Big things happening!
You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging very regularly since we got to Scotland. Well, there are reasons for that. #1, I didn’t want to depress people or sound all gripe-y or whiney by expressing my true feelings, but I couldn’t lie and say I was having a wonderful time, either. #2, I was so caught up in reading 24/7 that all I wanted to do after homework was watch Deadwood with Logan and eat Oreos.
So, here’s the news. I’m withdrawing from the university.
When Logan and I first planned on coming to Scotland, we assumed we would stay the whole year, but we also left it open-ended because we knew were taking a risk. That’s why we’re doing this while we’re young, before there’s kiddos or mortgages or car payments. There was always that chance that something would go wrong, or we wouldn’t like the program, or I wouldn’t be able to handle the workload.
When we first got here, as you all know, it was awful. Aberdeen is gorgeous, yes, but the homesickness was bad, bad, bad. Like we’ve-got-to-get-out-of-here-pronto bad. But we stuck through it. We’ve been here for over six weeks, and we finally feel like we are settling into somewhat of a routine. We found a big grocery store only 1/2 mile away that has everything we need. We know how to get around downtown, and we found a cute little independent theater called the Belmont Picturehouse. There’s a pub with excellent fish-and-chips just up the road. And the most exciting news: Logan got a job! Not just any job, but his DREAM JOB. He sold climbing/hiking/camping equipment at an outdoor store in the mall, and he loved it. He said he worked with some really great people, and it was the best first day at a job he’d ever had. He actually looked forward to going to work every day and talked about how awesome it was to work there when he came home.
What more could we need?
Oh yeah, a Master’s degree.
The University of Aberdeen is prestigious with excellent resources for research. Their Divinity program is increasingly growing more renowned. But there’s one problem: It’s their systematic theology program that is so great. I’m here doing a Religious Studies degree, so I thought that some of the courses offered would be, you know, religious-studies oriented. As it turns out, in the 6 classes I have to take to complete the degree, only 1 is something I would want to specialize in. The other five are systematic theology (2), practical theology, church history, and a required class about writing the dissertation and how theology in the university works. Since they don’t let you pick your classes until the Friday before classes start, I didn’t know that their actual “religion” classes were so few.
True, the one class I wanted to take (called Interpreting Myth) is being taught by a professor who has written numerous books about religious myth and is an authority in the field–like, he’s on the Wikipedia page. While that would be AWESOME to take that class under his teaching, it’s only one class. I don’t want to waste my time and money on a Master’s degree that would leave me with 6 random classes and nothing that I specialized in.
Another thing is, when I first applied to this program, I assumed that I was going to get a doctorate and this was only a step along the way (so, 1 year Masters at a prestigious university = perfect). However, over the summer and since I’ve been in Scotland, some of my priorities have changed. While getting a doctorate has not been ruled out, I started thinking that maybe I would just end with a Masters, at least for now. And if that is the case, I definitely need a program that has more class hours (at least 30–this one has 18…although they do seem to be much harder classes) and enables me to specialize in something. I want the majority of my classes to have to do with what I’m specializing in, not just one of them. When I graduate, I want to be educated as a specialist in Old Testament, or Religion, or whatever. I’m not doing this just to put some letters after my name so I can get a job–I’m paying good money for the education, and I want to get it in the area that I want to get it in (worst grammar ever. Sorry about that).
Here’s the kicker: I originally thought that I would stay through the semester and at least have 2 classes on my transcript from a Scottish university. BUT my advisor told me that if I withdrew before the end of October, I would get a full refund of my tuition. If I decided to stay through the semester, the university policy says that I would only get 40% of my tuition back no matter how many classes I’d taken. That means paying almost $10,000 for two–yes, TWO–classes. Money talks sometimes. As the daughter of a CPA, I am fully aware of that. If they had only made us pay for two classes individually, we probably would have stayed through the semester, but that’s not their policy. So, we are coming home.
(Note: My decision to go does not reflect upon the quality of the university–my professors are all incredibly smart and helpful and interesting, and the campus and resources are wonderful. This is just how it turned out for me, and it’s my own preferences that would make me stay or leave.)
So, you see the dilemma. We can call this a mistake if that’s what suits it, but to be honest I think I’ll still be glad I came. I was able to study systematic theology for a month at one of the best places to do systematic theology in the UK. Logan and I will have spent some time abroad and broadened our worldview. Our relationship has developed, and we’ve matured 10 times over. We’ve had to grow up.
It’s really hard for me to not blame myself and feel incredibly guilty for dragging Logan and both sets of our parents through all these preparations for it not to work out. Believe me, I do blame myself and feel incredibly guilty, especially for Logan not being able to keep his dream job because we’re moving back. He just went through agony trying to get a summer job back home, then we move here and he has to apply to jobs again, then he gets an awesome one and has to quit so he can go look for jobs again back home. It’s not fair to him at all, and I feel like a huge jerk.
I keep telling myself that there is no way I could have known it would work out this way. I think part of the reason that this happened is because I rushed into it–I knew without a doubt that I wanted to pursue a Masters, and I saw this incredible opportunity and took it. Everyone told me that I needed to go to a better school that the local ones back home, and this was the most prestigious option that had the lowest cost. So we jumped. If I hadn’t been trying to graduate/get married/combine and move all of our stuff/ get a visa/ get finances worked out/ get a summer job, maybe I would have sat down for a second and thought, “is this what I want to do?”
As I sit here, I’m still questioning what I want to specialize in. I’m thinking, you know, if I went back to HSU or Baylor or somewhere else closer to home, I could do Old Testament and get to do more Hebrew and ancient Near East studies (both of which I love!). Do I really need to go to a big, prestigious university to get a good education? Do I even want to be a university professor with a doctorate, or will I be just as happy being a teacher/professor at a community college or being in some sort of religious publishing? What are my limits?
One thing I know is that I want to work to live, not live to work. I want my work to be done at 5 so I can do things that I like to do–like cook big meals for my family and spend time with them and go to their school plays. I want to take road trips to the mountains and go hiking/climbing on the weekends without worrying about work (I know that’s an ideal, but it’s an ideal worth shooting for). I want to be learning my whole life, but I don’t necessarily want to be studying my whole life. I’m still trying to figure out what’s important in life and what I want to do. And geez, I’m only 21! I think I need to take a breath. I haven’t had time to just “be” since last fall, when I applied to Aberdeen and Logan proposed and the ball started rolling. So maybe this adventure was just what I needed to make me stop and think.
So call me crazy, call me spoiled, call me weak. Those things are probably all true. But I’m going to do what is best for me, for Logan, for our marriage, for our future, and for our health. If that means I wasted time and money coming here, then that’s what that means, but I’m already here and I can’t go back and change it. I’m going to make the best of this experience even if it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.
Our biggest fear is that people we love will think we failed. It was this huge hype for us to come to Scotland, and everyone we know was informed. Well, let me just say that I hope by reading this post, you realize that we aren’t just coming home because we are homesick. We were getting over that part slowly but surely. We thought coming here was the best decision we could make concerning my education and finances, and as it turns out, going home is now the best educational/financial decision we can make. So, that’s what we’re doing.
Plans change, and we’re trying to have integrity by admitting that and being flexible. It would be worse for us to stay here and waste our money on an education that’s not suited to what I wanted to get. That’s why I’m going to try hard NOT to come back with my tail between my legs (even though I’m sad it didn’t work out).
We are flying back home in a week and a half, so we still have some time to enjoy the city and get things prepared.
We still appreciate your prayers and thoughts. Thanks for sticking with us through thick and thin. We love you more than you know.
See you soon! We can’t wait to be home.