While here in Ohio, the Scottish students spent their time cheering for the Bucks, Trick-or-Treating and visiting different places. Photo courtesy Kelsey Kessler

Scotland Exchange Program provides students with chance to travel, experience new cultures

By Eman Albash

Imagine attending a formal dance where the girls wear beautiful dresses, while the boys don kilts in place of tuxedos. Or picture a school band that plays lively songs—with bagpipes.

These are some of the stereotypes associated with Scotland, which raises the question of whether or not the preconceived notions of this country are accurate or off the mark. This year, a selected group of UAHS students will have the chance to find out.

On Oct. 7, 15 high school students from St. Andrews, Scotland, arrived in Upper Arlington for the exchange program.

According to Brian Chandler, the adviser of the exchange, the Scottish students spent their time visiting different places around Columbus, including The Columbus Zoo, COSI, The Ohio State University and of course, UAHS.

This is the sixth year that Chandler has overseen the exchange, and he said he has noticed few differences between American and Scottish teenagers.

“I think [the Scottish students] are very similar,” Chandler said. “They watch a lot of the same TV shows over there, and [they have] a lot of the same interests as far as music and sports.”

Senior exchange student Keren Green from St. Andrews agreed that pop culture here is similar to Scottish pop culture. She said she listens to a lot of the same music as the students in UA and watches American TV shows, including America’s Next Top Model and The O.C.

However, Green acknowledged that America and Scotland are not entirely the same. She spent a day at UAHS attending all the same classes as her host student.

“You have more classes in the day, and music in the corridors,” Green said. “Also, [fashion] is more casual here. In Scotland, all the girls try to outdo each other and be individual.”

The Scotland Exchange students left UA Oct. 19 after experiencing a taste of American life. During spring break of 2010, their UA counterparts will in turn visit Scotland for 10 days. According to Chandler, the group will visit different places each day, including Edinburgh Castle and the University of St. Andrews.

Junior George Beck will be among the students to take the trip to Scotland. He said he decided to go to Scotland this year to experience a different culture firsthand rather than just learn about it.

“I feel like sometimes in the United States we are in our own little bubble,” Beck said. “I thought it would be interesting to see how other people do things.”

The Scotland Exchange Program differs from some of the other exchange programs at UAHS because the students only stay in a foreign country for a short amount of time.

“[The Scotland Exchange] is just kind of a cultural exchange; it is not a true year-long exchange student trip,” Chandler said. “They try to find little things to do that give you a flavor of Scotland, like we tried to find things for [the Scottish students] to do that gave them a flavor of Ohio.”

Although the exchange only lasts a short amount of time, Chandler said the students often form lasting friendships with each other.

“Many people I talk to years later are still in touch with the person they had the exchange with and they have been back to Scotland, or their person has been back here,” Chandler said. “I think it is a very positive experience, and for that, I will keep doing it.”

To ensure that the exchange students get along with their hosts and have common interests, all of the American and Scottish students took a survey and were then paired with the student who was the most similar.

Green said that she and her host have a lot in common and are almost exactly alike, aside from cultural differences related to things like taste in food and the driving age.

Whether living in an American suburb or thousands of miles away in Scotland, the Scotland exchange proves that people from different cultures can have similar interests and may even become lifelong friends.