30th September 2019 — Absorbing Scotland’s culture included a one-stop-shop in Highland dancing for twelve teenagers from India’s Unison World School on their fortnight’s visit to Kilgraston.
“It’s not just about seeing the sights,” said organiser, Chaplain Paul Allaker. “Giving the girls a full immersion into our country’s ethos is all part of their experience and that includes pointing a few toes with a traditional dance!”
Three years ago, Kilgraston School embarked on an ambitious exchange programme with UWS. The school is one of the India’s top all-girl boarding schools, located in Dehradun, near Mussoorie, in the Himalayan foothills, about 180 miles north of New Dehli. The idea was to create an international ‘twinning’ programme with mutual benefits for pupils and staff in both schools.
This month sees UWS come to Perthshire for the fourth time.
Visits to Scone Palace, Perth Museum, an evening at the Dundee Rep Theatre for a production of ‘Tay Bridge’, Edinburgh and Stirling Castles and the Birks of Aberfeldy have all stopped the grass growing under their girls’ feet: “We’ve learnt so much about your lovely country in such a short time,” said 17 year old Aadrika, “We were warned that we might use an umbrella every day but, so far, it hasn’t been needed!”
Last year, Kilgraston pupils made a reciprocal trip to Dehradun and in October 2020 another group will visit India. “It’s such an amazing opportunity for both parties to exchange ideas, cultures and traditions, as well as learn about native foods and costumes,” said Mr Allaker.
The UWS girls have interspersed tourist attractions throughout Scotland with days of lessons. Fifteen year old Ashwina immediately noticed a different teaching approach to the one adopted in India: “At our school pupils stay in the one classroom and it’s the teachers who travel between rooms and we all work from a fixed pc.”
The physical set-up is not the only difference: “Learning here is much more discursive,” continued Ashwina, “a lot more thinking beyond the question, taking fewer notes and considering points more deeply.” Many similarities do exist; after English, Spanish and French are predominant languages for the Hindi-speaking youngsters and, like life at Kilgraston, sport is a daily activity for all: “Days are so hot, so we play sport in the cooler evenings,” says Aadrika.
The Mussoorie district, also known as the ‘Queen of Hills’ at 1,880 metres (6,170 ft) was once a British colonial retreat designed to help soldiers recover from serious illness: “The views are amazing,” said Aadrika.
Intricacies of the Gay Gordons soon were soon mastered by the light-footed youngsters as they twirled around the dance floor under the tutelage of Kilgraston pupils: “Your favourite activity perhaps?” Smiles all round. “No, that was definitely shopping in beautiful Edinburgh,” giggles Ashwina.
Teens, the same the world over!