S6 Student and Lead Prefect Amber Hinde spent the mid-term break in France after a successful application to take part in the annual Euroscola Programme. Amber wrote of her experience:
On the 17th of February, I arrived at Edinburgh Airport – in the early hours of the morning – very apprehensive about meeting a large group of new people and travelling to the major European city of Strasbourg. Until this point, I had never travelled abroad with people I had not met before. However, it was absolutely fantastic to meet young people with similar interests and aspirations to me.
There were ample opportunities to express ourselves in French and at first this prospect was daunting. It was truly remarkable to be able to use our second language in order to communicate with the locals in Strasbourg. I found it rewarding to have native French citizens understand and register what I was saying to them, as this is not an opportunity you receive often in the classroom. One of the main tasks which involved us conversing with the locals was the street survey which took place in the picturesque cathedral square. The survey was focused around Scotland and the European Union and we received many amusing answers! For example, when we asked people what they thought a ‘haggis’ was, many chose the ‘musical instrument’ option! I found the street survey a truly enjoyable experience as we were really challenged regarding our language skills.
Although we did many wonderful things in the city, the main purpose of the trip was for the Euroscola day which took place inside the European Parliament. On arrival at the Parliament, there was an exciting feeling of patriotism amongst us all as we remembered that we were representing Great Britain, not just Scotland. It was overwhelming to walk into the parliament seeing and hearing aspects of other nationalities within the European Union. We were very much encouraged to socialise with young people from other countries and I found this significantly fulfilling.
The first half of the day was spent in the hémicycle which is the main debating chamber in the parliament. Everyone was seated and at one point the chamber was opened up for questions. We had been warned beforehand that we may not receive the opportunity to ask our question as there were hundreds of people and only a short period of time. However, I ended up being the person to open up the question session! This was extremely nerve racking as I had to stand and speak into my microphone (in French) whilst the interpreters translated my question into many languages for everyone to understand. My question regarded the benefits of a monetary union and whether Scotland would be able to use the Euro:
“Bonjour, je m’appelle Amber Hinde et je suis eccosaise. J’ai une question à propos de l’Euro. Deux mille quatorze est une année très importante pour l’Ecosse car est on a la possibilité d’une Ecosse indépendante à l’avenir. Est-ce que l’Ecosse si indépendante pourrait utiliser l’Euro? Et quels sont les avantages d’une union monetaire?”
As the day continued, we were given a wide range of opportunities to meet new people from other countries. One of the pictures I have featured is with my new Greek friends, Malvina and Stavros, who I have been in touch with since the trip and hope to meet again in the future. At lunch time, we were told to get into groups of four in order to answer twenty questions; each one written in a different language. We had to team up with three other people from different countries which further encouraged us to interact with everybody. My team consisted of an Italian, a Hungarian, a Greek and myself. Between us we managed to use our diverse language skills to answer the question sheet. After lunch we went into smaller debating chambers in order to discuss our chosen debate topic. My topic was: ‘2014, European Year of Food Waste’ and following our group discussion, we had to present our proposals in the main debating chamber and everyone had the chance to vote for or against our decision. Our decision was favoured by a vast majority and was ultimately adopted. Following the main debate, we were able to invite some of our new European friends back to our hostel for a ceilidh. Both the Spanish and the Germans came along and we were able to give them a taste of Scotland. It was great fun teaching the Spanish how to ceilidh dance; and in turn they taught us some traditional Spanish dances.
Looking back, I am in awe of the immense amount of culture, languages, politics and people we managed to squeeze into only a few days. Ultimately, the whole trip amounts to the single most exhilarating experience of my life. Not only do I feel proud to be British but I feel proud to be part of the European Union and have definitely been inspired to try and continue my language studies at university. The people I met on the trip were incredible and I know we will all keep in touch. Finally, I am extremely grateful to the Rotary Club for sponsoring me and giving me such an incredible opportunity. Je me suis bien amusée!
Amber Hinde, 6T