How God called Elizabeth to Scotland

Posted by Hannah Gaschler on 7/3/24 8:34 AM

Elizabeth Shannon in Scotland

“I’m tired. It’s time to just live the 9-5 life," Elizabeth Shannon (History, '20) thought after graduating from PHC. Four years later, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Modern History at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She completed her Master's in Intellectual History there this past August. 

Shannon initially worked in northern Virginia after graduation. She taught three days a week at Loudoun Classical School and did museum education twice a week at the George C. Marshall International Center. But by October, she changed her mind about graduate school.Why a PHC alumna founded Loudoun Classical School

Elizabeth at St. AndrewsShannon wanted the experience and soft skills her brother gained from studying in London for his Ph.D., and she had heard about St. Andrews from another PHC student. It was also the only school she considered that offered intellectual history, and studying history from a non-American perspective intrigued her.  

However, Shannon worried about leaving her settled life. “I have two jobs I really love, a church family that I really love, community and friendships here that I really love. Why would I uproot myself–move to another country–for a degree that I don’t really need?” When she talked with Dr. Robert Spinney, he told her that now was the time to go if she had the opportunity, the means, and the desire. Shannon applied to St. Andrews in October of 2021.

St. Andrews accepted her two months later, and she prepared to move. 

elizabeth shannon
Shannon quickly found a close community. Many international students attend St. Andrews, and her Master's program included people from England, Nigeria, Switzerland, and Dubai. She enjoyed comparing life with people, like learning how the French take their coffee or how people in Luxembourg learn three to four languages in school.

Church in ScotlandShe interacts with non-Christians more than she did while homeschooling and later while studying at PHC. “All of that has been wonderful preparation for being challenged in my faith—to actually be bold and unashamed of the gospel,” she said. Attending church has provided a sense of the church universal for her. 

In Shannon’s first semester, she took a two-hour seminar on Mondays and another one on Thursdays. In her second semester, she took one seminar and a directed reading course. In Britain, students take specialized classes earlier than they do in America, so by the time students begin post-graduate classes, schools wean them off coursework and develop their independent research skills. 

Shannon thought her Master’s program was the last stop on the academic train. But two months into the program, she approached a professor about heading toward a Ph.D., since she genuinely enjoyed learning. 

Elizabeth Shannon completing Master'sShannon's Ph.D. involves the historiography of George Marshall, since she knew a lot about him from working in his museum. “It’s been really fun to indulge in the thing that you’re interested in … and to not be beholden to a syllabus,” she said. 

Also, she has appreciated the opportunity to verbally process her thoughts with her supervising professor, something she took for granted at PHC. “It’s been nice to have that relational element restored to my education,” she said. Shannon struggled to adjust to having a different professor every week in the Master’s program. “[It] was very challenging coming from a place like PHC with such a small student-to-faculty ratio, where you develop those relationships with professors.”What it's like to attend a small collegeField of flowers by the sea She doesn’t have a plan for after she finishes the program, but she’s not worried. “I think enough of my life has unfolded unexpectedly for me to realize that it’s not just about what I would like to do or what I plan on doing, but what kind of opportunities the Lord provides, and you can really only weigh those up when they’re in front of you.”


major in history at PHC


 Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.


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