By Sophie Gray '22
I am currently halfway through my exchange visit to Gordonstoun, a school that is located in the north-eastern part of Scotland. I chose this school for several reasons. First, I didn’t think I was capable of learning a new language in three months, so I restricted myself to English speaking countries. Second, I wanted to explore my own cultural heritage, as I have Scottish and English roots. Finally, Gordonstoun was one of the only schools I could find that offered a Latin course. This storied and prestigious school is located an hour’s drive from Inverness, which is the setting for the Outlander series.
This part of Scotland is the farthest north I have ever been — at 57oN compared to Lakefield’s 44oN — and the weather certainly reflects that fact! Although the temperature is not as cold as at Lakefield, the damp chills you through to the bone. The Scots traditionally have a reputation for being hardy and tough, and now I know why! The countryside is spectacularly beautiful though more barren than we are used to in Southern Ontario, even though I am currently in the breadbasket of Scotland surrounded by farmland.
Despite the cold, I enjoyed a warm welcome from my host family, the Morrisons, upon arrival. Isla and Calum Morrison both have experience in the British military, which has a reputation for being one of the toughest militaries in the world. Callum now runs a company that offers extreme travel adventures to brave tourists while Isla lovingly cares for their children, pets and occasional exchange students. Their eldest daughter, Ella, is out traveling in Australia and New Zealand and their youngest is my exchange partner, Ottilie, who is currently occupying my dorm at Lakefield. Their middle child, named Mai-Mai, has been extraordinarily kind to me and has helped me settle into the boarding house of Windmill, as she is in Year 13 (for reference I am in Year 10) at Gordonstoun. Their adorable pets include two black Labradors, named Apollo and Archie, and two cats, Olive and Hercules (though they call him Herkie), which are siblings. I absolutely adore them all.
Gordonstoun is a very old school, founded by Kurt Hahn in 1934. You may recognize it from the Netflix series, The Crown, as the school that both Prince Phillip and Prince Charles attended. Gordonstoun is also the birthplace of Round Square and, in fact, the organization is named after a unique stone building that is located on the Gordonstoun campus.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the good fortune to visit Loch Ness and participate in traditional Scottish activities like the eating of haggis on Burns Night (the horror!). Gordonstoun supports the exchange students by sending them on a few trips around Scotland to fully experience the country’s rich cultural and historic heritage. Our next one is a trip to Edinburgh to visit the Scottish Parliament and walk the famous Royal Mile. On my half-term break, I travelled to Rome and visited places I’d only seen in textbooks, like Pompeii, the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Imperial Forum, which I would have never been able to experience if I were not already in Europe.
As much as I may enthuse about my time in Scotland, it hasn’t been all sunshine — much like the weather here. Being at Gordonstoun has taught me a lot about what I am grateful for at Lakefield and it has given me a greater appreciation for our school and all that it has to offer. Being an exchange student has been hard at times, I won’t lie, but I’ve also had amazing experiences that I would never have gotten the chance to have if I didn’t take the opportunity. During my almost two months at Gordonstoun, I have learned a great deal about myself, about Scotland and all the things that I sometimes take for granted back home.
I would definitely recommend to other LCS students that they take full advantage of the opportunity to travel abroad on exchange when they are in Grade 10. If you’re like me, you will probably find that it will give you a better sense of yourself, your home and the world around you. There’s a famous quote from Kurt Hahn, the German educator who founded Gordonstoun in the 1930s and who was the inspiration for the Round Square organization itself. I’m beginning to realize what Dr. Hahn meant when he said, “There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it; perhaps, for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”Lakefield College School’s membership in Round Square makes it possible for our Grade 10 students to participate in – typically 6 to 10 weeks - exchanges with students from more than 180 Round Square (and a few non-Round Square) schools around the world. Learn more about our student exchange programs.