On Oct. 18-19, Clinton City Schools superintendent Stuart Blount and his family welcomed Owen MacKinnoa from Oban, Scotland to their home in Clinton. MacKinnoa, a senior, and junior Jacob Blount are part of the Laurinburg/Oban High School Student Exchange Program, which has been around for 20 years now.
Jacob Blount added the Scotland County school before moving to Clinton.
Students from Oban, Scotland, would travel to Washington, D.C. for two days when they enter America. Then they would travel to Laurinburg, then to Clinton. The exchange students would enjoy activities such as hiking, going to the beach, visiting museums, movies, and experiencing other American traditions.
When asked during an interview what his first impression of America was, Owen replied “It was very…American. Everything is much larger than it is back home.” MacKinnoa stated that Oban shared similar things with America, but everything here was bigger and updated.
One thing that the senior said he enjoyed the most about America was the people. “Meeting all the exchange students’ families and friends was great. Also, the Cook-Out milkshakes. I got the Oreo Mocha!”. Owen said that his favorite meal back home was steak pie, but the milkshakes here were delightful. School, on the other hand, was a different story.
When asked how the schools here were different than the ones in Oban, he stated “The schools here are very new. Our school is over 100 years old. But we have a better sports program than you guys do.”
Popular sports in Scotland include soccer and rugby. Though being a music fan instead of a sports fan, MacKinnoa knew his sports. “Football in Scotland is considered a girls sport. Rugby is bloody and hard, which makes American football look weak.” Owen does not play any sports, but said he enjoys playing piano and listening to music instead.
Customs are very different when it comes to these two countries. After being asked what the differences included, Owen was open to share a few. “We don’t have Thanksgiving. Also, when I walked into the school, the first thing I saw was a sign that said ‘No drugs or weapons on premises.’ In Oban, people in my school wouldn’t even think about bringing weapons or drugs to school. I was shocked.”
Owen also informed Clinton students on his school’s regulations. In Oban, MacKinnoa’s school starts at 9 and ends at 3:40. Instead of having middle school, Oban just has primary school and high school. Primary schools consist of grades kindergarten through sixth, while high school consists of seventh grade through 12th grade. Students wear uniforms, he said, but are granted more freedom. For example, high school students are allowed to leave for lunch. “We never really have discipline issues so that’s why we have more freedom. Students there just don’t do that stuff,” asserted MacKinnoa.
Comparing Oban to Clinton, the exchange student noted that things they do there would stand out in Clinton.
Cursing, for example, isn’t thought much of in Oban, he stressed. Contrasting that statement with religious laws, Owen answered the question “What about religion?” with a clear answer: “Religion isn’t a big deal in Oban. Yes, there’s churches and religious people, but church isn’t the main attraction. I only go to church on major hholidays like Christmas or Easter.”
Jacob Blount wished his friend goodbye on Monday, Oct. 2 when they traveled back to Laurinburg together. “This was a great experience for me,” said Blount who is now back in Clinton.
MacKinnoa is back in Oban, Scotland, and both are likely sharing each others memorable stories.