Buckle up, my friends. We’re about to go on a quick trip down history lane.
You know the cinematic excellence that is William Wallace (Mel Gibson) giving a battle speech as he rides his horse across the frontlines of the Scottish army consisting mostly of farmers and regular citizens in the movie Braveheart (loosely based on Wallace’s life)? At one point, he yells, “Alba gu bràth”, and the battle cries of men erupt in pride of their country and anger towards their enemy, the British army. Alba gu bràth is Scottish Gaelic that idiomatically translates to “Scotland forever” in English and is a statement of pride and declaration of one’s belief in Scottish independence from the crown. It is still commonly used to this day, over 700 years later, and William Wallace and others like Robert the Bruce are still figureheads found memorialized and respected across the country. The same goes for later battles, skirmishes, and freedom fighters that gave it all for Scotland down the road. For instance, we had the opportunity to visit the Battlefield of Culloden which had recently reached its somber 276th anniversary last April, where over 1,000 Jacobites (Scottish loyalists) were slaughtered by the British in less than an hour – fighting for Scottish independence. This was the site of the final battle of the Jacobite rising, and visitors were laying flowers at the Culloden Cairn and on the Clan burial markers when we were visiting, and it was enough to send chills down my spine.
When you think of the history of the United States of America, or travel to important historical sites like Jamestown, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C., it is fascinating to think about the past and all that went on during those times and letting it really sink in that you’re standing where our country’s most noted figures once stood, the Native peoples who lived there before them, and simply attempt to wrap my mind around how…well, old…it all is in the grand scheme of things. But then I traveled to Scotland and across the United Kingdom (during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, no less), and realized our history is in its mere infancy in comparison to the ancient history, legends, culture, and turmoil that is still seen and displayed today.
The opportunity to study abroad provides so much more than just a “subject matter” but is a potentially transformative experience for us as students in regard to experiencing other cultures that shines a light on the vast world beyond what we’re used to or learn in our history classes on American soil. Setting foot on the sites of such rich history of a country allowed me to gain more insight and appreciation for what the founders of my own country went through to gain that very same freedom.