Scotland holds a special place in my heart, and I have documented that love here, on this blog. I write about it fondly and often in comparison to my upcoming move to Cambodia, and I also narrated my four month adventure interning for the Scottish parliament.
However, I realized that I rarely touch upon how Scotland changed me. I refer to it as a magical place that I dream of returning to, and I attribute the basis for many of my hopes and aspirations to it. I never fail to say that it changed me, but I do fail to explain what that change looked or felt like.
Scotland forced me to grow, adapt, and mature in a plethora of ways. Upon reflection, I have divided these changes into three main levels. The first level of changes were things I did due to the Scottish influence, some of which stuck, but many of which didn’t. The second level of changes were things that affected me on a deeper level and revolve around how I transformed as a person. Finally, the third level of changes were things that altered my life course, forever. I want to share some of these changes with you to finally shed some light on the impact Scotland had on my life.
Level One Changes
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about small ways Scotland changed me is the slang words. Using words like “cheeky” and “wee” as adjectives are very popular in Scotland. After a few days I found myself asking for just a “wee bit” of whip cream on my hot chocolates and going out with my friends for a “cheeky” glass of wine (or in my case cider). While I did not think I would continue to say these words once I returned to the states, over a year later I still incorporate British/Scottish slang into my everyday speech. I often swap out “knock on wood” for the British “touch wood” and say “nip” or “pop” out to describe taking any kind of short excursion.
Another way Scotland changed me was with its casual attitude toward alcohol and drinking. Before Scotland, I rarely drank finding all forms of alcohol disgusting. When I came to Scotland, I fell in love with ciders and joined my friends for nights out on a weekly basis.
This change did not quite stick. Upon returning to the states, I am even more picky and particular about what beverages I chose to drink. Now that I know about the delicious strawberry cider in Scotland, nothing can compare and I find myself avoiding alcohol even more fervently than before Scotland. However, if I ever find Koppaberg cider in the United States, all bets are off.
Level Two Changes
Moving on to larger scale and more permanent changes, the most prominent thing I think of is how going to Scotland made me more aware of the perception of Americans abroad. Whenever people found out I was American, I could almost always be expected to be asked about gun regulations, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and other hot topic issues floating around in Fall 2015. This not only forced me to educate myself more about these topics by understanding their domestic AND international impacts, but also learn how to talk about them in an eloquent and mature fashion. I often found myself on the phone in the parliament speaking to Scottish citizens who suddenly wanted to have a debate on American politics.
To them I was a representation of American society and culture abroad, and I wanted to portray my country in an accurate but also forgiving light. Learning about the international perception of the United States in Scotland made me even more aware of some of the harsh, but often very true, criticisms other countries had for our nation. I wanted to be respectful of foreign perceptions while also explaining what I felt, through my own experience and research, the United States justifications and reasonings were. In doing this, I felt I gained very real experience in international relations. I was learning how to understand international perspectives and have discussions about them in informative and diplomatic ways, and doing this helped me gain a maturity and understanding of various opinions that I feel makes me not just a better worker, but a better person and citizen.
In Scotland I also became immensely more independent and mature. From the beginning, I was required to make important decisions about finances and budgets. I paid rent each month, bought my own groceries, and had to determine an “entertainment” budget. While I never considered myself fiscally irresponsible before Scotland, I became even more responsible during my time there. More than that, I also gained a greater sense of independence from traveling around Europe alone.Traveling by myself was empowering and gave me a powerful amount of confidence. I know that I can be on my own and not just survive, but thrive. While of course I welcome the company of others, I do not have to depend on it. It is this confidence that I know gave me the courage to go to Cambodia for six months by myself! Without the previous experience of roaming the streets of European cities solo, I don’t know if I would have been able to make that decision with the same certainty.
Level Three Changes
On a deeper level, Scotland gave me the self-assurance and belief that I can go after the life I want. Going to Scotland was a dream, an incredible goal, and when I attained it, I felt unstoppable. Not only was I going abroad, but I would be interning for the Scottish parliament, an internship that was so much more than the typical college work experience stint. I was doing something at twenty years old that a lot of people dreamed of happening at some point in their careers. I spoke about how Scotland gave me independence and confidence, but it did so in a way beyond the ability to travel alone. While I doubt I fully understood it at the time, when I look back at Scotland and my internship, I see it as a representation of my abilities and my potential. There is no need for settling, for compromising, for doubting myself; I can do anything I desire and set my mind to. Of course Scotland changed me in infinitely more ways than I have described above, but if I tried to fully chronicle every way that it influenced me, this post would never end. The overarching theme that I have tried to get across is that I am the person I am today because I went to Scotland. I am eternally grateful to Scotland for giving me such beautiful and life changing experiences, and I hope that in my life I will be able to reach my full potential as a tribute to all that it has done for me.
P.S. Have you had an experience abroad that you feel changed you in ways you cannot explain? Comment below! I would love to hear about your experiences.