Discovering The Hillwalker in Me: Life After Scotland



It has been over ten months since I left Glasgow, Scotland. I spent eight weeks in that lovely country, discovering the hillwalker in me. My departure felt bittersweet: a clear, sunny day in Glasgow winked its good-bye to me as it shrunk from my view in the ever-ascending airplane. My transition back in the U.S. left little time for me to dwell on what I had left behind. The days immediately after my return were packed with moving into the dorm, leading the freshmen orientation, and becoming acquainted with my underclassmen. It felt as if the U.S. was trying to squeeze my thoughts of Scotland out of me before wanderlust could kick in. At first, I thought it did.

I was wrong.

Despite the immediate transition to the U.S., I still found myself longing for the green hills of the Scottish Highlands. The hillwalker in me kept yearning for the exhilarating hike up the Munro, Schiehallion, for gorgeous view at the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, and for the chance to finally hike up Haunting Glen Coe. The greatest gift my study abroad trip in Scotland gave to me was a simple outdoor activity I thoroughly enjoyed and a way to overcome my fear of insects and plants (yes, plants, it’s a short story for another time).

And so, the hillwalker in me planned my family’s first ever hiking trip in North Carolina, a simple one, to share with them my newfound appreciation of the outdoors. Our little hike consisted of stealing each other’s branches, struggling to push our baby sister’s stroller up the steep path, the simple joy of being with one another. The small things that made my siblings and I laugh, whether it was poking fun at our panting parents or racing each other up the mountain (not the best idea), made me reflect on the days of my childhood.

It reminded me of the time my family first arrived in the U.S., many years ago, where entertainment did not linger on the television but instead, the free parks and the open desert at our backyard in Arizona. It brought me back to our life back in the Philippines when we yearned for the chance to play outside, in the little plot of farmland my grandfather owned. My almost-forgotten childhood of chasing dragonflies, being chased by annoyed cows, and being pelted by the little monkey living in the scraggly tree at the end of the field.

These memories resurfaced as my family reached up the top of that short hiking trail in North Carolina and, with that, my thoughts went back to Scotland. I am grateful for my study abroad experience in Scotland, not only for the academics that made me a better student since my return, but for the wanderlust it planted in my heart. The hillwalker in me is truly just the little girl from the Philippines who loved playing outside, the one who wasn’t scared of bugs or plants, and the one who enjoyed the smallest little treat. The hillwalker, after many years hiding indoors, finally emerged to once again seek the adventure out there.

Ariella Poon is a student at Nova Southeastern University, an ISA Global Ambassador, and an ISA Guest Blogger. She studied abroad in Glasgow, Scotland.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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