sleep on, face wash to use in the morning, and clothes to wear the next day. I spent an hour making treks to the recycling bins in the parking lot outside my dorm. It was also still dark out, so it made the adventure that much weirder.

The actual flying part of my journey was long, but it went as well as it could have gone. I took three flights from Aberdeen to London to Philadelphia and then to Columbus. And guess what? I didn’t sleep on any of them. Yep. That’s right! Like I said, my adrenaline was high, and I was nervous to fly so far by myself, so I didn’t really relax at all. Not even when I realized that I had the whole entire row to myself on my 8 hour flight back to the States. Instead of sleeping like a normal person, I watched reruns of Friends and enjoyed Pixar’s Monsters University. Another thing that made me laugh was the fact that I thought the plane’s meal was tastier than Aberdeen’s cafeteria food. British Airways served me tasty chicken and mashed potatoes along with a cup of salted caramel and chocolate mousse for dessert.

When I finally arrived in Columbus, my mother and stepfather were waiting at the gate to greet me with decorated signs. I was also surprised to see my two best friends Hunter and Megan eating Panera at the airport’s food court, and later my sister surprised me at the baggage claim. Megan also passed along a care package from my boyfriend who couldn’t be there when I landed. After this, I suggested we do what anyone would want to do once returning home to the States: eat at Olive Garden. There, I met my brother and his new girlfriend. Adrenaline definitely kept me up this long, but it didn’t stop me from being loopy. I didn’t even recognize my sister when she surprised me.

I went to bed that night at midnight Ohio time, which means I stayed awake for a full 24 hours! It was definitely worth it, though. Studying abroad changed me forever, and one of the biggest changes I see myself is how much appreciate and love my home and family. I attend an out-of-state school, but I still had never been away from my family as long as I did while studying in Aberdeen. It was so good to see them again.

Scottish Exam Week(s)

The semester is finally drawing to a close, and I don’t know what’s worse: having to leave Scotland or having to take exams.

The truth is, my exam week isn’t necessarily harder than my finals week at Hope. It’s just different. First off, Aberdeen’s exam schedule starts with a review week. During this week, students attend “review lectures” where their professors go over material for exams. There aren’t nearly as many classes during this week, so we’re able to get a head start on studying and writing. Then, finals last for two weeks instead of one. Luckily, I’ll have everything completed in just the first week, so I don’t have to stick around for the second. However, the thought of studying, writing, and packing during this week is beginning to stress me out.

I was excited to find out early on in the semester that I’d have two papers and one exam. As an English major, I’d much rather write an essay than study for a test, so I was able to crank out my two papers pretty quickly. Also, I received an A4 (which is basically an A on the American grading scale) on my first essay for my Shakespeare class. Therefore, I wasn’t worried writing my final papers for Shakespeare and Linguistics.

All that’s left, then, is my Religion exam. I’m a tad nervous, but the professor has given us a lot of preparation, including terms to describe and essays to prepare. Also, the exam is going to be online, so I can literally take it in bed. Not a bad finals week if you ask me.

So that’s it! That’s the end of my academic career abroad. I’ve finally adapted to the British education system, so I don’t know how I’m going to feel once I get back to Hope. The biggest difference I’ve seen between Aberdeen and Hope isn’t necessarily the amount of work due but the schedule of work due. For example, a class at Aberdeen evaluates students with maybe two papers and a final exam. Lectures are also recorded and put online, so students aren’t required to come to class either (Don’t fall into this trap!). Hope, on the other hand, has quizzes, reflection papers, and projects due almost every single time you go to a class. I think this set-up keeps you more accountable and responsible; therefore, I think I’d probably say I like the American academic system better.

However, I’ve learned a lot about myself through taking classes abroad. Receiving a high grade on my Shakepeare paper just solidified my belief that I’m in the right major. My prof even said it was one of the best papers in the class, and to hear that when studying in a new environment and using a totally new writing format means a lot. I think the independence given to students in the British academic system also taught me how to be more responsible. Believe me, there were times when I skipped classes just because I could. However, I quickly learned that doing this wouldn’t benefit me in any way. I had to make myself attend lectures because I only get to study abroad once, right?

Please tell me I’m not right.

But honestly, I do think most of the things I learned this semester come from outside a lecture hall. Sure, I absolutely fell in love with Shakespeare because of my English class, but nothing compares to learning from hailing my first cab in London’s theatre district, climbing cliffs in Cruden Bay, and exploring the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

If only I were being tested on that stuff on my final exam. I’d totally nail it.

Aberdeen’s Holiday Parade

Chestnuts roastin’ on an open fire… reindeer riding on Segways?

Yeah, that’s what I saw at Aberdeen’s Christmas Parade. Don’t believe me? Well, just take a look at the video below. I captured the whole thing on my phone and wanted to upload it so that I could spread some holiday cheer, but first, here’s a little context.

Every year Aberdeen has a huge winter festival celebrating the holiday season, and it begins with the city’s Christmas Parade. Tons of Aberdonians line Union Street in anticipation of watching the city’s Christmas lights officially switch on and begin the festivities. This lighting occurs during a spectacular parade complete with bagpipes, big butterfly wings, and, yes, men dressed as reindeer riding Segways. I attended the parade with fellow Hope student Kate, and we had an absolute blast. Take a look at the parade below!

