Will they really all be wearing kilts? How in the world will I be able to understand their accent? Will I get to pet a fluffy Highland cow?
These are just a few of the questions I remember thinking as I sat in the window seat of a small plane headed to the Granite City by the sea: Aberdeen, Scotland. Thinking back to that time, I remember being so excited to see this new piece of the world, a little nervous, and determined to use my time wisely in order to share the gospel with the people I met. What truly helped me the most in getting settled in the new city was knowing that I wasn’t alone, that God would be faithful to provide what I needed. And so, faithful he was! I soon found out that one of my flatmates, Megan, was a Christian too and asked if I wanted to visit some churches with her in the first few weeks we were there. We also found out that there was an on-campus ministry, the Christian Union, which had a ton of fun events going on that first week! This is where I met some of my really great friends. I remember finding myself being welcomed into flats, given a cup of tea, and laughing and talking into the night just like I’d always been part of the group.
I ended up finding a great gospel-centered church to be a part of, which I found out a lot of my new friends also attended! On Sunday nights, there was even a college student night in which we were able to listen to a talk and then split up into smaller groups to pray and discuss questions together. It felt just like a college community group back at Mercy Hill! Although I did travel quite a bit in my first month there, I ended up realizing that I missed Aberdeen and the people there too much each time I left. I had such great community there, and I also knew that so many on the campus (and even my four other flatmates) may not have ever heard the gospel before. So, for my final few months, I mostly stayed in Aberdeen. I was able to be more intentional in my friendships with people in my classes and have some great conversations about what we believe. I grew close with my Christian friends as well. It’s so amazing that sharing a love for Jesus really makes you feel like family. We did so many things together: dances at traditional Ceilidhs, board games, movies, eating paninis, and we even went on a Christian Union retreat one weekend in a town called Braemar.
As amazing as this all sounds (and was), it was still hard at some points. One of the most important things to know if you’re thinking about studying abroad is that you’re still you even though you may be in a different country. That means you’re still going to struggle with the same things as you did in the States. Many times over there I’d skip doing a devotion in the morning because I’d say I’m too busy or that I simply didn’t feel like it. This brings up one of the great things about studying abroad with Mercy Hill: I was asked to go online and fill out a check-in form once every two weeks so that I could be encouraged in the word and that my contact person whom I was paired with could know how to be praying for me. I both loved and sometimes dreaded filling these out because they were convicting when I struggled with my time with the Lord. One of the questions that I answered each time was “What is the sweetest thing about the gospel to you right now?” which always helped redirect my heart back to a place of worship.
It truly was such a special time, and I’m so glad I was able to go make lifelong friends with people from all over the world, see some beautiful cities and landscapes, and how God is still working in the UK!
-Emma Diaz (Recent MH College Graduate)