WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms

In my freshman year at Hope I had the opportunity to participate in an immersion trip that went and did some volunteer work in Jamaica over spring break. The trip had been advertised to me by a friend as an opportunity to experience all the benefits of a vacation while also doing some good for others. As I started planning a trip for this spring, I couldn’t help but recall that trip and the lasting impact it has had on my life. I still see a lot of value in simply traveling to new places and participating in touristy activities, but I knew that I wanted to do something a little different (at least for part of my break). So, I created a WWOOF account.

WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a volunteer organization that connects willing volunteers with farms and smallholdings. In exchange for accommodation and food, volunteers work for about 4 hours each day. I saw this as an opportunity to travel around and do some good at the same time, with the added bonus of saving money and seeing parts of the UK that you would not ordinarily see as a normal tourist.

I searched the WWOOF website for farms and smallholdings with good reviews and characteristics that matched the type of site I wanted to stay at, and I contacted the WWOOF hosts at these locations. After lots of research and communication with these hosts, my girlfriend, Gabbi, and I packed our bags and headed off to a farm in Ayrshire, Scotland, where we spent a few days before picking up again and moving to a farm in southern Wales. In between, we were able to stop for a night in Manchester and a night in Liverpool. I could talk about my experiences at each farm and in each city for hours on end, but I will only touch on each because the break was filled with so many activities.

At the first farm, I spent most of my working hours raking leaves, cleaning a polytunnel, cleaning a chicken coup, and potting plants. I also held a chicken. So that was cool.

Then, in the afternoons, the host would drive Gabbi and me to the nearest bus station and we’d travel to whichever cities in the area sounded the most interesting. For the first two days we were there, this resulted in us exploring the cities of Irvine and Kilmarnock.

On the third day, our host insisted that we take the day off and take the ferry across to the Isle of Arran. The Isle of Arran, sometimes called “miniature Scotland”, is an island west of mainland Scotland. From the farm we were volunteering at, you could see the peak of its highest mountain, “Goat Fell”, across a small strip of the Atlantic Ocean. Instead of working on this day, we woke up early and took the ferry across to the Isle of Arran where we managed to spend almost all of our time hiking up the majority of Goat Fell.

View of Goat Fell from the first farm
A panorama of me partway up Goat Fell

After returning each evening from our miniature adventures, I could always count on playing fetch with the host’s puppy until my arm was so sore I could no longer throw her ball.

Asha, the puppy from the first farm

As I said, after leaving the first farm, Gabbi and I made our way to Manchester for one night: the night of the Manchester City versus Manchester United game. For anyone who doesn’t watch much soccer, these are two of the best teams in the world and are also huge rivals. We stopped into a restaurant that was playing the game and got to experience some of the rivalry first hand. It was incredible. It was crazy. These people take their soccer very seriously.

The next day we were in Liverpool, which is a beautiful city with an interesting history (which I got to learn all about at the Museum of Liverpool). After waking up early the next morning for a run on Albert Dock (where we’d watched the sun set the night before), we headed off to the second farm.

The Royal Liver Building in Liverpool
Sunset from Albert Dock
Beatles statue on Albert Dock

At the second farm, we split and stacked firewood and helped put a new cover on the host’s polytunnel which had torn over the winter. There was less accessibility to public transportation on this farm, so we spent most afternoons playing board games with our hosts or walking through the rolling hills of Wales. One evening, I even learned the basics of knitting!

Polytunnel from the second farm with its new cover

On our way to London to begin the second half of our break, we stopped in Burry Port (where a nice lady in a family-run market gave us free Welsh cakes!) and Swansea. The entire, crazy experience of hopping from city to city and helping with odd jobs on farms was one which I will always remember.

Me eating a free Welsh cake in Burry Port

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)

The Beast from the East

Hi everyone,

Due to a couple of stressful weeks of classes, I haven’t gotten to posting in a while, so I have some catching up to do. Over the past few weeks, Scotland has been hit by a couple of snow storms. Although there was never more than 2 or 3 inches of snow on the ground, most of Aberdeen seemed to have shut down.

“The Beast from the East” is what the larger storm was called. It lasted about 3 days, and campus-wide emails were sent out warning students of the adverse weather. My personal favorite email included a diagram advising students of the safest way to walk in icy conditions: like a penguin. Transportation in and around the city was also affected, “stranding” one of my flatmates in Berlin and one of my friends in Madrid.

Limited by the buses not running on some days and others by my own reluctance to face the cold, I was kept inside to study and work on schoolwork almost all of that week (which was probably for the best).

Then, right when the sun had returned and the snow left behind by the Beast from the East had melted, “The Pest from the West” arrived. Similar to the Beast from the East, the snow on the ground never accumulated to anything greater than 2 or 3 inches. Still, cautionary emails were sent out and transportation shut down. (I think it is safe to say that Aberdeen may not be as accustomed to winter weather as West Michigan.)