(Also, sorry that the video qualities lower than my last two vlogs. I shot this on my phone, and it was dark out.)

 

Visiting Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets!

During my last weekend in Scotland, my four study abroad besties and I made another trip to Edinburgh. This time, however, the city was decked out in holiday decorations, complete with Christmas markets, light shows, ice skating, and tons and tons of rides. I vlogged the whole thing, too! Check it out!

 

Livin’ Large in London (Again!)

Hi, guys! During the Halloweekend, some friends of mine and I were able to travel to my favorite city in the world: London! You might remember from one of my earlier posts that I already traveled to this city before moving into Aberdeen. I absolutely loved it then, so when my new friends expressed interest in visiting, I jumped at the chance to go again. This time around I was able to ride the London Eye, revisit Shakespeare’s Globe (my favorite spot in the city), see Les Mis on the West End, explore the Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickins Museums, and also visit Platform 9 3/4 in Kings Cross. I swear, I will never grow tired of adventuring in London. If you get the chance to visit, do it. Here’s a video documenting my time there the second time around. Enjoy!

Where Is God When You Study Abroad?

If you go to Hope, you know that it’s basically a Christian Bubble.

You know multiple people going on mission trips this summer, tons of your friends work with Young Life, and you’re probably a part of at least two Bible studies and a house church. And this is all great! Hope is a perfect environment to develop and strengthen your faith before heading out into the “real world” after graduation. I’m extremely thankful for what Hope has taught me about God and myself.

But it’s incredibly hard to leave this Christian Bubble, and I realized this as soon as I arrived at the University of Aberdeen.

It’s not like I thought God wasn’t here. I knew God was here and everywhere, but studying abroad puts you outside of that Christian Bubble and into the dead center of that “real world” everyone talks about. You’re in a new environment with a new culture. The friends you make probably don’t talk about Bible studies and mission trips. Drinking culture is also huge over here since the legal age is 18, not 21. You’re suddenly the odd one out.

So where have I found God? Has stepping outside of Hope’s Christian Bubble been a blessing or an obstacle for me?

When I first arrived, I made it my mission to find God. I went to a bunch of Aberdeen Christian Union events, including a weekend retreat, and joined a Bible study on campus. I also decided to take a New Testament class so that I would keep reading my Bible. Now in a more secular environment, I wanted to prove to myself that I could still be a “good Christian” without Hope’s help.

But what I didn’t realize would happen is just how much God would find me. In some of these cases I didn’t even really have to try and seek him out. After praying for a loyal friend group, He gave me four friends (one of whom is a Hope student) who respect my beliefs and ask about them. I’m able to evangelize and have fun, even if not every one of my friends knows that Paul and Saul are the same person.

I think God has also used this study abroad experience to mature me and help me understand things about Him that had been bothering me for a long time. This came through in a lot of different aspects, mainly in the way I approach relationships, and He also used my growing maturity to dive me deeper into an understanding of sin, repentance, and grace. It was here in Aberdeen that God finally got through to me about some chronic sins in my life and urged me to confess those sins, repent, and move forward. I’m certainly not perfect, and I fall back into my mess from time to time, but this was a huge moment for me. I honestly don’t think this would have happened if it weren’t for this study abroad experience.

And overall, I think it’s been beneficial to take my faith to this new place. A lot of times at Hope I get stuck on one of those “Jesus highs”. It usually ends up during church at Moran Park. I’m always the emotional person crying during altar call at the very end, waving my hands in the air, and exercising my spiritual gifts. But here, I’ve learned that real life isn’t composed of mainly “Jesus highs”. Instead, I’ve had to realize that my day-to-day interactions and walk with God is just as, if not more, important than my “drunk in the Holy Spirit” moments. God hasn’t left me this entire time, and He has quietly nudged me towards understanding, confession, and joy. He’s allowed me to experience this part of His world for myself and use my adventures to teach me and show me His love. He’s matured me so much, and I know I will not be returning home the same Christian I was when I left. Now, I’ve seen that God truly follows us to the ends of His earth.

If you’re worried about your faith life when traveling abroad, don’t let it stop you. Seek God and places of worship, but also trust that God will find you, too. It can’t be all up to us. If it were, then why would we need Jesus? Jesus says that if we knock, the door will be opened for us, so trust that He will open that door.

Pretending to be wizards in Glasgow and Edinburgh

Hi, everybody!

A while ago my friends Jordan and Kate (another Hope student) and I decided to take a trip to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The trip was so much fun, and we got to do a lot of cool stuff, like see museums, get gorgeous views of the Edinburgh Castle, and, of course, visit almost every J.K. Rowling/Harry Potter site we could find. I took videos along the way and combined them into one vlog. Here’s a little taste of what our adventure was like!

 

Exploring New Slains Castle

My friends and I had the opportunity to take a trip to New Slains Castle, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s gothic novel Dracula. It was nestled against the sea in the quaint Scottish town of Cruden Bay. We had an absolute blast climbing rocky cliffs and exploring the castle ruins, but instead of writing a long blog post about it, I thought, “Why not make a little picture gallery instead?” Therefore, here a few of the photos I snapped while playing explorer.