From San Pedro to Scotland!

The girls participated in “Scottish Studies” lectures, seminars, and tutorials led by academic staff of the University, from the Schools of Art History; History; Philosophy; Anthropology; and Film Studies. The nearly two-week-long trip was offered as a scholarship with all expenses covered, thanks to the incredible contributions of a POLAHS donor and student mentor.
The University of St Andrews was founded in 1413 and has established a reputation as one of the world’s leading research and teaching centres: an environment which nurtures inquisitive minds and a culture of shared learning. The institution’s consistently high rankings in both global and national league tables places it within the top 100 of world universities and the top three in the UK. The town of St Andrews provides a unique and picturesque location for the university. Situated on the east coast of Scotland, it is about an hour north of Edinburgh. Wherever students walk, they are reminded of St Andrews' rich and colourful history, with buildings both ancient and modern. The town’s population is approximately 20,000 people, including a diverse mix of locals, students, University staff, and tourists. The town also boasts beautiful sandy beaches, vibrant cafés, and independent shops.
Q&A with Melissa & Julia
I am in a leadership program with the Boys and Girls Club called Keystone, and I volunteer as a volleyball coach and a camp counselor at an all-girls STEM camp. I am also a team member on the POLAHS Varsity Volleyball team. - Julia Gersch
My cumulative GPA is a 3.5. I have been President of Foreign Language Club since my sophomore year. I am on the Debate Team and the Science Olympiad team. I took Drama my freshman year and was part of their production last school year and plan to be part of this year’s show too. Outside of school, I volunteer at the Harbor Animal Shelter. - Melissa Andrade
POLAHS has prepared me for college through our rigorous curriculum, college prep programs, and by allowing me to take dual-enrollment college courses. The teachers and staff have made a difference in my life by being inspiring, encouraging, motivating, and always making me feel supported. - Julia Gersch
POLAHS has prepared me for college by having a more rigorous curriculum than most schools. I have a good balance of challenge and understanding here. Many of my teachers have helped me through trying times by simply listening and being there to comfort me when needed. There has never been a course I have taken at POLAHS where I felt I was on my own; my teachers have always been very lovely and happy to help. - Melissa Andrade
I plan to attend an out-of-state four year university, possibly majoring in Marine Biology. However, I am still considering many other careers in the fields of journalism, politics, and law. I want to pursue a career that I am passionate about. - Melissa Andrade
My goals right now are to attend a four year university. I’d like to work in the medical field as a Physician’s Assistant, but I am open to learning about other medical careers. - Julia Gersch
I have a fascination with different cultures, and I wanted to learn more about the world. I felt that I would be able to learn more about the world, and I also wanted to learn about Scotland's history and politics. - Julia Gersch
When last year’s participants presented to my class, I could see myself in every experience they described. I don’t travel much, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. I also wanted to get some exposure at college life and see what it is like to live in dorms. Overall, the trip intrigued me because it brought together different aspects of independence, growing up, and exploration. - Melissa Andrade
There were many activities to participate in; there never seemed to be a dull day. It was riveting, fun, and unforgettable. We went on excursions where we visited Edinburgh, Glasgow, Falkland, and many other locations. We looked at art, architecture, or history in a variety of forms, whether it was visiting a castle or a museum! We were exposed to so much. The purpose of my course, which was Scottish Studies, was to study Scottish culture which includes its history and literature. Many times we would have lectures about certain periods in history or discussions about our assigned weekly readings. As a finally assignment, we were assigned to do a presentation on any topic or person we learned about and wanted a deeper knowledge about. My favorite part of the experience was the exploration. We were trusted to explore many places on our own and get back to our dorms at a reasonable time. I loved having that little taste of college. - Melissa Andrade
I believe there were around 80 students in the program. The students were from all over the world; literally ALL over. I became really good friends with two girls from Italy, Carolina and Sofia. We are still in touch and are even planning to visit each other! On the program we went on many excursions such as touring Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the city of St. Andrews. In our class, we studied Scottish history and literature through language, music, dancing, film, art, and philosophy. My favorite part of the experience was meeting all of the different students and RA’s. I was able to have open minded and big topic conversations about life in a different country. - Julia Gersch
Some interesting things about Scottish culture is the language and family clans. It is really cool that even today, Scottish people affiliate themselves with their clans and wear kilts that have different patterns and colors to represent their clans. I was able to try haggis, which wasn't as bad as I expected. It was a dish you would need to acquire a taste for. I also was interested in the music and dancing because they do a traditional social gathering called a ceilidh, where people come together for a night full of dancing. - Julia Gersch
We were exposed to many aspects of Scottish culture. We learned about and participated in a traditional Scottish dance called a Ceilidh, which is lots of folk music and line-dancing; it was interesting and entertaining to be a part of. We also learned about the infamous kilts and their purpose. We visited castles and palaces that were absolutely stunning. I tasted haggis for the first time which is a Scottish delicacy. I also tried Irn Bru, which is a neon orange soda created in Scotland that is odd to look at and even more so to taste, in a good way! - Melissa Andrade
To my donor I would like to say thank you so much for being so selfless and giving me the opportunity to learn so much about the world and myself. I can't even express my gratitude enough. This was truly an experience I could never forget. - Julia Gersch
I don't think I could ever thank her enough for this amazing opportunity. I learned so much not only about Scotland but about myself. To be able to travel on your own to places far from home is a little daunting but also so liberating. I want to thank her for helping me get into this prestigious program, which allowed to me to meet so many incredible people and places. As well as allowing me to live through such an amazing experience at such a young age. I never would have thought that I would be travelling on my own at age 16, to live in the dorms of an outstanding university, where I would meet so many great professors and fellow students. Truly, a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. No matter how much I say it, it will never express the gratitude I have for her. Thank you. - Melissa Andrade