2017: Michael McInerney-Heather

2017 Sander Scholar, Michael McInerney-Heather, returns from Scotland

From the warm beaches of Ōtaki to the cold city of Aberdeen, this trip was sure to be a change in not only weather but in culture as well. This was quickly apparent when I landed at Aberdeen Airport and was greeted by the strong Scottish accent of ­Cameron Stephen, the Head Boy of Robert Gordon’s College and the guy I would be staying with for the next 2 weeks.

The first week was made up of days at Robert Gordon’s College getting an understanding of Scottish schooling and nights spent with Cameron and his family or friends, quickly learning that Cameron’s sense of humour was something to be reckoned with. Whether he was mocking my Kiwi accent or telling me to get out of his car, there was always a joke going on between the two of us.

From that week spent at Robert ­Gordon’s College I found that there were definitely some differences between the two colleges but many more similarities. While Robert Gordon’s was a much grander school, with large, stone buildings, 3 or 4 stories high, both colleges shared a friendly atmosphere where relationships between student and teacher were very strong and the classes carried a light feel where everyone was welcomed. Whether I was spending time in the junior school with 8 and 9 year olds or in the senior school with Cameron and his friends, I always felt welcome and like I was a part of the college.

The next week I met Alex, an ­Australian exchange student ­staying at Robert Gordon’s College for 6 months and together we went on a tour of Scotland.

Starting off in Glasgow we met up with previous heads of Robert ­Gordon’s, Morna, Jamie and Fraser. Fraser had come over to New ­Zealand in 2017 and I had spent a bit of time with him so it was really nice to catch up again. When my sister, Clare, had gone over to Scotland in 2016 she had stayed with Morna so it was really cool to keep that connection going. After an interesting night in Glasgow filled with Italian food, night lights and lots of rain we headed off on a tour of the Isle of Skye the next day. This was an amazing experience that spanned 3 days and took us up the West Coast of Scotland and through the Highlands, visiting the Loch Ness, although no Nessy was spotted that day. To top it off it was snowing for the majority of the tour, giving us the full Scottish experience. After the tour we spent a day in Edinburgh also and headed back to Aberdeen that night.

By this point I had one day left in Scotland, so I went about the ­formalities of a humorous interview with Cameron for the school site as well as a farewell meeting with Mr Mills, the Principal and many other farewells to people I had met throughout my journey. So with a two day journey home ahead of me, I said goodbye to an amazing experience that I will never forget and that was only possible with the help of Sander Ties and Ōtaki College. I am ­extremely fortunate to have been awarded this experience and I have managed to gain so many skills, adventures and life long friends from it.

Michael McInerney-Heather, 2017 Sander Scholar