Awright, my name is Colin and I’m from a small town in Central Scotland called Whitburn, which is around 30 miles from Edinburgh. I’m currently in year two of my M.Ed. in Urban Teaching at UT, and I am undertaking my student teaching semester virtually from home in Oregon.
My previous degrees were in law at the University of Edinburgh, so teaching is a real change from my earlier studies. Outside my studies, I worked in university admissions and study abroad offices for both the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University before coming to UT.
When I worked in international education, the conversation would frequently turn to our own study abroad experiences. My answer to the question: “So where did you study abroad?” was always some slightly embarrassed variation of “Erm, I didn’t…”
This is pretty common for Scottish people. We don’t tend to study abroad, but we do love to travel. Through my job and for fun, I traveled to over 30 countries as well as 39 U.S. states. Travel was a huge part of my life before coming back to school, and it’s something I have missed this year.
After working in higher education for around a decade, I was beginning to consider my career options. I had been considering teaching for a few years and started looking into programs in the U.S., given I spent 10 years telling students to study abroad but had never done so myself.
I’d visited Austin for work and knew I liked the city and its surroundings, so UT was quickly on the shortlist. It was confirmed soon after when I met with some of the staff and students in the department I had applied to and felt welcomed instantly.
These past six months have been rough, with everyone facing unprecedented challenges. Community is a big part of life in Scotland, and when Scottish people live abroad, we tend to find each other. I received a text from a friend to say he’d passed my number onto a colleague whose husband had just moved to Austin. Sure enough, I got another text later from a guy called Tristan who asked if I wanted to watch football (soccer for all of y’all Americans!). It turned out we both supported Rangers, the most successful club in Scotland.
Becoming friends with someone from home has been incredibly helpful in settling, but the community I found in my program and the student organizations I joined are equally as important. The people I have met and worked with in Austin have made me feel at home and I’ve made friends I will stay in touch with for life.
My wife and I initially came to Oregon on vacation in mid-June 2020. When we both found out we’d be able to respectively work and study/teach remotely, we decided to stay to be nearer to her family and friends. While Oregon isn’t quite Scotland (no Irn Bru for a start), the weather, the landscape and the people make me feel like I’m at home.
This was particularly important for us this year, as my wife and I contracted COVID-19 in April. We were probably only sick for a week or two, but we were exhausted for four weeks afterward.
We’re thankfully OK now, but our community of friends and colleagues from school helped us out. They made sure we had groceries and dropped off meals and medicine for us, too. This played a part in our decision to move to Oregon — there really is no place like home.