Finding my Niche

Rachel P. University of Stirling, Scotland

Date

February 17, 2016

A home isn’t just a place that you live in. You can feel at home with people you meet, connect with and become close to. You can also have multiple homes, places, and people that are close to your heart and you share many memories with. I may have grown up in Massachusetts and call that my home, but I love being at Saint Michael’s College because it feels like a small community and a home away from home as many often say. I also have other small communities and places I have worked at that feel like home where I could go to if I ever needed support or guidance. I know that feeling that you are part of a community no matter how small or big it is, is important for us as we grow as individuals and work together as one unit on bigger issues than ourselves.

Emily and I on our hike up Dumyat Hill.

Here at the University of Stirling in Scotland, I feel that I have found another great community that allows me to explore my interests see amazing new sights and get involved in new ways. My first introduction to Scotland was when I arrived in Edinburgh and stayed at a hotel there for two nights and explored the city during the day while getting introduced to Scottish culture. Then I went to live with my host family in Stirling for two days and was welcomed into their home. The homestay experience made Scotland feel less like a new country, but more of a place of comfort and made me even more excited to start my journey here. I then moved into my flat and began exploring around the campus. The campus here has a large pond in the middle, where swans and ducks swim around and the presence of wildlife is very apparent. On campus there is also a beautiful view of a Dumyat Hill that is close by and was covered with snow when I first arrived, but the snow has now melted with the milder temperatures that we have here.

I’ve been exploring Scotland like any tourist would by visiting a few castles, loch’s (that’s the word they use instead of lake), saw a few sheep, hiked and walked around the country side, all while carrying my camera with me to capture the moments. It felt weird not working in a garden this semester, since I’ve worked at Saint Michael’s organic garden during one summer and now every semester. Thus I decided to volunteer at the garden here on campus to compare it to back home and learn more about the sustainable techniques they use.

Also, I joined the University of Stirling women’s basketball team, which was one of my best decisions. I played intramural basketball at Saint Michael’s College on the co-ed league for fun and I’ve played basketball since 2nd grade in elementary school and have always loved the game. I’m so glad I decided to try it out and play for the basketball team here and that the team has been so welcoming! It’s been great to get back to practicing and playing competitively again, if only for ashort time. I’m also helping coach the 2nd’s team and love sharing my knowledge of the game and helping girls of all skill levels, whether they played before or not, learn more about the fundamentals of the game and have fun while doing it. The game of basketball has taught me a lot about dedication and how hard work pays off, which are both values that I have carried with me throughout my life.

It’s all about getting involved in your community with whatever you are passionate about and maybe even investigating new things that you’ve never done before just to try it out. When I came into college my freshman year, I got involved with clubs and sports outside of the classroom, which have helped me to mature into the person I am today. I’ve met so many inspiring people who have left a lasting impression on my life and continue to meet influential people, especially here in Scotland. There is a balance of staying on top of everything and not getting too overwhelmed which I have struggled with a lot, but found organization is the key to working with a busy schedule.

Picture from the first week here with new friends before going out into Stirling.

Although it has been a challenge to adjust to the class size, grading system, and number of class assignments, I’ve been able to talk to students who go here to understand how everything works. I’m finding my environmental classes interesting and that there are many similarities with the way professors here and back home address environmental issues as well as some differences. I’ve always been interested in agriculture and have worked in gardens and farms, but it’s nice to get an academic background on it. I have a few field trips in my classes coming up soon and I’m excited to go on them and see environmental issues in Scotland first hand in the field. I’ll be writing about those trips and some trips around the Scottish highlands next!

Thanks for reading,

Rachel :)