I’ve been at the Gordonstoun School in Scotland for over five weeks now and I’ve had many notable experiences. I hope this will let you all know how things are going for me over here.
My time on exchange has taught me how sociable I can be. I’ve been going to Athenian since 6th grade and have only had to make new friends occasionally at summer camps. Never have I had an experience quite like this one. While I was quiet and reserved for a few weeks at Gordonstoun, I slowly began to extrovert myself and make many new friends. It has been really fantastic to make so many new friends from all around the world. It has given me new confidence and has eased my worries about making friends once I leave for college.
Being at Gordonstoun has made me appreciate both the relaxed environment Athenian creates as well as the democratic nature of the school. There is a uniform at Gordonstoun: black shoes, black slacks, a white button-down shirt, and a blue school sweater. I didn’t really get comfortable in it until four weeks had passed. Being in a uniform every day makes me miss the choice around what I wear to school every day. Over all though, wearing a uniform hasn’t been bad at all. More notably, I miss the democracy we have at Athenian. It seems to me that Gordonstoun is fairly bureaucratic and that things do not easily change. While many people here comment on how casual Athenian is (calling teachers by their first names), I have to keep reassuring them that our classes are still very challenging and we all work very hard. Because of the democratic nature of Athenian, we as a community can assess what needs to change and how. To me, Gordonstoun suffers somewhat from doing things traditionally because “that’s how it has been done for a long time.” Athenian benefits from playing largely by its own rules and constantly evolving to better educate its students for the modern world.
An interesting experience for me has been my participation in seamanship here at Gordonstoun. Seamanship is a three-day training program for all year 10’s in order to prepare them for a larger sailing voyage later in the springtime. Although I will leave for home before this larger sailing trip, I had a fantastic time during those three days. We began our instruction in a small school-owned building near Hopeman Harbor, and then worked our way to the boats. Still in the harbor, we began learning how to operate the many different and complex parts of the boat.
Once our instructors were satisfied with our ability to “lower and dip” the sails, we set out into the Moray Firth. (You can look it up on Google maps to get a sense of where that is.) To safely exit the harbor, we had to row for a time. I also enjoyed the rowing quite a lot, strangely.
While I have been known to get very seasick in the past—just ask Redden, Addison, Haley, or Abigail K.–I felt completely fine for the many hours we were out on the water. Unlike a few of my classmates, I was ecstatic to be out on the water instead of in classed. This experience has made me seriously consider taking up both sailing and rowing.
Both Athenian and Gordonstoun are Round Square schools and both represent the IDEALS in many ways; however, I think that Athenian is more academically challenging. For both schools, service, adventure, and internationalism are all taken very seriously and time is allotted for students to have opportunities in all of these fields. In order to make time for these, I believe that Gordonstoun somewhat reduces the difficulty of its academics. I have found that this is one of the main differences between the schools. However, the daily schedule at Gordonstoun is much fuller and simply cannot provide the time required for more nightly homework. While this may sound like an insult, I don’t intend it to be and am simply commenting on the different ways each school has decided to spend its students’ time.
Dorm life has been much more comfortable than I had assumed it would be. I’ve made many great friends in my dorm. It feels a bit like a school trip sometimes, staying in a hotel and joking around with classmates late at night. I am constantly around people my age and it’s a bit liberating to be immature around people who won’t scoff at it.
In the past five weeks, I’ve learned a lot about myself. This has been a fantastic experience that I would recommend to all. I anxiously await seeing you all when classes resume in April.