Scottish student prepares for GC experience
Jason Cleland is a try-something-new kind of guy.
An explorer, the 18-year-old student caves and fishes when opportunities emerge.
His next big adventure: Travel more than 4,000 miles away from home alone to experience college life at Georgia College this fall.
“I’ve never been abroad before,” said Cleland. “America has a unique culture that is very different from Britain. Taking this trip alone is quite daunting, but I think the people I meet will want to learn about Scotland and my Scottish culture.”
Cleland grew up in the small town of Whitburn, Scotland.
The town is about 25 miles west of the country’s capital city, Edinburgh — known for its cobbled streets, detailed architecture and where author J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book.
The chance to study abroad came by way of community-based service club Rotary International.
Cleland earned the Georgia Rotary Student Program’s (GRSP) school scholarship, which offers international students a one-year study abroad experience with a Georgia-based university. The program also promotes world peace and international good will.
Georgia Rotary Clubs sponsor students, who are recommended by a Rotary Club in their home country.
“I learned about both Rotary and the study abroad opportunity from my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Reid, and our local past Rotary president, Alistair Marquis,” Cleland said. “They encouraged me to go all the way with this trip.”
The scholarship covers Cleland’s tuition, book allowance, meals and room.
Sponsored by both Milledgeville and Dublin Rotary Clubs, Cleland is also given two host families to help him navigate his way around the area and connect with the campus and local community.
Rotary members Greg Long and Claire Livingston serve as his Dublin host family. And members Mark and Wendy Archer are his Milledgeville host family.
“We have two sons around Jason’s age, who also graduated from Georgia College,” said Mark Archer. “They look forward to helping him with the ins and outs of college life. We also live on a farm with 12 basset hounds, two golden Labradors, cows and a few cats. We’re an outdoorsy family, so we have a lot in common with Jason.”
Thomas Archer, ’12, majored in accounting at Georgia College while his brother Ben Archer, ’13, majored in environmental science.
Cleland will explore environmental science too during his yearlong stay at the university.
He also will receive opportunities to attend and participate in meetings of the Milledgeville Rotary chapter and the university’s Rotaract Club.
Rotaract is a Rotary-sponsored service club for members ages 18 to 30. Both community and university based, the club is a fast-growing program with more than 8,400 clubs in nearly 170 countries.
Junior Brittan Edwards serves as president for Georgia College’s Rotaract Club. Dr. Renée Fontenot, associate professor of marketing, is the club’s faculty adviser.
“We look forward to Jason’s arrival,” said Edwards, a political science major. “We established Rotaract last year on campus, so starting this fall, we plan to make really strong connections with our local and international communities through service. Our goal is to spend this year focusing on our youth’s needs, mentoring them and raising funds to support projects that benefit them.”
Off campus, Cleland will have the chance to learn about what the local Milledgeville and Dublin chapters are doing through his host families.
“We want his parents to know he is in good hands while he’s away from home and understand how Rotary is making an impact in our community,” said Wendy Archer. “We’re outgoing, love to entertain and have flexible schedules. He will have many chances to network with Rotary members here and in Dublin while enjoying the outdoors with us.”
Cleland has a passion for the natural world, animals and conservation.
He intends to follow in the footsteps of Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin, better known as “The Crocodile Hunter.”
“I love the outdoors,” Cleland said. “Being able to study how landscapes are formed and how humans have influenced our environment is exciting to me. The courses I’m taking at Georgia College look interesting and different from what I would study at home.”
When Cleland returns home, he plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in zoology at the University of Edinburgh.
“I’m definitely going to make the most of my time here,” he said. “Maybe the people I meet will want to visit Scotland with me after this experience.”