Don Mercer Exchange (Australia)

Don Mercer Exchange (Australia)

In an exchange programme generously funded by Don Mercer (Class of 1957) two pupils spend approximately three weeks as an exchange pupil at either Scotch College or Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Melbourne, Australia. Both are amongst Australia’s leading independent schools with a huge range of subjects and extra-curricular opportunities.

Scotch College 2017

By Callum Robertson (S5)

I boarded the plane to Melbourne excited about what the next four weeks would hold for me. There were so many questions racing through my mind. “Would I get along with my exchange, Lachie?” “What would Scotch College be like?” All I knew was this exchange would change me. As I arrived on Australian soil the apprehension kicked in. I was met and welcomed by Lachie and his Mum at the airport and we clicked immediately.

Once I’d recovered from the jetlag, we once again boarded a plane, this time bound for Sydney, where we explored the city and saw the likes of the world famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House. A dip in the sea of  Bondi Beach surprised me as it was rather warm for the sea in ‘winter’. Lachie came out claiming to have hypothermia! Despite having travelled to the other side of the world, so much looked and felt the same; we even saw the familiar faces of the Arsenal football team who were in Sydney on a pre-season tour.

Highlights of the trip: the local monstrosity that is the ‘halal snack pack’ – 3,000 calories and a real experience of man vs food; experiencing my first Aussie Rules game in a stadium with a capacity of 100,000; getting the chance to participate in an Aussie Rules game against local rivals Xavier College and winning; and my personal favourite, getting to pet a koala and a kangaroo at Duralinga Zoo.

I was overwhelmed by the modern facilities yet traditional architecture that makes up Scotch College. The hospitality I received from both boys and teachers alike was heart-warming. I was given my own timetable, attending a number of classes and gaining the full experience of education at Scotch. It was really interesting to experience the atmosphere of a boys’ school and to understand the way subjects are taught in Australia.

I really feel the exchange has opened my eyes to another culture.

It was an honour to meet Mr Mercer, the sponsor of the exchange, later in my stay when I was able to thank him for all he had done. I really feel the exchange has opened my eyes to another culture. I have made many friends, learnt so much about Australian culture and politics, become more independent and confident as a person, picked up many skills beneficial for later in life, and most of all, made a long lasting friendship with Lachie and his family. I am looking forward to hosting Lachie back over here in Edinburgh and showing him all the incredible things that Scotland and George Watson’s College have to offer.

Presbyterian Ladies’ College 2017

By Alexandra Vere (S5)

I was so excited about embarking on this adventure of a lifetime, that I wasn’t too anxious about flying alone or staying with Elise’s family. Throughout my stay I felt completely at ease because of the family’s  loving and generous hospitality. I spent four weeks in Australia, three at Presbyterian Ladies’ College and one on holiday.

Everyone at Presbyterian Ladies’ College was very welcoming and the school community itself had a warm and inclusive atmosphere. I enjoyed the comparison with  GWC. Personally, I found the Christian ethos of the school to be very inspiring.

I participated in nearly all of Elise’s classes and joined in football matches and training which started at 7am! It was eye-opening attending a girls’ school;

Alexandra and Elise pictured with a kangarooI was humbled by the kindness and affection shown to every classmate, and the joyfulness which encompassed the school.  
During the holiday period we stayed at a cabin on the South East coast for a few days, where there were wild kangaroos. I loved feeding the kangaroos, since it was such an authentic and close up encounter. Other days were spent in Melbourne city centre: visiting the Shrine of Remembrance, strolling along the peaceful South Melbourne beach, and the famous Queen Victoria Market, and touring the State Library, taking breaks to appreciate Melbourne’s large food culture. During my third weekend we visited Healesville Sanctuary, which is home to animals only native to Australia. However, the greatest highlight for me has to be our weekend spent exploring Sydney. We walked along the beautiful Sydney Harbour Bridge and observed the iconic Opera House.

Undoubtedly, I’ve gained so much confidence and independence.

My experience in Australia was incredible and extremely rewarding. Undoubtedly, I’ve gained so much confidence and independence speaking to new people, not to mention a wonderful new friendship with Elise.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I was given to explore a completely new culture and be part of an amazing Australian school. As a result of this wonderful exchange, my perspective on many aspects of life has changed for the better and I have been inspired to travel more of the world. I will definitely cherish the memories I have made for a long time.