Though I may have complained about the storms here and there, all in all, neither were too much of an imposition. In fact, being locked inside to study reminded me of an important aspect of studying abroad that is sometimes overlooked in conversations with students that have gone abroad: the studying. Though I am having tons of new experiences and seeing many new places, I am also having to stay on top of schoolwork.

While my course load is not too different than it would be were I a typical second semester Junior back home, the courses here are structured and assessed much differently than those I have taken at Hope.

I have enjoyed the courses I have taken at Hope, but I am also grateful for the opportunity to experience classes that are formatted differently. Though this most likely does not hold true at every foreign university, I find that at Aberdeen there are a lot less (but larger) assignments than there are at Hope. There are pros and cons to that, because less assignments means every grade has a significant impact on your overall course grade. I am also finding that the majority of my courses are not taught by only one professor. Most of my courses have three or four professors alternating who gives a lecture. There are also pros and cons to this.

There are a number of other differences that I am adjusting to, but the point is that there are pros and cons to every style of teaching. I am, however, thankful for the chance to see these new styles of teaching. I believe that being exposed to different ways of teaching is helping me figure out how I learn best, and I think that I will return a better student than I left as a result.

 

My First Cricket Match

In the first week of classes, the University of Aberdeen hosted a refresher’s fair aimed at introducing new students to its large number of clubs and societies. I went to the fair and signed up to be notified about when most of these groups met. Fast forward one month, and I am bowling my first over in a university cricket match.

Having played baseball my whole life, I had never actually played a game of cricket before. I still don’t understand the rules, and yet, this past weekend I had an absolute blast playing in my first ever game. I have messed around playing cricket with my friends at home before; however, we have never played by the actual rules or used proper form for bowling or batting. Here, I have learned a lot from the players and the coach on proper form, and I am getting much better (though I am still pretty terrible).

I have even earned myself a nickname: baseball player. This nickname can be used as a compliment or an insult. When I accidentally bend my elbow while bowling (and throw more like a baseball pitch), I get called “baseball player” as an insult (though typically it is sarcastic). When someone decides to bowl it in full toss (without bouncing) against me, and I swing as if I am holding a baseball bat, I get called “baseball player” as a compliment.

My first game was filled with extremes. I hit a six (basically a home-run) and then I immediately popped up for an out on the next bowl (which is way worse than popping out in baseball). I bowled an out (basically a strikeout) and then a wide (basically a walk). I was probably one of the worst players on the field, but I had a lot of fun. The guys on the team have been incredibly welcoming to me, and they could not be any more supportive. The other players are always willing to help instruct me on how to improve my form or to explain instructions that the coach gives using non-cricket terms that I can understand.

I am really appreciative to the players on the team for how kind they have been to me. Several of them are some of the best friends that I have made since being here. I am also really appreciative for the opportunity that studying abroad has given me to learn something that I would otherwise have never gotten involved in. I can’t wait to learn more about the sport and to spend more time with the team over the course of the semester.

Robert Burns Night

As an aspiring poet and avid reader of poetry, I was familiar with Robert Burns and his work before coming to Scotland; however, I was not familiar with the celebrations hosted on and around January 25th (Burns’ date of birth) to commemorate the famed Scot. “Robert Burns Night” or “Robbie Burns Night” is a very big deal in Scotland, apparent in the number of people that gather to partake in a myriad of traditional festivities memorializing Burns and his work.
On January 25th, I joined in the festivities by attending a ceilidh with several friends that was hosted by a society on campus. The traditional ceremony began with a number of Gaelic folk dances which allowed me to parade around my two left feet. Luckily, I was not alone in this; and, everyone had a good time whether they remained standing when the music stopped or lay twisted and tangled on the ground. As tradition dictates, the dancing was followed by a ceremonial haggis being “piped in,” or ushered in by a man playing the bagpipe. Once the bagpipe player and haggis reach center stage, a Burns poem, entitled “Address to a Haggis” is recited as the haggis is ripped open. The ceremonial haggis was followed out by a tray of “haggis, neeps, and tatties.” Neeps, I believe, is simply another term used for rutabaga, and tatties are mashed potatoes. Haggis, on the other hand, is a unique treat.
My only other run-in with haggis up to this point was at a restaurant I went to during my first week here. I had heard a lot of talk around the food but wasn’t sure exactly what it was. All that I knew was that it was some kind of meat, but I didn’t want to know what kind until after I’d eaten it. Having detected my American accent in ordering, the waiter asked if I had ever tried haggis before and I explained the situation. He responded, “you either love it or you hate it” (a statement I have heard used by many people here in reference to haggis). On the contrary, I was somewhere in the middle. While I did not enjoy my first experience with haggis too much, I did manage to finish my plate before the waiter returned.

“Okay, now you can tell me. What’s in it?” I asked.

“I’m just going to let you look it up on your own,” he replied (always the response you hope to hear when questioning what kind of meat you have just eaten).

