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visiting scotland for the church of scotland’s general assembly meeting was so much more than a nerdy church adventure for me. sure, it was week of meeting other youth delegates who are as invested in the church as i am, and there were plenty of debates in the assembly hall about issues ranging from pastors in same-sex marriages serving in congregations to the important pastoral care needs of transgender and non-binary folks, but it was also a deeply personal journey of growth for me.

you see, i love my work in budapest. i absolutely adore the organizations that i serve with, the communities that i work with each day, and the sense of satisfaction that comes from being a contributing member of those communities after a long time of integration. however, living in hungary itself is a bit of a different story. here, i am constantly ostracized by society at large for a number of reasons, namely that i am: a woman, american, progressive, slightly overweight, fall on the LGBTQ spectrum, and am pro-refugee. most hungarians don’t tend to respond well to these things and, in many different ways, this has really affected me and my mental health here. living in a society that doesn’t want you takes a toll, even if intellectually you know that it’s utter crap.

after a long time of trying hard to make deep connections with people and still feeling a disconnect, and a long time of going on dates with a multitude of people only to be deeply disappointed and rebuked, and a long time of feeling good walking down the street only be stared at incredulously, i was feeling pretty crappy. for a few months i wondered what on earth was wrong with me – back in the states i connected with people easily and found the dating scene to be fun and exciting. here, however, i felt like something was wrong with me.

upon my arrival in scotland everything changed. when i was no longer in a hungarian context i noticed myself become visibly more buoyant and joyous (despite the cloudy scottish weather). once i no longer felt the need to assimilate to a culture much more distant and reserved than my own i became vastly more free – i honestly felt lighter on my feet and in my mind. i smiled more easily, talked more openly, and was once again confident (and almost cocky) in myself.

visiting scotland was a reminder to me that the world is bigger than any one country or context. this may be where i’m serving for now, but it’s not where i’m going to be serving forever, and i cannot let my value be determined by those around me who don’t even know me. now that i’m back in hungary i have a noticeably different outlook on my life, work, and self and it’s an absolutely beautiful thing. i’m much more conscious of how the culture around me seeps into my daily life and mindset and so i’m more ready to combat it with my own sunshiney energies.

my week-long trip to scotland was meaningful to me in so many ways, and it will forever hold a special place in my heart as the place that reminded me of my radiant core, even in the midst of the rain. i’ve also recently found out that i may have the opportunity to go back in august for the church of scotland national youth assembly – so keep your fingers crossed for that!