In today’s society, the importance of higher education is taught to most children from a very early age, and while most high school graduates today have the opportunity to immediately go on to college it is far and few between for those who are given the opportunity to further their studies in another country.
Such is the case with Harlan County native Bethany Johnson, who departed Friday to travel to Scotland where she will spend a year studying towards her master’s degree.
A 2004 graduate of Harlan High School, Johnson earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Louisville where she was a double major in English and humanities.
Johnson received the scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh in Scotland by applying through a graduate study at the University of Louisville that was provided by the United Kingdoms.
“I was very excited to learn that I had received the scholarship,” said Johnson. “It is a very old school and it is famous for having a lot of old art. I really thought that being able to attend the school would be off the beaten path.”
Although Johnson said that she will only be spending a year at the University of Edinburgh working towards her master’s in cultural arts, she noted that she plans to continue her studies once she returns to the United States.
“I have not yet decided where I will attend school once I return, but I do know that I will,” said Johnson. “This is just a wonderful opportunity for me or anyone who has the chance to attend a college such as the University of Edinburgh.”
Although she said that she is happy about this rare opportunity, Johnson admits she will miss her family and friends while she is gone. However, she said she does plan to return for the holidays.
“My grandmother, Jean Wesley, who lives in Louisville, gave me the tickets to come home for Christmas break as a graduation present,” said Johnson. “So, I will definitely be able to share the holidays with my family and friends.”
After the three-week holiday break, Johnson will return to Scotland where she will stay until she finishes her year at the college in September 2009.
Although she will get a spring break, Johnson plans to spend that time traveling and touring parts of Europe that she might otherwise have not had the opportunity to see.
While Johnson said that she is certain her parents will miss her, she notes that she plans to keep in close contact while she is away.
“Everyone knows that this is a great opportunity and experience for me and even though there is a little sadness about my leaving, my family is very happy and eager for me to do this,”
Johnson said. “There is a lot of technology out there and we will be able to stay in touch as often as we like.”
Commonwealth Attorney Henry Johnson, Bethany’s father, said that while he and his wife, Brenda, will miss their daughter during this time, they are very proud of her accomplishments.
“We will miss her, especially after she goes back from the holiday break because it will be quite a while before we see her again, but this will be a great opportunity for her. And we are so proud of our little girl,” he said. “I have always told the children that they should thank me for marrying such an intelligent woman — their mother.”
Johnson, who is the eldest of two children, said she will also miss her younger brother, George, but due to the fact that he is currently attending college at Northern Kentucky University, she would not have been seeing as much of him anyway.
Johnson said that although she had no idea how many other students applied for the scholarship from the University of Louisville, she noted that only one other girl was a recipient this year.
Among Johnson’s other academic accomplishments, she received the National Merit Scholarship, which earned her the opportunity to have her picture placed inside the trophy case at the Harlan High School; the Grawemeyer Scholarship, which is the highest scholarship given by the University of Louisville; and she was a Governor’s Scholar in high school.
Johnson also received an award in outstanding humanities upon her graduation from the University of Louisville as well as being able to go to Cambridge University for summer studies.
Henry Johnson who said that although he and his wife are originally from Louisville, they have resided in Harlan for 26 years and feel as though this has become their home.
“I have always said that you can’t choose where you are born, but you can choose where you raise your children,” Johnson said.