Concert in Glasgow

After spending nearly three weeks traveling around the UK and mainland Europe for the University of Aberdeen’s spring break, I arrived back at Aberdeen late last night. I rarely had reliable WiFi on the trip, so I had planned on submitting a few blogs about the trip today. When I went to do this; however, I discovered that I had never actually hit the “Submit” button on my most recent blog about a concert I went to about a month ago now. After spending a week downloading all of the bands’ new music and walking to classes in t-shirts with their names plastered across the chest, this is what I had written:

 

“Anyone who has been on a road-trip with me has experienced my many road-trip games, and my girlfriend had the pleasure of putting up with them all morning last week (as in the week before I actually wrote this three weeks ago) when we took an early morning bus to Glasgow to spend a day in the city and see a concert at night. One of the games I like to play is called “top-3,” and it is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, I give a category and the contestants share their “top 3” for the category. One of the categories for this trip was “all-time favorite concerts,” and after narrowing down a top 3, we were each excited to see if the one that night would rank among the likes of Elton John, Darius Rucker, Ben Rector, and OneRepublic in our lists.

Since I had already been to Glasgow for a weekend trip with some friends, we only briefly visited some of the major tourist attractions that I had already spent time in: the Necropolis, Glasgow Cathedral, and Kelvingrove Park. We spent the rest of the day walking around in the heart of the city, trying a highly recommended Kebab restaurant, and exploring the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. Glasgow’s city-center (or “centre”) is filled with walking streets that pass through shopping and dining areas, kind of like an extensive outdoor mall. On the day we went, these streets were crowded with street performers and groups of people stopped to watch or listen to them. The walk was really enjoyable, and we wound up stumbling onto a kebab place that I had recognized from reading positive reviews online the night before.

**Quick foodie interjection: For anyone who hasn’t had or heard of a doner kebab (since I hadn’t before getting here), a doner kebab is essentially lamb shavings and vegetables wrapped in pita bread. It is not a Scottish dish. I believe it is Turkish. But, they are wildly popular here as a late night snack to share with friends or as a quick meal. I highly recommend googling it right now and finding the nearest location to you that offers them, because they are delicious. I have probably eaten between 15 and 20 of them since being here.**

With full-stomachs, we headed to explore the beautiful architecture of the University of Glasgow and were intrigued by signs pointing toward the Hunterian Museum. The Hunterian is a large collection of artifacts started by a fascinating man named Dr. William Hunter who had a wide-variety of passions. The collection is about as diverse as Hunter’s interests were, containing anatomical and medical, technological, political, and biological artifacts. This diversity was perfect for my girlfriend (a kinesiology major) and me (a biology major). The collection is really impressive and informative. You could spend an entire day there, but we only stayed for a couple hours.

At the end of the night, we went to this concert venue called “the Garage (attic).” The venue was small but not too crowded. The first band in the lineup was Indigo Velvet, followed by Vistas, and then Marsicans. These bands are not incredibly well-known (yet) but they all have really great music. If you are at all interested in alternative rock, I would recommend checking them out. Every one of the bands put on a fantastic show, and my girlfriend and I were both left with a new concert holding the number one position on our list of “all-time favorite concerts,” as well as a continuous ringing in our ears.

 

Thanks to my slip-up of not pressing submit, I had some extra time to reflect on the significance of this concert to my study-abroad experience as a whole. I love music, and I appreciate the way that music ties in with memory and inspiring emotion. I will always be amazed by the power that a specific song has in taking me back to a specific time, place, and feeling. This entire spring break trip, my girlfriend and I found ourselves humming or singing parts of the songs we’d heard at this concert. The concert itself was a wonderful experience that I will always remember, and the songs from the concert will also always take me back to this special period of time abroad and all of the times these songs were stuck in my head, like while eating gelato in the streets of Vienna or hiking the hill up to the Citadella in Budapest. But more on that spring break trip soon.

Poorly taken photo of Marsicans performing at the Garage (the Attic)

And Bob’s Your Uncle, I’ve Made Some Mistakes

Aberdeen FC vs. Kilmarnock FC football-soccer game I went to.
Another picture from the football-soccer game.

I am the kind of person who doesn’t like to make mistakes. In fact, this is one of the reasons I chose to study in Scotland: because it is an English-speaking country and, not being multilingual, I figured that I would make a fool of myself in any country where English is not the main language. Little did I know that there would be plenty of opportunities for me to make a fool of myself here.

Ever since I arrived in Aberdeen, I have noticed that there are a number of little, often-times quirky differences between the English spoken in the UK and that spoken in the US. Here are a few selected words/phrases and stories from a list of differences I have compiled:

  • Pants

I live in a flat with four other guys: 1 from Indiana, 1 from England, and 2 from Scotland. As my American flatmate and I have come to learn, the word “pants,” as we would use it in the United States, has a much different connotation in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, the word “pants” actually refers to what we Americans would call “underwear.”

We discovered this seemingly minor difference while introducing our English flatmate to a few friends we’d met at orientation.

“Is it okay if I’m just in my pants?” he asked, in response to us calling him into the kitchen.

