Local teen to study in Scotland
By Liz Dadson


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Jonathon Farrell is practicing his best Scottish brogue as he gets ready to spend the next nine months studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

The 19-year-old son of Geoff and Sandra Farrell of Huron Township finished his second year at Queen's University in Kingston in the spring, and applied for the student exchange program for this fall.

Queen's offers three different types of exchange programs: bilateral in which the student picks six partner schools anywhere in the world he would like to travel; one in France; and a scholarship to St. Andrews in Scotland.

The St. Andrews scholarship exchange program is the most competitive and Jonathon applied for that one as well, purely on a whim.

"In December, I sent in a letter on why I wanted to go on this particular exchange, as well as a resume and my transcript from university," says Jonathon. He also had to submit an essay on how his life is similar to that of the famous Scottish golfer Robert T. Jones, Jr., whose foundation funds the scholarship.

"I worked hard on that essay and it was tough," says Jonathon. "The best comparison I could make between Robert T. Jones, Jr. and myself is that we both grew up beside a golf course, and we're both, basically, nice guys."

Out of hundreds of applications, Jonathon's was among the top five chosen for an interview. The selection panel of five people included a representative from the foundation and from St. Andrews.

"I ended up in fourth place and the top three get to go," says Jonathon. He was also accepted into the bilateral exchange but not to any of the countries he had chosen. Instead, he would have gone to Singapore or Osaka, Japan.

"I was disappointed and upset," he admits.

Then, he received an E-mail message that one of the people selected for the St. Andrews exchange could not go, and was he still interested?

"I said yes!" says Jonathon.

Since then, he has been gathering information about the university and Scotland, and going through the lengthy process of getting a student visa.

"The student visa was a lot of work," he says. "It took about a month to sort it all out and then we had to go to the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto and take all that information to the office there. They told me it would take up to 30 business days to receive the visa, but it arrived in about 10 days."

The scholarship pays for his tuition to Queen's and the tuition for a student at St. Andrews. The two students then exchange places for the school year, says Jonathon. He is required to pay for his travel, accommodation and miscellaneous items.

"If I hadn't received the scholarship, it would cost about $20,000 for tuition to go to St. Andrews as an international student," he says.

With less than two weeks to his departure from Canada, Jonathon is getting excited about this adventure.

"I'm flying out of Toronto on Sept. 17 and have a stopover in Amsterdam, and then fly into Edinburgh," he says. "The school is about 50 miles north of Edinburgh, and coincidentally, it's just south of Kincardine, Scotland."

He doesn't expect language to be too much of a barrier because people there speak English. However, it's Scottish English so he may have some trouble distinguishing words because of the accent and the vernacular.

On the plus side, his residence room window looks out on the St. Andrews golf course, the oldest one in the world - the birthplace of golf - and on to the North Sea.

Jonathon will continue to study history, with a minor in French, which is the same program he is enrolled in at Queen's. But he will encounter some unique subjects: the history of the French language traced back to Latin; the history of the Vikings - their expansion, settlement and conversion; and the Protestant reformation in Europe.

He will also experience some strange notions. For example, there is a rock in the area that you can't step on or else it will bring you bad luck. It's the place where a Protestant martyr was burned. If you step on it, you have to wait until after the May Dip (May 1) and bathe in the North Sea to wash off the bad luck.



Jonathon Farrell gears up to head off to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland

By the same token, the country is steeped in history and Jonathon will get to study Scottish castles, why they were built, where, and how, and then go on a field trip to visit them.

As for the weather, he was told that it is cold and drafty in Scotland and to bring all the warm clothes he owns. However, if you're Canadian, "bring a jacket, it's chilly."

Besides his studies, Jonathon plans to tour the area, looking for Eilean Donan Castle owned by the MacCraes, his ancestors on his mother's side. He also wants to visit the River Shannon Valley in Ireland, the homeland of the Farrells on his father's side. And he plans to check out the little towns in Scotland that have the same names in Ontario: Paisley, Lucknow, Tobermory, Kintail, and of course, Kincardine.

To put it all in historical perspective, Jonathon notes that St. Andrews is gearing up to celebrate its 600th anniversary in 2013. "It's a good place to study history," he says. "It's the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the United Kingdom."

He will be home for Christmas and then return to Scotland until exams end May 28.

"For the first time ever, I'm going to miss the Ripley Fall Fair, it's tragic," he says. But in all seriousness, he will miss his family and friends at home and in Kingston, as well as celebrating Thanksgiving, his 20th birthday in October, and Easter.

"My mom is pretty excited about me going but my dad is kind of anxious about it," says Jonathon.

This isn't his first time travelling. He went to Norway on a five-week exchange in 2008. He's been to Pincher Creek, Alberta, with the 4-H exchange club, and he travelled with his mother and his brother, Thomas, to Edmonton, Alberta, for an underwater hockey tournament.

In fact, coincidentally, he has spent the past two springs eel-fishing in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Now, he's off to St. Andrews, Scotland, and he can hardly wait. 


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Monday, September 06, 2010