TO celebrate the Year of Young People, every week in 2018 The National is giving a platform to young Scots. This week, 23-year-old medical student Shannon Cowie.

AS a young person studying medicine, one of the first questions I am asked by family and friends is, “What kind of doctor would you like to be?” My response is always the same; I have no idea but I know for sure that I’d like to be able offer a service in Gaelic to those who can speak the language.

The first question is usually followed by, “So, which island do you want to live on?” People are quick to associate Gaelic language with the Highlands and Islands, but I can honestly say, as someone who comes from the Highlands, I have never used my Gaelic as naturally, or as regularly, as I do in Glasgow. Gaelic is a living language across the whole of Scotland.

I was educated through the medium of Gaelic as a child in Inverness, despite coming from a family of non-Gaelic speakers. I think the decision to enrol me in a Gaelic medium unit was tough for my parents. They wanted to be involved in my education, but were uncertain of how possible that would be given that they didn’t speak Gaelic.

As it turned out, the whole experience was very positive for us and my parents were extremely involved in my education. They would definitely recommend Gaelic-medium education as a good option for any family.

I studied pharmacology for four years at the University of Glasgow and following my graduation in 2016 I progressed to a medical degree. In my first year at university I was able take Gaelic as a subject alongside pharmacology modules. However, once my studies intensified and I was no longer able to study Gaelic formally, I began to realise just how important the language and culture was to me as a person. I really craved the opportunity to keep using Gaelic so I applied to take part in the university’s Gaelic Residency Scheme, Taigh na Gàidhlig, and got more involved with the Ossianic Society, both of which greatly increased my confidence as a Gaelic speaker.

While participating in an exchange trip with an Irish Language Residency Scheme at University College Dublin, I began to make comparisons with Scotland and ask questions like, “Why can I not use Gaelic in as many situations as there seems to be here?” The passion and energy that young people in Ireland had for their language was infectious and really made me reflect on what I was personally doing to support Gaelic. I began to realise I’d been taking it all for granted. I now use Gaelic daily in my social circle and more formally through my involvement with various Gaelic groups.

For me, Gaelic is very much a living language that I am proud and comfortable to use in any circumstance whenever the opportunity arises.

Gaelic is a normal language of communication just like any other, and should be treated as such. Being a Gaelic speaker, and embracing opportunities to use the language and to be involved in various initiatives around me, has given me such a broader outlook on the world and an appreciation of different cultures, including our own. It is an inherent part of Scottish culture and identity and I look forward to incorporating this into my career as a Scottish medical professional.