Update from Sarah Zemelman at Gordonstoun in Scotland

I arrived in Scotland a few days before my exchange experience was due to begin. By the time school started, I was one of the few exchange students who was completely over jet lag, which made my transition much easier. When I first stepped into the school, students were just coming back from their winter break. There were shouts of greeting and many hugs shared between friends. Wondering if I would ever become a part of such a tight-knit community, I unpacked my bag and tried to make my dorm room into a home.

Almost immediately, students came to greet me. First the other exchange students, just as bewildered as I was, sought each other out. Then my dorm mates, amidst screaming and running down the halls, welcomed me to the school. At Gordonstoun, I’ve found a community of students that are brilliant, funny, warm, and welcoming. Boarding immediately became a joy. I love living with so many wonderful people, although I am grateful that I have a room to myself. Kids come to Gordonstoun from all over the world. I’ve met exchange students from Denmark, New Zealand, and Germany, and full-time students from Nigeria, Russia, Poland, Spain, and countless other countries. I have yet to meet a student, save myself, who is fluent in only one language.

Every day is an adventure of new experiences. So far I have shot a gun for the first time and joined a sewing class, two activities that are entirely against my nature. Students attend chapel every day, which lead to my first communion service. Navigating the campus still proves to be a challenge, but wandering aimlessly is absolutely worthwhile because the school grounds are so beautiful.

Classes are very different than those at Athenian. Each class seems to be teaching towards the next test, but they are all very interesting. Every student takes Chemistry, Physics, and Biology at the same time. In Literature class, we have yet to write an essay. At the moment, we are reading and analyzing Blood Brothers, a musical that is well known in the UK. In history class, we are studying the Cold War. It is fascinating and entertaining to learn US history through European eyes.

As beautiful as Gordonstoun is and the people in it are, I can’t help thinking of the beauty I left behind. I miss the view of Mount Diablo just outside of Athenian’s classrooms. I miss bringing my own lunch: being gluten-free has proved to be difficult. I miss walking the streets of Berkeley. Most of all, I miss you guys. Regardless of where you are in the world, it is the friends you have that make your experience. The wonderful friends I’ve made here have made me more grateful for the friendships I have back home.

I am so excited to continue a wonderful experience at Gordonstoun!