Exchanging Gifts
Posted 03/06/2018 03:00PM

by Camille Summers/Lion Staff


Elizabeth Grant’s first reaction to being at the Great Barrier Reef was fear.  “Just the idea of swimming in the open ocean freaked me out,” she said. “But once I was on top of the reef, it was absolutely breathtaking. It had been on my bucket list forever. Now, I can check it off.”

Elizabeth was swimming on the other side of the world as part of her Australian exchange.

She is one of several sophomores and juniors who had the opportunity to participate in a student exchange program. Rising sophomore girls have the opportunity to go to Wiltshire, England for three weeks. Rising junior girls spend five weeks in Sydney, Australia, and a rising junior boy spend three weeks in Durban, South Africa.

To become a part of the student exchange program, students must fill out an application explaining such things as the classes they take, and what they do in their free time. Some places require a background check, such as St. Mary’s Calne, and all students require, of course, a passport.

This past summer, Lindsay Pugh went with two other girls to Wiltshire, England for three weeks. “It was my first time out of the county, but I’ve obviously been on airplanes before. It was really different than flying with your family because you have to figure out how to do everything by yourself.”

She attended St. Mary’s Calne, an all-girls school. “Everything was really small compared to America, especially the roads,” she said. “Also, one of the most shocking things I found out was that not all British people like to drink tea. They have tea time, but not all of them enjoy it.”

Lindsay liked being able “to experience day to day things that British people do, and see the fashion. Everybody was really well-dressed. It was like a 1970s style.”

Elizabeth Grant was in Australia, with three other girls, for five weeks. The students attended the Ascham School.

Elizabeth found the trip to Australia to be a little “hectic and nerve-wracking” because of layovers and airport transitions. But once she was there she enjoyed the opportunity to travel.  Her favorite place was Bondi Beach. “You had the busy roads by you, but you were on the beach at the same time. It was really cool and different,” she said.

And of course there was that trip to the Great Barrier Reef. “It was a once in a lifetime experience especially since it could be gone in 20 years, and I am grateful for the experience that I had while at the Great Barrier Reef.”

At the Ascham School, “There were 9 classes a day,” says Elizabeth, but “homework was given out weekly. All homework would be given on Tuesday, and that following Tuesday, that homework would be due. That was really nice because you would be able to plan ahead.”  

Jared Yarmowich traveled to South Africa. He went to The Westville Boys’ High School. Let’s just say it had some different local fauna than Lovett. “Their classes were surrounded by this courtyard that would have monkeys climbing in the trees,” he said. “It felt like a jungle.”

Unlike Lovett, The Westville Boys High School isn’t co-ed. “It was all guys. It was different than what I was used to.” However, he says that it was “really cool that I was able to meet so many people. I made so many good friends. Now, I can say that I have friends that live in South Africa!”

Of course, when the British, Australian, and South African students came to visit Lovett and stay with their families, they learned about our American culture.

When Lindsay’s British friend arrived in the US, she took her hiking. “It was my favorite thing to show her because it was so different from all the tall buildings in Atlanta. She seemed really fascinated with the different types of environments.”

Elizabeth Grant says she instantly clicked with her Australian family, “which greatly helped the transition. I adapted to what they did. I was so lucky to be paired with people so similar to me. It made me feel more at home. They were a perfect family.”

Jared brought his South African friend to New York for Thanksgiving break. According to Jared, his friend was amazed by the city life and how busy everyone was. “Everyone here is always on their phones,” he says, “Over there [in South Africa], no one was on their phones. The mom of the people I stayed with would only check her email like once every two weeks.”

Clearly there are many insights into the world and human behavior one can gain from traveling the world, but also from coming home with new eyes.  

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