Presbyterian College students go back to their roots in Scotland

Presbyterian College students go back to their roots in Scotland

“For PC students, Scotland is a ‘must do’ because it serves as a reminder of how important the Scottish heritage is to PC. From John Knox, the Celtic cross, and Presbyterianism, to Blue Hose, kilts, and bagpipes, Presbyterian College is quintessentially Scottish,” said Dr. Roy Campbell concerning the Maymester trip he recently led to Scotland along with Dr. Dean Thompson.

The view from the hotel in Oban

Campbell and Thompson took 38 students to Scotland with the goal of teaching students about both Scottish nationalism and literature. Interestingly, over half of the students on the trip were of Scottish descent.

Riding the Jacobite, the steam locomotive featured in the Harry Potter films, across the historic 21-arch viaduct also prominently displayed in the films.

Prior to the trip, Campbell, professor of history, taught a course titled “Scotland the Brave: A History of Scottish Nationalism.” The course explored the history of nationalism in Scotland from the Wars of Independence (1296-1357) through the referendum for independence in 2014, placing particular emphasis on historical figures such as William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots, and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Students experienced the history of Scotland firsthand in their visits to sites such as Edinburgh Castle, the home of the crown jewels and Stone of Destiny, and Stirling, the locale where William Wallace and Robert the Bruce vanquished the English to help Scotland gain independence in 1314.

“The best part of the trip was being able to see how much of an effect Scottish history still has on its people today,” said Logan Parker. “Talking to people in pubs, restaurants, and even taxis, it became evident to me that the people of Scotland still have a passion and love for the country and its roots. The people know the history of their country so well and love sharing it with anyone who shows an interest.”

Eilean Donan Castle

Thompson, the Mary Henry and de Saussure Davis Edmunds Professor of English, also taught a course leading up to the trip that focused on a Christian allegorical reading of the Harry Potter novels with an introductory nod to the works of Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Once in Scotland, students enjoyed a literary walking tour of Edinburgh that focused on Scottish authors and poets including the aforementioned Burns and Stevenson, as well as Sir Walter Scott and Muriel Spark. They also had the opportunity to visit various sites in Edinburgh that served as inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, such as the grave of Thomas A. Riddle (Lord Voldemort) and the Elephant House, the coffee shop where Rowling worked on some of her novels.

Dr. Campbell and Dr. Thompson at Isle of Skye

“Going to Scotland made me even more interested in its history and its literature and especially the relationship between the two,” said Allison Cooke. Cooke suggested that she may consider attending graduate school in Scotland after graduating from PC, as per Margaret Fleming ’15 who currently studies in St. Andrews.

Other highlights of the trip included visiting St. Andrews, the “home of golf,” the Isle of Skye, and Oban, a quaint fishing village, as well as riding the Jacobite, the steam locomotive featured in the Harry Potter films, from Fort William to Mallaig.

When asked the significance of the trip for him, Thompson offered, “Do you remember the scene in Field of Dreams where the baseball players of yore emerge from the corn, look in wonder at the glowing outfield before them, touch it to make sure it’s real, and then run on to it to play the game, whooping with joy? I think of that scene every time I take a group abroad, as students move from hesitation to exhilaration, looking downcast only when we have to return home.”

Rebecca Corley, in response to a question about how her experiences in Scotland changed her, said, “Anytime someone studies abroad I believe they are changed a little bit. For me, this opportunity allowed me to see the differences in a culture that I originally thought would be very similar to my own because of the common language.” For Corley, the highlights of the trip included exploring the Scottish highlands and learning alongside two of her favorite professors.

“Traveling abroad with PC students remains the highlight of my 14 years at the College,” said Campbell. “Not only does it give students the chance to learn about the history and culture of other people outside of the classroom, but, by doing so, our students learn even more about themselves. What students always conclude is that the world is a much smaller place than they realize and that people the world over share the same values, hopes, and dreams. Having our Blue Hose out in the world is a wonderful thing and, to me, the essence of a PC education.”

“Every new friend I make and every pocket of earth I uncover makes this world seem just a little bit smaller,” said Ben Wilkins. “I am happy to say I found an abundance of both on this trip.”

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Presbyterian College is located on a striking 240-acre campus in Clinton, between Columbia and Greenville, S.C. Offering challenging academics and a culture of honor, ethics, and service that prepares students to be leaders in communities, PC offers its students the benefit of engaging with an exceptional faculty who take individual interest in their students’ well-being, both personally and in the classroom. The Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy opened in 2010, and is dedicated to the ideals of leadership, honor to the profession, and service to the community. For more information about Presbyterian College, visit