Exchange program gives students opportunity to explore variations between two communities

by oliviaMILTNER, ‘13

Imagine standing in an airport and seeing the person who will be living with you for the next 10 days face-to-face for the first time. That was what 15 UAHS seniors experienced as they welcomed their Scottish exchange students to Columbus, Ohio on Oct. 19, 2012.

Upper Arlington High School has teamed up with Madras College in St. Andrews, Scotland and has given UAHS students the opportunity to explore another culture for a few weeks out of the school year. Senior Erin Sankey is one student who is participating in this exchange program, and said that in addition to seeing the great experience her sister had with the program, she was also interested in the exchange because of her fascination with other cultures.

“As a student who loves culture and plans on being an international relations major, I am very interested in learning about other countries and people from other countries,” Sankey said.

Sankey discovered that the two cultures were actually relatively similar except for some small details such as language variations.

“The slang was one of the big differences…like instead of ‘tired’ they say ‘knackered out.’ They have aerosol deodorant which I was unfamiliar with. We were very alike other than that.”

Gemma Malek, a Scottish student who participated in the program, noticed similar differences on her visit to the U.S.

“Someone told me they liked my ‘pants.’ This was kind of weird [because] pants to me is my underwear,” Malek said. “It was pretty funny once I realized what they were actually saying.”

Another difference that Sankey noticed was the way classes and schools are structured.

“[The Scottish students] have uniforms, and their classes…are on more of a blocked schedule, so they don’t have eight classes a day like we do, they only have maybe three or four classes a day. [And] whereas we have a set schedule each day theirs is structured more like a college [that varies from day to day],” she said.

Sankey also noted how different the support for school sports is between the two countries.

“In Scotland they don’t really have American football. So when they came here they thought it was really amazing to go to an OSU game and…see the school spirit at UA games,” Sankey said. “They were talking about how they have rugby and hockey and basketball, but as far as school sports go they aren’t usually that big…and even in bigger games they don’t have nearly as many people viewing or participating as an OSU football game.”

But the Scottish program was not Sankey’s first experience with an exchange program. Previously, she participated in a U.S./German exchange her sophomore year of high school, which lasted longer than the Scottish exchange, as she lived in Germany for three weeks and the Scottish program lasts for 10 days. One variation she noted between the two programs was the language barrier, which made it difficult to create a close friendship with her partner.

“It was a little harder to connect with my exchange partner because sometimes we were talking in charades. There were a lot of hand gestures,” Sankey said.

She also saw a divergence in the structure of education when comparing both Germany and the U.S.

“The place we were visiting was rural…they have one big school and then people from all of the neighboring cities and towns go there,” Sankey said. “So there would be classmates at your school that could live 45 minutes to an hour away which is really different from here.”

Based on what she has learned from previous experiences, Sankey is excited for everything she hopes to see while visiting Scotland.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting my host family and also touring and being around a different city and different scenery,” Sankey said. “[I’m also looking forward to] being able to pay attention to other cultural differences like more language things or different foods.”