Study Abroad: Scotland and Ireland 2023

By: Macy Dame ’23

The Kentucky Wesleyan College Singers embarked on a singing tour of Scotland and Ireland in May 2023. The group performed at Laidlaw Music Centre at the University of St. Andrews (St. Andrews, Scotland), St. Giles Cathedral (Edinburgh, Scotland), St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Belfast, Northern Ireland), and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Dublin, Ireland). 

Our singing tour of Scotland and Ireland was nothing short of a beautiful, life changing experience. This trip was the culmination of a year’s worth of classroom rehearsals, love for our fellow ensemble members, and a dedication to share our love of music and KWC with pride. Each member of our choir sacrificed time and money to make this trip happen. But we didn’t do it without help, and I would be remiss to not give a special thank you to sponsors and those that provided financial donations for us. Professor Dennis Jewett and the administration of our college ensured that every student that wanted to go on this trip had the opportunity. Professor Jewett arranged scholarships that students would be able to apply for, organized fundraisers, and enlisted the help of the college for students in financial need. Even college president Dr. Mitzel offered a personal scholarship to one of our choir members. I believe it is incredibly important that our professors and administrators had such a key role in helping us afford this trip. It speaks volumes of the strong community of Kentucky Wesleyan College, and genuinely made the difference in allowing us to go on the trip of a lifetime.  

Edinburgh Airport, Scotland. Photo courtesy of Dakota DeGraw, 2023.

From the moment we arrived at the airport, I had a very special feeling about our trip. When a young college student like myself has the opportunity to visit a different country, there is the feeling that their life is beginning. Visiting Scotland and Ireland allowed me to feel as though my life is happening and unfolding before my eyes. As we greeted the welcoming and kind people of Dundee, Scotland, an overwhelming excitement and sense of community thrived within our choir and my own heart. The beauty of the city of St. Andrews was most certainly one of my favorite moments of the trip. It is a very unique sensation to understand that you are in the process of making memories that you know will remain with you all of your lifelong. At St. Andrews, we visited the historical college where Prince William met Princess Kate, and explored sites of major religious significance. We performed our first concert at St. Andrews in the newly renovated Laidlaw Music Centre.  

The Kentucky Wesleyan Singers perform at Laidlaw Music Centre at the University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland.

This concert was particularly memorable because it was a collaborative concert. We had the very special and privileged opportunity to sing with the prestigious choir of St. Salvator, an English university. It was so special to meet these choir members, and I will never forget the opportunity to have dinner with these kind students. After the concert, we dined with the St. Salvator choir at a local restaurant and sang after our dinner. It was a beautiful moment to build relationships with students our age and to sing wonderful music with them. This experience taught me that, as humans, we have far more similarities than differences. Our love of music brought us together from across the world and allowed us to bond with one another.  

Another wonderful musical moment of Scotland was the ability to sing in St. Giles church in Scotland’s capital of Edinburgh. After exploring the historical city, we sang in the most absolutely beautiful church I have ever seen. The candlelight and gorgeous blue ceilings with gold accents created a peaceful and special environment. The opportunity to sing here was the closest feeling to magic I have ever experienced, and several of our choir members became overwhelmed with emotion and joy. This had to have been my favorite concert, and several local citizens even asked us to sing in a store that we visited. It was an absolutely wonderful way to end our time in Scotland, and we were left with beautiful memories of singing in the streets, meeting new friends, and learning about other cultures. 

Our journey from Scotland to Ireland was a day full of adventure and fun. During a bus ride to a ferry, we were given the opportunity to explore a lovely beach. It was absolutely gorgeous, and everyone got their fill of sand, seashells, pictures, and seawater.

Macy Dame explores a beach along the southwestern shore of Scotland overlooking Alisa Craig in Girvan, Scotland.

After this excursion, we took a ferry ride to reach Belfast, Northern Ireland. Belfast matched Scotland in beauty and hospitality. The historical sites were equally as impressive, and the kindness and friendliness of the locals was wonderful. Our choir had a blast singing in the hotel lobby in the morning, and transitioned to a more serious concert as St. Patrick’s cathedral in the afternoon. It was breathtaking to be in a place that had such historical and religious significance, and I particularly enjoyed singing and attending the mass at this church. St. Patrick’s cathedral reminded me of our strong ties and connections to the Irish people as Kentucky natives. I know that my ancestors come from Ireland, and Professor Jewett wonderfully explained that several of the hymns and song selections for our concert originally came from Irish tunes.  

The final stop of our tour was in Dublin, Ireland. Dublin was a city full of diversity, life, and a unique blend between modern and historic culture. As our tour guide said, Dublin is “a place where it’s happening!” I enjoyed finding the last names of my ancestors and printing out a copy of my family’s crest in Dublin. I also bought several hats and headbands made of wool and cashmere. These were probably my favorite souvenirs, and they symbolize Dublin’s unique shopping opportunities and fun tourist attractions. In Dublin, we sang at a different St. Patrick’s cathedral, but it was equally magnificent. The intricate stained-glass windows and flooring glowed as we sang, and it was a beautiful way to end our tour.

The Kentucky Wesleyan Singers enjoy a guided tour of Dublin, Ireland. Photo courtesy of Dakota DeGraw, 2023.

During our flight and journey home, I was given time to reflect on my experiences on this wonderful adventure. In my reflection time, I realized that I had learned so much about myself, my fellow choir members and the world. I talked with several members of the choir that I had never connected with before, and made incredible memories with them. I learned just how large our world is, but just how much we all have in common with one another. I know that I will remember my time in Scotland and Ireland for the rest of my life. All of the laughs, new friendships, and adventures absolutely changed my life. I came back feeling as though I was a completely new person. I feel that my life has truly begun, and I feel as though I can achieve my wildest dreams and loftiest goals. I am forever grateful for this amazing opportunity, and will never forget this wonderful adventure.