Last week was a big one for me—it was my 21st birthday and Thanksgiving right in a row! I got to experience what having these celebrations in a foreign country is like, and despite all the ups and downs, I ended up having an amazing time.
On my birthday, which was Wednesday, November 23rd, I took snapchats of all my birthday-related activites (I kind of like using snapchat if you haven’t picked up on that). Here’s what my birthday was like for me in Scotland.
I spent time with both older and newer friends on my birthday, and after class in the morning I spent time with one of my closest study abroad friends I’ve made here in Edinburgh.
One thing you’ll find when you have your birthday in another time zone is that your celebration gets extended! My birthday started here before it did back home and ended later back home than it did here, so that means a longer amount of time for birthday wishes from family and friends. In fact, my first real birthday activities were my family and my best friend from home FaceTiming me to wish me happy birthday, despite it still being the night beforehand in their time zone. Even though I really missed the people who were far away, it was kind of nice to have an extended birthday 🙂
Next came the best part of my whole birthday this year: my best friend from UR flew in from her study abroad program in Europe to visit me!!
It was so very nice to be with someone who knows me so well on such a big birthday. It made me feel a little bit like I really was home. I got to show her around the city on my birthday and over the next couple days, which included going on the Potter Trail together. (That’s the free walking tour of all Harry Potter-related Edinburgh locations.)
Then Faith and I tried out a tea place in New Town called Eteaket that I had been wanting to go to for a long time. I highly recommend it! It was also a great place to catch up with an old friend.
We went to my church’s weekly connect group together where we had dinner, studied God’s Word and talked about Advent, and Faith got to meet a lot of my friends here. It was fun being around so many people I care about on this special day.
You may have noticed that I drank a whole lot of tea on my birthday. Being here in the U.K. has definitely fed the flames of my tea obsession. I’m actually not sure how many cups I had already drunk that day (at least 4 I’d say between breakfast, my rather large tea latte with Gianna, and my entire pot of tea at Eteaket), but did that stop me from having another cup at connect group? Nope.
To finish out the night, I took Faith back through the Christmas markets and we got Nutella donuts from a stand there called the Nutella House. The Edinburgh Christmas Market is incredible. There are all kinds of food and rides and gifts and Christmas music. You can hardly help but feel happy and get in the Christmas spirit when you walk through that market. It was a great way to end the night—before Faith and I stayed up talking for hours and hours, of course, because that’s what best friends do.
That’s about everything I did on my actual birthday. The next day, however, instead of having a traditional Thanksgiving, I actually had a birthday party at my flat with all of my friends here. One thing to note about turning 21 in most foreign countries is that you can already purchase alcohol there by age 18. It does take the impact out of your birthday a little bit and you might have to remind some of your friends why it’s such a big deal to you. However, I did get the experience of being carded for the first time when I bought some wine from the grocery store for my wine and cheese-themed birthday party, so I feel like I pretty much experienced that side of turning 21 about as much as I needed to.
So, that’s how my birthday was over here in Scotland! I really enjoyed celebrating with my sweet friends here in Edinburgh. It didn’t feel quite as perfect as it might seem, perhaps; especially leading up to it, there were moments where I wanted nothing more than to be home with my family, particularly since my twin brother was celebrating his birthday as well and this was one of the first birthdays where we weren’t together. Like much of my study abroad experience, the pictures make it look more clear-cut than it actually is. You will feel lonely at times if you celebrate your birthday away from home. However, you can still do everything you can to find home where you are. That’s what I tried to do for this special day. For the most part, I think I succeeded in this, but I can’t really take any of the credit for that. God has blessed me in incredible ways here with friends who feel more like family. In all the ups and downs, these people who God intentionally placed in my life have been there for me. I’m so very thankful for that. I’m thankful for the bright spots of light that my friends were for me on these cold Edinburgh nights.
To close, I actually did get to have a real Thanksgiving dinner here with my church! They held an outreach event on Sunday night where we a dinner of American-esque Thanksgiving cuisine followed by a ceilidh, or Scottish dance. I loved the multiculturalism of having an American activity followed by a Scottish activity—like being home, but with a twist! It was such a fun night. It reminded me of a few things that I’m thankful for: my family and friends back home, my church family here, everyone who came to the ceilidh, good food, good tea, ceilidh dancing (because it’s super fun), and the love of Christ. He is the source of all good things and I am so thankful to Him.
Happy belated Thanksgiving! Till next time!