It’s nearly a month since I arrived here in Virginia, and so far it has been such an incredible experience. It’s very different from Scotland, of course, but I’m getting used to American life now.
The flight across was quite exhausting, but when we finally landed in Chicago it began to sink in that I was finally here. From there we travelled by bus to Bethel Park Retreat Centre in Richland, Michigan, for our orientation. The purpose of this was mainly to ensure that the students know the ways of American culture and to prepare them for this change in lifestyle, so in that sense it didn’t really apply to our group from Scotland. On saying that, it was a great opportunity to meet students from other countries and learn a little bit about their traditions. One thing that really astonished me was the number of people who asked what language we speak in Scotland. It was mainly students, but there actually was one adult who thought we didn’t speak English as our first language. Needless to say I was giving a brief geography of the UK for most of the orientation. On the last night, each country performed something traditional to their home; mostly dancing, singing and fun facts. Naturally, we Scots got dressed up in kilts and tartan and baffled them with a wee bit of the Gay Gordons!
On August 18 we separated into groups determined by our destination, so my group headed by bus back to Chicago and from there we flew into Dulles, just outside Washington DC. There, I finally met my host family for the year; my host mom, dad and another exchange student from Moldova called Liliana, who has become like a sister to me already. My school started on August 20, so I barely had time to find my feet before I was off to an American high school.
The school system is very different, with the day starting at 7.30am and finishing at 2.30 in the afternoon. The day is split into four 90 minute periods, and for every day up until the end of the first semester (January) we will study the same four subjects.
In January we then move onto semester two and study the next four subjects we have chosen. I’ve been so used to constant waves of SQA exams, but over here the focus is mainly on homework and it makes up a huge part of your grade. So it’s much easier really, but I wouldn’t say that to an American!
For Labour Day we had a long weekend, so our family went to Chincoteague Island on the coast of Virginia. There we took a boat trip around the island and saw the famous Chincoteague wild ponies and got really close to some dolphins too. It was a great weekend.
Since then I’ve also had my first American football game experience! On Friday my school team, the Fauquier Falcons, played another local school so my sister and I went to watch. It really does get the whole school involved, from the team, to the cheerleaders, marching band, dance team, students and parents. The way the Americans do things with so much enthusiasm is really admirable and they really take pride in both their team and their country. It’s very contagious! The Homecoming game is next month which I’m very excited about, as I’m singing the national anthem with the choir before the game starts. So no pressure.
Adjusting to the American way of life has been a bit difficult, but I’m used to it now and continuing to charm people with my Scottish accent! My English teacher told me she could listen to me reading the ‘phone book all day. So there you have it, the Brechin tongue is popular with Americans.
I hope to write in each month with my stories from across the pond, so watch this space...
Until then, take care.
Imogen Sherrit, Virginia, USA