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Students, teachers from Scotland spend nine-day visit in community, at JHS
By Jana Adams
A group of nine Scottish exchange students and three teachers spent a whirlwind nine days last week visiting historic sites, meeting community members, attending classes and even helping to cheer on the Jefferson Dragons during homecoming football. And at the end of their visit, they have come to the conclusion that, at heart and in the family, the Scottish and Jefferson ways of life are not so different.

Of course, there are differences - cultural, social, educational and in pretty much every other realm of life - as would be expected in lands that are an ocean apart. But as far as the people are concerned, several of the exchange students and teachers echoed a similar thought.

Shown here are the Jefferson High School and Scottish students and teachers from Argyl-Bute School System who participated in the first exchange program: (front, L-R) Stella Ward, Ashley Wheaton, Laura Smith, Christina Lindsay, (second row, L-R) Catrina McLean, Claire A. Gaskell, Gillian McLuskey, (back, L-R) Bryson Scott McGinlay, Alan Harrow, Glenda Blackstock, Fiona Descoteavoc, Ryan Herring, David Smith, Jason Lee, Peter Graham, Morag E. MacDonald, Craig McGlashan, Matthew Newton, Pat Blenke, Alastair Strickland and Jim Bryan.

"Firstly and most importantly the similarities that exist between our two peoples are remarkable in terms of family names, how close families are to each other, our shared sense of humor, the warmth and friendship given to guests and the pride felt about our countries and cultures," said Bryson Scott McGinlay, a teacher from Lochgilphead High School who "lived" with Tom and Nadine Crow.

Morag G. MacDonald, a teacher who visited Glenda Blackstock, added: "The Scots and the Georgians seem to be very similar - warm, welcoming, kind - the difference being Georgian people seem to live life at a slower pace. Scots are generally quite high strung." Student Claire A. Gaskell reiterated that idea, saying, "It is similar in that the people are so welcoming and lovely....but people don't seem to rush around as much as me."

The group from the Argyle-Bute school system in Scotland visited Jefferson and its schools as part of a new exchange program established late last school year. In June, the first group of Jefferson High School students and teachers made the trip to Scotland, to spend time with families and in school there and to experience a little bit of the Scottish way. In return, the Jefferson students and their families have served as hosts for the Scottish group this past week, exposing them to anything from historical sites such as Savannah and Stone Mountain to homecoming week tailgating parties and dances.

Locally, the host students and teachers included Ashley Wheaton, Laura Smith, Christina Lindsay, Ashley Evans, Jason Lee, Matthew Newton, Ryan Herring, Jason Carter, Michael Seibert, Jim Bryan, Glenda Blackstock and Nadine Crow. The Scottish students and teachers included Catrina McLean, Peter Graham, Craig McGlashan, Fiona Descoteavoc, David Smith, Gillian McLuskey, Claire A. Gaskell, Stella Ward, Alastair Strickland, Morag E. MacDonald, Alan Harrow and Bryson Scott McGinlay.

The Scottish group were welcomed to town October 9 with a dinner held at the Shields-Ethridge Farm for the visitors and their host families. They spent the next day at Six Flags over Georgia, and from there the nine-day visit included the following activities: a visit to the Crawford W. Long

Scottish teachers Morag E. MacDonald, Alan Harrow and Bryson Scott McGinlay spent some time with the Jefferson Dragon at the Jefferson homecoming game.

Museum; a tour of Athens and the University of Georgia; a visit to Stone Mountain, the state capitol and Underground Atlanta; a flight and day in Savannah; time in the Jefferson classrooms; a tour of Seydel-Woolley Chemical Company; participation in a homecoming parade and pep rally; a tailgate dinner at Jefferson Memorial Stadium; the JHS homecoming football game; and the homecoming dance. After church and lunch with their host families, the Scottish visitors departed for Scotland Sunday evening.
While McGinlay said the visit to the capitol and meeting the governor was "an experience I shall treasure all my life," McDonald enjoyed visiting the Martin Luther King Center and meeting a pastor who had worked with Dr. King for 10 years.

Peter Graham, who visited Jason Lee, told his host family that there was so much to see and do that it was difficult to pick just one or two favorite experiences, but he and the other students had all been looking forward to the homecoming events as being particularly new and "American."
After visiting UGA and being impressed with the facilities, several of the Scottish students said they would like to return to Georgia for college.

The differences in food, particularly the abundance of fast food in the United States, seemed to make a big impression on the Scottish visitors. Or, as MacDonald said, "Fried, everything is fried. Delicious, but bad."
"The food is nearly all fast food, not so much vegetables or healthy stuff," Gaskell said. "And there's sweet stuff for breakfast."


Jefferson and Scottish students shown enjoying the Jefferson High School homecoming football game Friday night are (clockwise from top) Fiona Descoteavoc, Ashley Wheaton, Matthew Newton, Catrina McLean and Peter Graham.

McGinlay added: "The big differences are your food. We found it quite different and new, and it was a real surprise, especially your 'grits.'"

From the other point of view, JHS student Ryan Herring commented that during his trip to Scotland, where he stayed with David Smith and attended Hermitage Academy, the homecooked meals were among his favorite memories of the visit.

The school experience also proved to be a cultural difference. The Argyle-Bute school day runs from 8:50 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. and includes six periods of about 50 minutes. For some of the Scottish students, being in class "the whole day" was a change, but they found the school to be more "layed back."

The Jefferson and Scottish exchange groups initially got to know each other in June when a group from Jefferson High School spent nine days touring the Scottish countryside, learning about schools there and visiting with families.

The Scottish curriculum places a greater emphasis music, with students between the ages of 5 and 13 required to obtain a musical education, and with music classes continuing at the high school level twice a week. The students learn practical music-making, as well as music appreciation and theory.

The closeness of the Jefferson community was also described by the Scottish visitors as a cultural and social difference.

As MacDonald said: "Social life seems to vary greatly, the main difference being the community spirit which is evidenced between church and school. Life seems to revolve around these. In Scotland there seems to be more independence."

And Gaskell added: "Local culture is different in that the community comes together a lot more."


While this initial exchange of students, teachers and ideas was deemed a success, members of the Scottish group said even more would be better.

"I would like to see more students benefit from the programme and see it expand in various directions, (such as) whole academic year exchanges between students and teachers," MacDonald said.

McGinlay added: "Hopefully this exchange programme has brought our two nations and cultures closer together and created an interest which will continue for many years."

Although the Scottish visitors have returned to their homes and the Jefferson students and teachers are back to school as usual, they have made memories and they have made new friends.

"Me and Ashley kept in contact throughout the summer and I'm sure we will for the rest of my life," Gaskell said. "I also kept in touch with the others in my group."

In summarizing the trip, MacDonald said: "Overall, the memory with which I will be left with is the warm, welcoming kindness that we have been shown, and the feeling that we have been treated as part of a big family."