“Of course it’s okay if you are just in your pants,” I replied, what an odd question to ask, I then thought to myself, not realizing the error in what I had said until after he’d walked in to meet our new friends.

 

  • Fries and Chips and Chips and Crisps

Thankfully, this bullet comes without an embarrassing story but with an important distinction; here, American “fries” are referred to as “chips” and American “chips” are referred to as “crisps.”

 

  • Football-soccer

Having watched a lot of English Premier League soccer, I knew that soccer would be referred to as “football” when I got here. Therefore, in referring to soccer, I started off using the term “football.” Unfortunately, if you have an American accent and say “football” in Scotland, they assume you mean “American Football” but if you say “soccer” they will correct you with “football.” As a result, I have begun making a distinction by referring to soccer as “Football-soccer.”

 

  • The Metric System

Being a student-athlete abroad means that I still need to be completing my off-season workouts. For this, I headed to the Aberdeen Sports Village gym early on in my first week here, where I quickly learned that the weights are all marked in kilograms and not pounds (the conversion of which is about 1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds).  I discovered this nice little detail after loading close to double the weight that I typically start with onto the bench press and nearly dropping the bar on my own chest.

 

  • And Bob’s your uncle

“And Bob’s your uncle” is a common phrase in the UK which I believe means something along the lines of “and just like that.” For example, my professor was solving an equation on the board the other day and said, “you do this, that, and Bob’s your uncle—you have the answer.” I am still pretty confused on if I use it correctly, but I think I am beginning to somewhat understand the meaning.

 

What I have found in looking back over the full version of this list (which was too long to include) is that I have made a LOT of mistakes and learned a lot since being here. My silly mistakes have only made the lessons I’ve learned more memorable, and the Scottish people could not have been any more helpful and understanding. Whether it be helping catch a falling barbell or having some grace for being introduced to people half nude, the people here have made me feel welcome despite my slip-ups. They have helped me realize that making a fool of myself is nothing to be afraid of. Mistakes are bound to happen when you put yourself out of your comfort zone, but they are certainly not worth holding you back from trying anything new.

 

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.

“Cheerio” From England!

If you know me, you probably know that I’m studying this fall at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. However, my parents and I traveled abroad early so that we could have a little UK vacation before moving me into “uni.” Here’s a little bit of what we did and saw!

Aberdeen Blog 1- London phone booth

We spent most of the first day traveling around on a hop-on-hop-off bus. It took us all around the city, and even though I was having trouble staying awake, it was easy to tell that London is gorgeous. It’s full of old charming buildings surrounded by glass skyscrapers. One of the best examples of this is the Tower of London. This old structure is situated in a modern area of the city and was home to many royals and executions back in the day. This was so fun to tour, and the “yeomen” that work there were incredibly interesting to talk to!

Aberdeen Blog 1- Tower of London
The Tower of London is also where you can see the Crown Jewels!

Another one of my favorite parts of England was the Harry Potter Lot Tour. This Universal lot is located a ways outside of the city, so a tour bus took us there. Guys, if you are a Harry Potter fan, this is the place to go. It has everything! Costumes! Diagon Alley! The Great Hall! Moaning Myrtle’s robes! Dumbledore’s beard! The Knight Bus! The Hogwarts Express! Everything! I totally went crazy at this place.

On my way to Hogwarts! That's actually where I'm studying abroad...
On my way to Hogwarts! That’s actually where I’m studying abroad…

Another highlight of our trip was seeing Shakespeare’s Globe. If you don’t know, this is a recreation of Shakespeare’s original theatre, but everything is made to look authentic. We took a tour and got to go around the building and in the actual theatre, and the best part is that we saw actors warming up for their matinee production of MacBeth. They were fighting with swords and shields and rehearsing lines on the stage. I wish I could have seen the show!

This was our view of The Globe from the Thames!
This was our view of The Globe from the Thames!

One show that I did see, though, was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and OH MY GOSH. IT WAS AMAZING. I read the script before I even knew I would be able to see it, so I went into it knowing the story. However, the play still shocked me. The “magic” made me do double takes. The actors were incredible (especially Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy). I wish I could see it every day of my life. If you have any doubts after reading the script, try, try to see the show performed live because it’s full of all the wonderful J.K. Rowling magic we know and love.

Even the outside of the Palace Theatre looked straight out of Rowling's world.
Even the outside of the Palace Theatre looked straight out of Rowling’s world.

We saw other things in England as well: Churchill’s war rooms, The National Gallery, Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford. We even got to see the Chatsworth House (aka Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley Estate from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie!).

Me with the bust of Mr. Darcy from the movie. Can you tell I was excited?
Me with the bust of Mr. Darcy from the movie. Can you tell I was excited?

So my verdict on England is that it’s absolutely fantastic. I loved London and its history (even its underground trains!). The English countryside was also nothing short of lovely. However, I’m not studying in England. I’m spending the semester in Scotland, which, from what I can tell already, is just as exciting and beautiful. Hopefully I can perhaps zip over to England again this semester, but until then it’s goodbye London and hello Aberdeen!