After looking it up later I came to the conclusion that it tastes much better than it sounds, though that is not saying much. If you would like to know what is in it you can do the same as I had to and look it up on your own.

Nevertheless, I tried haggis again at the ceilidh, and I was pleasantly surprised! At the ceilidh, the haggis was served in smaller portions with the neeps and tatties, and it all tasted really great together! My friends and I even returned for second servings (and some of us thirds). I left shortly after the food was gone with a full stomach, the memory of an evening I will never forget, and a new life-goal: to one day have some type of meat musically ushered into a room and cut into while a poem of mine is recited. Although, I am thinking that maybe we could do a nice cut of steak or a juicy hamburger for mine.

FOMO

Fear of Missing Out. It’s an expression you will hear pretty frequently if you are considering studying abroad. It is also the reason most of my peers at home have given for why they are choosing not to study abroad. Now, the intention of this blog IS NOT to criticize choosing not to study abroad or to discredit FOMO as a legitimate reason for staying on campus for all of your college career. The truth is that if you choose to go abroad, you will surely miss out on things at home. And, if you choose to stay home, you will surely miss out on experiences you could have had abroad. The intention of this blog IS to make you think about the REAL FOMO and the way you go about your daily life, regardless of where you are.

Since the second I arrived here, I have been actively seeking out things to do in and around the city of Aberdeen. I have gone to museums, tried new food and new restaurants, joined clubs for sports I have never played, and travelled around the area. I have already created a pretty close group of friends with some other students studying here from the U.S., Canada, and Switzerland. All of these students are doing the same thing as me: going out and trying to see as much as they can while they are here. It is nice to have a group like this, because we can travel together, making it cheaper and more fun.

The first excursion we took was to a city just south of Aberdeen named Stonehaven, home of Dunnottar Castle and The Bay—a delicious fish and chips shop. It’s about a three mile walk from the train station to Dunnottar castle, but it feels a lot shorter because of the beautiful view of the Stonehaven bay and lush green cliffs scattered with nesting sea birds. The next weekend, we headed even further south to a town named St. Cyrus with the University of Aberdeen’s Conservation Society. We hiked a couple of miles from the bus station to a trail that wound back and forth down the face of a cliff leading to the beach. We made our way down the coast to an estuary filled with all different kinds of ducks and birds before walking back to the cliff-side trail. On the way back we spotted a couple of seals poking their heads out of the water not too far from shore and stopped to climb some coastal rock formations where we found a few star fish and crabs.

Me on a cliff with Dunnottar in the background
My girlfriend Gabbi (also from Hope and studying at Aberdeen) and me at Dunnottar Castle
Stonehaven Bay
Cliff with nesting seabirds at Stonehaven
The walk to the coast at St. Cyrus

Last week, my flatmate showed us around “Fittie” or Footdee as it is now known, a historic fisherman district in Aberdeen. Then, we were all able to catch a free tour of the Aberdeen Maritime Museum. Both of these experiences were helpful in understanding the history of the area we live in, which I will be sure to include more about in a future blog.

Fittie

This past week I went to visit Loch Kinord in the Cairngorms. The Cairngorms is a mountain range and nature reserve east of Aberdeen. A couple of my friends and I made a fairly last second decision to catch a bus and head out to hike the area. Unsure of exactly where the trail that we were supposed to be hiking was, we walked 2 miles north along the side of the road and cut through a cold, wet bog to stumble upon a path toward the visitor center. As we later found out, the bus stop is no more than 100 feet from the start of the Loch Kinord trail, but none of us minded emptying out our boots and wringing out our socks too much. After picking up a couple of maps from the visitor center, we hiked west on a trail to see the Burn O’Vat, which is essentially a really large hole in a rock formation formed by running water. We climbed up the side of the waterfall that poured into the stone canyon and hiked a ways down the stream that ran underneath fallen trees and dodged between moss-covered rocks before spilling out into the Burn O’Vat. Then, we doubled back and sat on the rocks at the base of the waterfall to enjoy the lunches we’d packed before continuing our hike out and around Loch Kinord. Remnants of a church and of village hut circles marked the path around the loch which wove in and out between a woodland landscape, a bog, grassland, and some surrounding farmland.

Loch Kinord
Celtic cross (relic from old church at Loch Kinord)
Stream running to Burn O’Vat
Burn O’Vat cascading water

I am amazed at how much northeast Scotland has had to offer so far, and I am excited to continue exploring until the end of the semester. However, all of these little excursions and adventures have also made me think about the way that I go about daily life at home. What all would West Michigan have to offer if I were to bring home the same adventurous mindset I have here? How many gems of natural beauty and preserved history have I been surrounded by for the past three years and not taken advantage of? That’s my real FOMO—the fear of unknowingly missing out on opportunities every day. As a result, when I come back home I will be challenging myself (and would encourage anyone who reads this) to be more aware of and to take better advantage of the opportunities around me.

 

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.

 

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.