International Exchange Student Q&A

Interview with Erin P, a Year 10 international exchange student from South Africa.

This term we have been enjoying the company of 13 international exchange students at Gordonstoun who have joined Year 10 from Australia, Tanzania, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. We chat with Erin P, a Year 10 international exchange student from South Africa about her experiences.

  • First of all, can you tell us a bit more about the international exchange student program between your school and Gordonstoun?

I attend a school called Oakhill in a small town called Knysna in South Africa and we do an exchange to Gordonstoun for 3 months. Oakhill is a day school so the pupil who I have exchanged with is staying with my family in my house whilst I go into boarding school. This exchange is an opportunity for two pupils from each school to experience a completely different environment and level of independence!

  • What was your main reason for choosing to study at Gordonstoun?

When I first heard of Gordonstoun, I knew I wanted to come here. I have always wanted to experience a boarding school, Gordonstoun is also very international and I absolutely loved the idea of going on exchange to one place and gaining friends from all over the world! Being an international school also means Gordonstoun has many different cultures and languages and much more diversity. There is also a larger variety of choice for academic subjects to study at Gordonstoun.

  • What was your first impression when you arrived at Gordonstoun? (How did you find it settling in)

When I first arrived at Gordonstoun I was buzzing with excitement to meet my roommates and peers! Everyone was super welcoming and helped me unpack and was willing to answer any question I had. I was also paired up with a buddy to walk with me to each class making it all a little less daunting. They introduced me to everyone and I had someone to sit with me for that first week until I had settled in and found my crowd.

  • How was your experience with our boarding environment and how did you settle in being so far away from home?

I absolutely LOVE boarding! I love how close you become living with everyone. Some days it’s a little tricky as I want my own space but everyone completely understands how I feel as everyone needs their own space sometimes and there are plenty of places to go if you want to clear your mind. The first week was a little tough getting into everything but after a while you just become used to it and it feels as if your roommates are more like family - and you have respect for them and for your room.

  • Have you taken part in the broader curriculum (sailing, expeditions, services, music, drama) and, if so, what was that like?

Whilst on my exchange, I have tried to take as many opportunities as I possibly could. I took part in drama and art as subject choices and I took Music practice as an activity on a Saturday. I went on a three days of Seamanship where we dressed up in our yellow oil skins and went out to learn to sail! I enjoyed going sailing and just wished that there was better weather for us to leave the harbour! The exchange group have also had many exciting experiences such as visiting a castle, going on boat trips, coastal walks and our upcoming trip to Edinburgh!

  • What did you miss the most so far from your hometown?

I mostly miss the warm sun from home, my family and my friends. Although I do miss things from home from time to time, I haven’t had much time to think about it as I always find myself busy with a fun activity in the afternoon or hanging out with mates in my free time!

  • What is the strangest thing you have encountered in the UK?

I think that haggis is really strange, and not very nice. I tasted some on Burns’ Night and probably won’t do that again. Although the ceilidh was brilliant! We all use different slang terms, from our home countries, which is really interesting. And I had a hard time getting used to calling teachers Miss instead of Ma’am.

  • What do you find most different about life over here compared to back home?

I think the weather for a start, it’s much colder here although you do start to get used to it over time and when the sun’s shining the campus is so beautiful. The class times are very different and the school day is much longer here than at home. I think a boarding life is very different to a day student’s life and I like how close I feel with all my house mates.

  • Share one of your highlights during your stay?

One of my favorite highlights has been when the exchange group took a trip to go and find the Loch Ness Monster! We went on a boat ride up Loch Ness and saw the beautiful scenery. We then hopped off the boat and took a tour around Urquhart Castle. The weather was stunning and the castle was a sight to see. Unfortunately the Monster didn’t make an appearance though.

  • What does Gordonstoun mean to you in one word and why?

To me, Gordonstoun in one word means ‘home’. Although Gordonstoun may not be my home, it is for so many other students. I have only been here for two months and I already feel so comfortable in my boarding house that I refer to it as my second home, I love how the girls in Plewlands have become my family and matron or house mistress, my mother to talk to and depend on. Home to me means a place that is always in your heart, a place where you feel comfortable to be who you are and who you want to be - and Gordonstoun has given me that and for that reason Gordonstoun will always be a part of me.

  • Would you recommend others come to Gordonstoun?

Yes! I would definitely recommend Gordonstoun to any student looking to go on exchange!