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Finding confidence in America

In February this year, 10 young people from the Lyceum Youth Theatre flew to the United States to Port Townsend in Washington state, for 10 days to work on a theatre project with 10 students from the local high school.

The project was led by Colin Bradie, director of Promote YT Scotland. The teenagers also attended classes at the school. Here are some of their responses.

Andrew Girvan, 16 S6, Currie High, Edinburgh

"I'd been to America a few times, but going on an exchange like this is totally different to going on holiday. We got to live with a normal family and instead of driving past a school building, we actually went inside and did classes like American students.

"I found that fascinating: the way subjects are internally assessed rather than examined; the relaxed atmosphere; the interactive way of teaching. We did lots of small group working.

"But also, being part of the drama project was educational. We had only a few days to write and produce a professional standard play, so we had to be really focused from morning till late evening.

"It was so draining but it was important for my acting."

Kirsty MacKay, 16 S5, Broughton High, Edinburgh

"I'd never been abroad or even on a plane before and I was so nervous, especially about staying with a family. But it was brilliant.

Everyone was so nice to me.

"Townsend is a small town and the community is very close knit.

Everyone knows everyone, which is so different to Edinburgh.

"The teachers are pretty much the same as here; just the accent differs.

But when I went to school, I did feel like I was in a TV programme.

"The whole experience was completely new for me and I came back different.

I used to be the sort of person who didn't have much confidence. I'd always been quite shy at LYT, but when I came back I was much more confident.

"I still am."

Ben Sharrock, 17

At Boroughmuir High, Edinburgh, until the summer; now on a gap year with plans to apply for drama school in New York "The school was so relaxed. It looked like something out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with its large campus, the big red building and the flag flying outside.

"At my old school, news was read out from a bit of paper in registration. Over there, every class has a TV and the head girl comes on to read out news; and the class swears allegiance to the flag while watching it on the TV.

"The teachers seemed really eccentric and outgoing; and they dressed really casually. So did the kids. You can wear hats in school in the States. You can even eat in class. In one class, this girl sat buttering her bagel during the lesson!

"The whole experience was really intense and knackering. I thought I knew America well, but I still learned a lot."

Frances Ross, 18

Formerly at Firhill High, Edinburgh; now in the first year of a diploma in musical theatre at Edinburgh's Telford College "When I first walked up to the school I saw a big sign that said 'No Drugs, No Gum'. I thought 'Ah, just like our school' until I realised it said 'No Guns', so that was pretty different.

"I found the experience totally liberating.

"I was at a crossroad when I went over. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life. I'd always had a dream of going into acting but, when I mentioned it at school, the teachers were dismissive. So I never really gave it serious thought.

"Going to America and meeting the students there really affected me. They are so positive, so supportive. It's a sort of attitude that you can do anything if you really want to.

"When I came back, I decided I would become an actor."

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