“Busman’s holiday” at Oatridge for trans-Atlantic students
05 July 2012
Seven young North American students have just ended of a month-long “Busman’s holiday” which has given them an insight into how Scotland is striving to preserve and protect its unique scenery, environment and wildlife.
They attended the first-ever Ecology Summer School at Oatridge, the country’s premier landbased vocational college, to look at a wide range of conservation projects, while sharing cultural, historical and social experiences.
The new programme builds on the model of an already established Equine Summer School, which this year attracted 16 students from all over the US, and could soon be followed by a horticultural option, to exploit the reputation of Oatridge and Scotland for expertise in the sector.
Adrian Kitchen, the Director of Business and Curriculum Development at Oatridge, says: “Our International Summer Schools are rapidly becoming a flagship for Scotland. They have grown in popularity because they have a truly rounded itinerary, which shows our visitors many aspects of Scotland.”
The summer schools programme had a low key beginning, three years ago, when eight students took part in the first Equine Summer School. By the following year the numbers had doubled to the targeted 16 and have held there since.
For the first two years participants were recruited by Ray Barclay, who was then based at the University of Arkansas. He still works with Oatridge in the Arkansas area, but a tie-in with Adelante Abroad, a student travel consultancy with offices in California and Detroit, has opened up the entire United States and Canada. Students at this year’s Equine Summer School come from 10 different states, from Alabama to Ohio and New Jersey to California.
The Ecology Summer School contingent was mainly from Arkansas this year, but also included students from Idaho and Canada. They have taken part in trips to wildlife and nature reserves, conservation projects and a variety of wildlife habitats and have fitted in cultural trips and social outings.
Zac Simpson, Emily Edwards and Lydia Campbell are all from the University of Arkansas and agreed that their visit to Scotland, although a holiday, would be invaluable in their studies. “We are doing a project to restore a wetland to make it sustainable. What we have seen while at Oatridge can be applied to that straight away,” said Zac.
Adrian Kitchen says: “These Summer Schools couldn’t be done without the buy-in and support of the academic team leaders, Sharon Anderson in Equine and Niall Evans in Countryside Management. They are really critical in this: Their programmes offer participants the social side of meeting like-minded people here and they can talk about equestrianism or ecology; then they are getting the cultural experience as well and for that, Scotland has a huge amount to offer.”
In the picture, the students are seen with Countryside Management tutor Sarah Reay (2nd left) during one of their many field visits.