When I decided that I wanted to go abroad for 6 months, my main motivation was to get to know a completely different culture. I was prepared for different food, different norms and better weather – I was not prepared for the difference in schools to be this drastic at all. While I was expecting some differences because I have noticed them when I did exchanges to France and Spain, I assumed they were going to be of about the same extent which was not the case at all. Seeing how different schools overseas are has really opened my mind to the world, and I hope reading a little about how we do things in Europe will do the same for you.
The main difference that I noticed was the way the schedule is made up. In most of Europe, there is no such thing as a block schedule – you have different classes for different amounts of time each day. An effect of that is that we get out at a different time each day, too. Classes we pick are taken consistently through at least 4 years. Having the same classes each day seemed boring to me at first, but you adapt to it quickly.
We do not get to pick out our classes the way you guys do, either. You typically get to pick between some foreign languages in 5th grade but that is about it – the rest is predetermined. The classes we have to take (in Germany, but similar almost everywhere) until 11th grade are German, Math, English, French or Latin and Spanish or Natural Sciences at 4 hours a week and Chemistry, Physics, Bio, Geography, History, Politics, Music, Religion, PE and Art at 2 hours a week. In 11th grade you get to drop 1 foreign language, 1 science and either music or arts – that is it. No electives.
Resulting out of everyone having pretty much the same schedule is having a class, typically about 25 people, that you have every subject with. They have their designated classroom where they stay, the teachers have to move – the opposite of America. The exception are arts and sciences because these classes require rooms that have special equipment.
Speaking of equipment – you are lucky when it comes to that, too. Having a school pool, auditorium, basketball – or track field is something you would not even think about at most public schools in Europe. We’re lucky if we have lockers.
American schools are much bigger, too. Although European High Schools feature grades 5 through 12, there is typically about 4 classes per grade which adds up to a total of ca. 700 students.
We do not have any school spirit at all in Europe. There are some clubs, but nobody goes there. No school sports teams. If you want to play a sport, you do it outside of school. Resulting out of that, you often do not go to the same school as your friends.
“All of my friends go to other schools, I hate school.” said German sophomore Linda Temmes. “It’s so boring.” You just go there to learn, then you go home and live your life. Different from America.
I probably have to address the difference you may already have heard off – school actually is a lot easier in America. The stuff you do in math in Junior year is stuff that we have done in 9th grade – but hey, you still learn it.
I could probably list 10 more differences, but I think you get the gist of it. It is a difference like day and night – and you guys are so lucky to be able to go to school here.
“When I first moved here from France, it was crazy,” said junior Lea Manzetti. “I wouldn’t want to go back now.”