Farewell to Scotland

Sydney Smith University of Aberdeen, Scotland


May 18, 2018

Farewell to Scotland
Poem by John Imlach

Loved land of my kindred, farewell - and forever!
   Oh! what can relief to the bosom impart;
When fated with each fond endearment to sever,
   And hope its sweet sunshine withholds from the heart!
Farewell, thou fair land! which, till life's pulse shall perish,
   Though doom'd to forego, I shall never forget;
Wherever I wander, for thee will I cherish
   The dearest regard and the deepest regret.

Farewell, ye great Grampians, cloud-robed and crested!
   Like your mists in the sunbeam ye melt in my sight;
Your peaks are the king-eagle's thrones - where have rested
   The snow-falls of ages - eternally white.
Ah! never gain shall the falls of your fountains
   Their wild murmur'd music awake on mine ear;
No more the lake's lustre that mirrors your mountains,
   I'll pore on with pleasure - deep, lonely, yet dear.

Yet — yet Caledonia! when slumber comes o'er me,
   Oh! oft will I dream of thee, far away;
But vain are the visions that rapture restore me,
   To waken and weep at the dawn of the day.
Ere gone the last glimpse, faint and far o'er the ocean,
   Where yet my heart dwells — where it ever shall dwell,
While tongue, sigh, and tear, speak my spirit's emotion,
   My country - my kindred — farewell, oh, farewell!

After five wonderful months of studying abroad in Scotland, my time here is sadly coming to an end. I am truly thankful for the time I have had here and the journey that this experience has taken me on. My study abroad adventure has taught me many lessons that I will carry with me always and I hope that you can take something away from them too.

1. I have learned to appreciate the natural world around me.

Currently I am writing this segment as I sit outside at a park bench in Seaton Park. It’s a marvelous spring day and I am surrounded by trees with various types of flower blossoms and leaves of varying shades of green. Someone once told me that green was a totally unoriginal color, but I wholeheartedly disagree with that statement. Scotland is painted with the colors of spring. Bright lively colors that make me feel the fuzzy warmth of happiness deep inside. It is among nature that I have come to feel at peace. All of my journeys in and around Scotland can somehow be directly related to nature. I am constantly walking from one place to another. Hiking hills and seeing ruins. But the one thing I have enjoyed the most is the rugged beauty of Scotland. It’s a raw beauty that seems untouched by modernity. There are so many preserved spaces for people to enjoy and it seems that the majority of the people here want to continue to enjoy it for years to come.

Ultimately, as the inhabitants of the earth, we need to take better care of the world that we live in. It has given so much to us, but we continue to take and take and give only pollution back. We need to start preserving our home, because if we don’t, beautiful locations like the terrain of Scotland could suffer dire consequences.

2. I have garnered a deeper respect for history and the lessons that we can learn from the people who came before us.

As Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This quote was not originally intended to pertain strictly to history, but it does emphasize the point of building upon the knowledge that we have gained over time. This knowledge can take form in many ways and I would like to shout out some of Scotland’s contributions to the modern world. Inventions that were created by Scottish inventors include, but are not limited to: television, telephones, penicillin, refrigerators, toasters, etc. Things that most of us use daily and wouldn’t know what to do without.

Scottish history is more than just Braveheart, Reign, and Outlander. There are so many layers of Scottish history from Picts, to Vikings, Jacobites, and so forth and so on. It is a complex saga that has come about over time. I believe that it is rooted in nature and religion, with the contradiction of survival of the old way, yet simultaneously leaning towards progression of the society as a whole. Most importantly is the ability to learn from the mistakes our predecessors made, and try not to make the same mistakes they did.

3. It’s not bad to go solo. Except if you are Han Solo, only then you should always be accompanied by Chewbacca.

When I initially began my study abroad experience I was terrified that I was going to be alone and not make any friends at all. I am proud to say that I did indeed make a few friends, but I also realized that being alone isn’t bad. The word single seems to carry with it some form of taboo aura. I am here to contradict that view.

I have done quite a lot of traveling alone, and it is possibly the best thing I have done for myself. You not only engage more with the people you meet along the way and the places you visit, but you learn more about who you are. You learn what you like to do and what you don’t like. You get to push your limits and you understand that you are only held back by yourself. Traveling alone allows you to see the world differently and in my opinion, experience things in a deeper way that ultimately will carry more meaning to you.

Don’t be afraid to do things on your own. Once you break free from the notion that you don’t always have to do something with others and you indeed can do things on your own, you gain a feeling of true independence.

4. I have further developed my understanding that what we do does in fact impact others.

This semester I had the opportunity to take a course on Human Rights in Global Politics. It was a fascinating course that discussed the history, theories, implementation of human rights in the world. I was the only American in the class with European students, so it was interesting to see how the views of human rights differed within the other individuals in my class. I was also lucky enough to have a great professor who taught the course and was interested in who we were as students.

A major thing that was discussed throughout the entirety of the course was the impact that certain countries have had on setting human rights standards and ensuring that these standards would be met in the world. The country discussed the most was in fact the United States.

One thing that I have come to learn is that what we do, as a nation, doesn’t just impact our lives, but impacts millions of people’s lives all over the world. People look to us for guidance in various areas, but what message are we sending them?

We, as a nation, hold an authority to influence the tides of the world. We need to ensure that we are influencing it in a positive, beneficial way rather than just in an egotistic, American exceptionalism way.  

The things that I have listed are only but a few take a-ways from my experience abroad. All these lessons have ultimately impacted who I am in a deep way and hopefully all for the better. There is a quote by Mark Twain that I have come across often during these five months and I think it is extremely relevant and it speaks to me and hopefully to you as well. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s life.”

Traveling is enlightening. Seeing the world and wanting to have a deeper understanding of not just places but of people is so important especially in our society today. If we constantly live in the mindset that our “world” is solely the place we know and we are comfortable with such as similar looking people who think and have similar opinions as we do, we are restricting our own access to knowledge and ultimately societal progress. I urge everyone to travel more and interact with other cultures and people. I urge everyone to be more open-minded and willing to actively participate in conversations about topics rather than merely turning to Facebook or Twitter and ranting about things without genuinely understanding them. Ultimately, I urge you all to be willing to engage and learn from people, places, and history.

I have been putting this post off for the better part of two weeks because it feels like a goodbye. I hate goodbyes because they seem so final. This is more of a farewell and may we meet again. I know that someday I will return to Scotland because I feel as if I am leaving part of my heart here.  But for now, I must carry on to new journeys in my life that lay ahead.