Propitious Union’s Joyful Reunion

By Lauren M. ’18
Photos by Sarah F. ’18

At 3 p.m. Friday, June 6, 17 members of the class of 2018 jumped on a bus headed for Philadelphia International Airport to make our flight. The excitement on the bus was palpable, and at 2 a.m. Saturday (7 a.m. in Scotland), we landed in Glasgow. We were on our way to the Lomond School for Part Two of our schools’ first student exchange; we hosted 22 Scots when they came to Lancaster in April.

Waiting for us was Lomond Headmaster Simon Mills. On the drive to the school, everyone was looking outside and marveling at the lushness, and familiarity, of the countryside. “Everything is so green!” someone said. Another: “It still hasn’t hit me that we’re in Scotland because all the trees make it look just like Lancaster.”

We finally arrived at the Lomond School, in Helensburgh, and we pushed shoved to get off the bus because we were all so excited to finally see the students we had hosted at home. Everyone was smiling, laughing and hugging one another. Even though for the Americans it still felt like 3 a.m., it sounded like a much livelier hour as everyone tried to catch up on everything that had happened since we has seen each other. We all went home with our respective host families and did our best to stay awake and get used to the time difference even though we’d already been up for almost 24 hours.

On Saturday afternoon, most of us and our host families headed to the Highland Games, which was a combination of “stalls” (carnival booths), highland dancing, and different Scottish sports competitions including athletics (track and field), and caber tossing (log throwing).

On Day 3 of the trip we headed to Stirling Castle, and the Americans’ fascination with the place was fascinating, if not bizarre, to our Scottish hosts. “Why are you taking so many pictures? They’re just piles of old rocks,” ran a common comment. Perhaps castles are to Scots like horses and buggies are to Lancastrians, because we found the place captivating. Stirling was a fortress for nearly 2,000 years, many Scottish kings and queens called it home during the 15th and 16th centuries.

The next pile of rocks we visited was Dumbarton Castle, built atop a large cliff, with quite a few steps to the top. Mr. Miller suggested Claire R. ’18 and I count them and we hit 371 from the parking lot to the summit. We spent time walking around the top and admiring the view, until we realized we had to come down 371 more steps. Not fun.

We spent two days at the Lomond School shadowing our hosts to their classes. We found their curriculum very similar to ours, except for the science options they have, with some students studying chemistry, biology and physics in one year. In English, we spent most of the class discussing how both of our countries speak the same language, despite its wildly varying vocabulary. After class we headed outside to play one familiar sport and two vaguely familiar ones: field hockey, Lomond Ball (an adaption of rugby) and rounders (similar to baseball and cricket).

On Friday we took the train to Edinburgh, where we walked the town and checked out the National Museum of Scotland. Then, we were set free to shop. Most of the American girls rushed to stores like TopShop, Primark, and Jack Wills that they couldn’t find in America, while most of the Scottish guys spotted a McDonald’s and decided to make that their “shopping destination.” As McDonald’s is one of the only fast-food chains in all of Scotland, a lot of them have a certain obsession with it.

We spent the weekend with our host families. On Saturday night, all of S2 (the equivalent to eighth grade at Lomond), went to a party hosted by one of the Scottish students. This was our last chance to hang out with most of them and at the end there were a few tears and a lot of pictures as we said some of our final goodbyes.

At 5:45 a.m. Monday, we found ourselves at Lomond for more goodbyes, this time to our host families and the other hosts on the exchange. There was lots of hugging and tears as people tried to joke around to keep the mood light; it didn’t really work, and seldom ever does, but the thought is always nice.

As we drove away, a lot of the Scots chased our bus as far down the street as they could. Many of us were still crying, and someone remarked, “It’s crazy how close you can get to someone in just 20 days.” That pretty much sums up the whole trip.

While seeing Scotland and experiencing life the European way for 10 days was fun, I think the biggest part of the whole trip was the bond we created with the host families and Scottish kids we stayed with. As the plane took off, almost no one spoke. We all just took in the view below. We had just been in Scotland and made memories that would last a lifetime.