Sofi Kaplan arrives in Scotland

My experience at Gordonstoun so far has been amazing.

The most stressful part of my trip has been the airport. Heathrow airport is huge. I ended up taking two buses within the airport just to get to my connecting flight. Traveling alone was stressful, and anyone going on exchange soon should look at maps of the airports they will be flying into.

After finally landing in Scotland, my host family drove me to Gordonstoun. I am in Windmill Lodge, and is it has been weird having to adjust to a dorm lifestyle. There are three girl’s houses and five boy’s houses spread around the campus, which is much bigger than Athenian. Windmill is one of the farthest houses from the center of campus. My first day we were late to breakfast since none of the exchanges were expecting to have to walk for ten minutes to get to the cafeteria.

The biggest adjustment I have had to make is wearing a uniform. As all the other exchanges discussed their own uniforms, I realized how lucky we are at Athenian to have the independence to wear what we want. The class schedule is fairly similar to Athenian’s, but the academics are completely different. Everyone takes three science classes; Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. I was not thrilled to hear that I would have to take Physics again, but the students in the class make it much more bearable. The biggest academic shock came when I walked into the advanced math class and they were learning scientific notation for the first time, something I have been doing since seventh grade. Students here are also limited to three homework assignments a night, each not exceeding thirty minutes. I personally think Athenian should adapt this policy as well. Academic life here is much more relaxed than at Athenian. This has been a nice change of pace, but also surprising since I was expecting a very different environment.

Student must do activities after classes. Most activities are some sport, and twice a week all the girls must play Netball. Netball is like Basketball but with way more rules, and the nets don’t have backboards. I wasn’t expecting there to be this much emphasis on sports, but almost every day I have PE or some sort of sport-based activity. Also, football (soccer) isn’t as big here as I thought, but field hockey is huge. Honestly, I didn’t really know that field hockey was a sport, but after playing it if wish it could be more popular in the US because it is so fun.

Every Saturday there is a social and the most recent one I went to was Burns night. Burns night is in honor of Robert Burns, a famous Scottish poet. We spent the night eating haggis and dancing traditional Scottish dance. It was my most memorable night so far and I am looking forward to more experiences like it.

Tomorrow I start seamanship, which consists of two-and-a-half days on a boat learning sailing skills and teamwork. Instead of having one expedition such as AWE, each year students have a smaller adventure.  In Year 10 they have a six-day sailing trip, and I am participating in their training tomorrow. It is different to be at a school where groups of people get pulled out of classes to sit on a boat for a couple of days, whereas at Athenian that only happens once in our high school career.

Overall having to adjust to a school that seems almost completely opposite to Athenian has been both fun but also challenging.