One of my favorite college experiences occurred just last summer when I studied abroad in Scotland. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that I adored the opportunity to travel and explore different cultures. I chose to study abroad in Scotland for a variety of reasons, but mainly it is because my family migrated from there generations ago and I have always felt strongly interested in Scottish nationality. There still stands a MacLellan Castle in the small town of Kirkcudbright in the southwestern region of Dumfries and Galloway, which I got to tour with a few friends. When one of my friends jokingly told the tour guide that it was “my” castle, he laughed and told me I should try paying the taxes on it for the past hundred years. While he was very kind like every person I met on my trip, Scottish pride clearly ran thick through this man’s veins.
When we were in Scotland, a movement was just beginning. I was studying at the University of Stirling, located nearby Edinburgh and Glasgow, and booths were beginning to pop up in the streets advertising “Vote Yes”. One night, I remember my room-mates coming home late and bringing a friend from the local area. I decided to ask her about the vote and what her opinion was on it. She was very young, just started studying at the university last year, but I was so impressed by her own understanding of the vote and what it would actually mean for her country to separate from the United Kingdom. Like many others who took a stand, as shown by the results a few days ago (55.3 to 44.7), she wanted to vote no to independence. Her main reasoning dealt with Scotland’s economy and, according to her, the inability to provide some services which would be necessary for an independent country. She believed they needed to remain in the UK, and I grew to support and agree with this decision over the course of this past year.
I also remember my surprise when I found out that people younger than this college aged girl were allowed to vote on the issue. A special on NPR captured my attention last week as I was visiting a few high schools in Southeast, KS. They were interviewing 16 and 17 years old high school students in Scotland who had recently gained this right to voice their opinion. A major question on the minds of many revolved around the maturity of this generation who now held power in their hands. I laughed out loud as a girl stated, “It’s not just about pop culture here anymore. We don’t just talk about One Direction. People think just because we’re young that we’re stupid, but we have real opinions. We talk about the economy and politics now.” She was so right. I think many people doubt and underestimate the youth in this world, and I experience this every day. Earlier this summer, I remember being pleasantly surprised when I met a number of high school students who seemed very driven and motivated about the future. But now I’ve realized, when young students find something they are passionate about, they are maybe even more inspired than some of the adults that I know because they realize that they can be part of change and that matters to them.
My takeaway from the Scottish vote for independence revolves around so much more than just the outcome of their decision to remain in the United Kingdom. Last year, I had the opportunity to be part of the beginning of a movement, the exploration of change. I’m still amazed every day that I have the opportunity to interact with young people who are beginning to do the same thing. It’s is overwhelming that 16 and 17 year olds have the opportunity to make life-changing decisions in other countries. But I see this happening every day as students are trying to decide their own fate and beginning a journey for themselves. It is wonderful to be part of change—big or small, in Scotland or my own state, political or personal. And I’m very thankful to witness these voices. One of my favorite quotes is from the Disney animated movie called Brave which takes place in Scotland, and I think that so many 16 and 17 year olds around the world emulate these words. “There are those who say fate is something beyond our command. That destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.”
Slange (or cheers in Gaelic, the Celtic language of Scotland),