Reflections from the Scottish Exchange

The Scottish exchange had always been a fanciful idea for me. Something I watched other girls experience and daydreamed about myself. This year I hoped to be a part of it. There were eleven girls applying and the application process is pretty competitive. Finally, the day of truth came and I was ecstatic when I found out I was going.

As soon as the selections were made the Scottish exchange stopped being a fantasy and became a reality. Most of that was due to the paperwork. Nothing says real-life like a stack of forms. As the day of departure approached the butterflies in my stomach multiplied. I was excited, but also jittery with nerves. And then there was the plane ride. There’s nothing like flying thousands of feet above billions of gallons of freezing salt water to calm the nerves. But we survived and arrived, a bit tired, but in one piece.

Life in Scotland started! Wake up. Get dressed. Brave the freezing outdoors. It became routine incredibly quickly. Now my life in the United States seems alien. American accents are a novelty. Although now it seems familiar, Scotland still surprises me. I fall asleep as fast as I can so I can wake up every morning wondering: “What will I learn today?”

One of the really interesting differences between America and Scotland is the difference in pop culture. The things that are popular here right now were popular in America several months ago. This is reflected in the clothing, the music and the way people talk.

Another difference is the architecture and layout of the cities and towns. This may sound boring, but I have found that there is a very different feeling that you get when walking down Princes Street as opposed to walking down Pine Street or Germantown Avenue. The buildings here are made of bigger stones, with a grander and more Victorian feel. The buildings in Philadelphia seem more cobbled together and possess a distinctly haphazard charm. In Scotland, the streets are wider and, more often than not, are adorned with a couple of double-decker buses. In Philadelphia streets are narrow and usually full of bumper-to-bumper Toyotas and minivans.

~ Lucy Curtis, Grade 8 exchange student from Germantown Friends School, Philadelphia, USA to St. George’s School, Scotland

A perspective from Orlagh, a student from St. George’s School:

When I used to think of Philadelphia I automatically thought of the cheese; I mean who doesn’t? It was our introduction day to upper school when I first found out about the North American exchange and for 3 months my family and I called it “The Canadian Exchange.” Little did I know that I was not going to be going to Canada, but Philadelphia!

It was a few days before Lucy arrived and I started to realise that I had somebody I didn’t know, arriving from America in 3 days, living in my house. It’s a scary thought, but I generally think I was too excited to see anything odd about the situation! On the morning Lucy arrived I was bubbling…I spilt my hot chocolate everywhere trying to run to the library, where we were meeting them, 15 minutes before I was due to! Unfortunately the plane was delayed a little so we got to miss some of period one. It was so weird putting faces to names (and distorted Skype faces to names…) but within the first hour Lucy and I were laughing over jokes and getting in trouble for being too loud! Lucy and I have done many things since she came, including going up to St. Andrews and going into Edinburgh. We have found common ground and have found out about all the differences between St. Georges and GFS! I am so glad that I have been chosen to take part in this exchange and look forward to going to GFS on the return journey.

~ Orlagh, exchange student from St. George’s School, Scotland to Germantown Friends School, Philadelphia, USA