LAURINBURG – Students from Laurinburg’s sister city Oban, Scotland will be leaving the county today after a two- week student exchange visit.
Students from Laurinburg visited Oban in June and the Scottish students arrived in Laurinburg on Oct 4. The group was kept busy with a number of activities designed to give them a taste of Scotland County and daily life in the US. Students from both sides of the exchange said they were amazed at how similar and different their daily lives were.
On Oct. 5, the Oban students took a tour of the high school and registered as students. Later that day they took a tour of Scotland County including the John Blue House and St. Andrews’ Campus and horse stables before having lunch at local favorite General McArthur’s restaurant.
Several of the Scottish girls expressed surprise at the amount of fried foods in the southern states, but Aimee Johnston and Sophie King found something fried that they fell in love with and another Southern treat that they won’t be able to get in Scotland.
“It’s fried everything but funnel cake is amazing’,” said Johnston in a musical Scottish lilt. “I didn’t like hushpuppies, but I love Cook Out milkshakes.”
King agreed wholeheartedly.
On Oct. 6 the exchange students got to experience a typical American High School Homecoming including marching in the homecoming parade in their kilts carrying the flag of Oban. They also attended their first Friday night football game.
Johnston couldn’t believe the enthusiasm that surrounds high school athletics, especially American football.
“It’s a lot like rugby, but it confused me a bit,” said Johnston who plays rugby. “Friday night football is big here. It’s not like that in Scotland. If there were high school games in Scotland, I don’t think anyone would go but the dads.”
Two other extra-curricular activities that were new to the Scottish students were marching band and color guard.
The Scottish students were shocked by other differences in the schools as well.
“School is quite different, you start at 7:30 and we start at 9,” said Johnson.
“In Scotland they have six classes and we have four,” said Laurinburg student John Caudill. “She was freaking out.”
“It’s stressful,” Johnston said. “Classes are an hour and a half, and in Scotland they’re 50 minutes.”
Jenny Thomson was taken aback at Scotland High School’s strict attendance policy. Students at Scotland High are only allowed 10 absences. In Oban there is no limit to the number of days a student may miss as long as they keep up with academics, according to Thompson.
The Oban students enjoyed the fact that they were not required to wear uniforms to school.
On Oct. 7, the European visitors got to experience the American version of the Highland Games.
Anna Bain was astonished that the American version was a bit different than she was used to. She thought the sheaf toss was a “fake game” because it’s not done in the traditional Scottish games; she was surprised to learn that the event grew out of the daily chores of Scottish-American farmers putting in hay for the fall harvest.
Johnston was surprised by another difference.
“Clans are a much bigger deal over here because they have a whole parade and that’s just not how we do it. They don’t have a whole parade for each clan,” said Johnston.
The girls did appreciate the idea behind the games though.
“It’s quite a nice thing to do. It’s a nice way to show off your Scottish heritage. It was a nice turnout, except Irn Bru was fake,” said Bain who was less than impressed with the American version of the orange-flavored Scottish soda.
The group also visited the Airborne Museum in Fayetteville and watched the Golden Knights Parachute team practice. They took a canoe trip down the Lumber River at Chalk Banks State Park.
The students visited the North Carolina State fair on Monday.
As a farewell, they were treated a traditional North Carolina Pig Pickin’ and pool party on Tuesday.
In the end, students from both sides of the ocean realized that they were more alike than different. They joked with each other about the different slang the two countries used, gave each other nicknames and enjoyed each other’s company.
“You’re in a new place but all you want to do is hang out and spend time together,” said Laurinburg student Mira Ward.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169