Case Study: Exchange in the UK
On exchange in Scotland
by Anna from Italy
Anna from Italy arrived in Scotland in August and is embracing her time there. We asked her some questions about her experience and this is what she had to say.
What made you choose to go on exchange?
Exchange has been something I wanted to do for a long time; I wanted to do it to improve my English, but also to experience new things, meet new people and learn about another country and its culture.
Why did you choose Scotland?
I chose Scotland because I was curious about this country: when people talk about UK, usually they think about England, but there’s much more! I was attracted to its history and traditions and I can’t help to admit that I was said people here are really friendly!
Before you came to Scotland what were you expecting? Is it different to what you are experiencing?
Before leaving I tried not to have many expectations, because obviously they’ll be different from what you are going to find. All I can say is that my experience so far has been much better than anything I could ever imagine!
What has surprised you about Scotland?
I was surprised when I found out the division that there is between the different parts of UK. Also, the fact that here there isn’t all the rush and impatience that there is in Italy: they take their time and enjoy every moment.
Have you been welcomed by the Scottish people?
I wanted to write about Scottish people in the previous paragraph, but I thought it would have been better to dedicate one only for them. Scottish people are amazing. I have never met so many people who are so friendly, nice and welcoming. Of course not ALL of them, but it’s normal. They are expansive and talkative, they are much more open-minded towards different recent issues and always try and help other (for example, in my school there are a lot of initiatives to raise money for charity). Another thing I noticed about young people is that there’s not “popularity”: everyone is equal and no one is more important than the other.
How is school in Scotland? How is it different to Italy?
School is really different from Italy. Here they change classroom every time they have to change subject, while in Italy everyone in the same class stays together for all the subjects. Also, here you can choose the subjects you want to take, while in Italy they’re compulsory (and much more!). The average school day is from 9 to 3/4, from Monday to Friday, while in Italy we go to school from 8 to 1 from Monday to Saturday. Another thing that surprised me is that here all the books, the jotters, the school buses are free! In Italy we have to pay for them and usually it is really expensive.
They have final exams, and it only matters the mark you get for them. Of course it’s up to you to study regularly and don’t procrastinate! In Italy we have exams only at the end of high school, and during the school year we have a lot of tests (written and orals) and the mark we get at the end of the school year is the average of the marks we got throughout the year.
They have to wear a uniform (we don’t!) and the teachers are really involved in their lessons and always make sure that their students fully understand and have all the help and the explanations needed.
What advice would you give to a host family thinking of hosting an exchange student?
To a family who wants to host an exchange student I would say GO FOR IT! Of course it’s not going to be perfect all the time, you could have some arguments and discussions, but it only means that you are getting to know each other more and more! I think it’s a beautiful way to learn about another country and exchange traditions and cultural information. Just be aware that it can be a big responsibility as well!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of going on exchange?
To someone who wants to do an exchange, I would say that if you want to go just do it. Even just your desire to do it means that you are ready. Don’t think too much, don’t keep asking yourself the same questions over and over again (am I brave enough? what if I’m not going to settle?) because I promise, it’s going to be worth it. You must be aware of the fact that it’s not going to be easy all the time, and in the first period it can be quite challenging, but what’s going to follow will definitely make you forget about that. You should be willing to make an effort and try and make some friends, once you have done that everything is going to get easier and easier. You will be proud of yourself and everything you achieved, and at some point you won’t want to go back. You will learn to be on your own and to do things by yourself, and not rely on anyone else. It may sound scary, but it’s what growing up is all about, isn’t it?
What are you most looking forward to during the rest of your time in Scotland?
Luckily, I have a lot of time left. I don’t want to look forward to anything in particular, I just want the relationships that I built here to get stronger and stronger and to experience more things that make me happy and that I will remember all my life.
Anna is living in Scotland with one of our wonderful host families. If you would like to host a student in Scotland or go on exchange, please contact us at the office on firstname.lastname@example.org or 02380 970 924. New students arriving in Scotland in August!