The experiences of students from other countries

In the oceans, there are schools of fish. Some of the schools are small, some are big. Some are far ahead in their voyages. Others are just getting started. Each school of fish is different, but all of them are similar because after all, they’re all fish. On continents, these schools exist too, but instead of fish, schools are full of students. The schools can be Hogwarts castle sizes or a one-room schoolhouse and the students learn different things, but at the basic level, they’re all similar to each other.

Sometimes, students may stray from their current school and join another across the world. This is the case for foreign exchange students or even just students who move here from another country. They move from familiarity to a brand new place with new people and new classes.

“I moved here from China. I was just excited because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have ideas about what it would be like here because I didn’t know what to expect, I only knew it would be completely different,” junior Sherry Zhou said.

This lack of knowing what to expect in a new school is often played off of within films, such as Cady Heron’s move from Africa to the stereotypical high school in the movie “Mean Girls.” Her only idea of what high school would be like was from her experiences in her previous school and it is safe to say that this is the case for most, if not all, students who come from other countries, “I planned to come here [as an exchange student] so I was ready and prepared for what school would be like. Still, one difference I’ve noticed is just the schools, like their sizes and also the lunches are different here,” German exchange student Carlotta Doering said.

Illustration by Molly Cooke

Not only do schools in America serve different food due to cultural differences, but the time set for lunch varies. Here, lunch tends to be 30 minutes long, but in countries like France in which schools are often accessible by walking to cafes and restaurants, lunches may last an hour or two. In some parts of Spain and Germany, lunchtime marks the end of the school day for students. A similar system is in place in China where students leave at 4 or 5 p.m. because of a two to three hour break to eat lunch at home, according to Zhou.

“Grading is completely different. There is no such thing as GPA. Grades are a “one time thing” that’s out of 100 points. The test that counts is the test to go on to the next “level” of school, like you must take a test after elementary school to see which middle school you go to. I guess it’s like the SAT/ACT since 6th grade,” Zhou said.

According to the NY Times, in the United States, 65.9 percent of high school graduates attend a university, but in other countries, a post-high school education isn’t the best or even a possible option. Students may be directed to educational schools, while other students may be directed to career centers or specialty schools for the arts or athletics.

“The last major difference is probably classes. You have classes with the same 45 kids through all years. In general, the types of classes themselves are the same though,” Zhou said.

Math, science, social studies, and a language study course are consistent across most schools, but districts across the world expand with secondary languages, real-world classes, extra art and science classes and more. Overall, while the heart of schools everywhere are to teach, the means of doing so can vary dramatically, whether it be how big the schools are or the number of students per class or the time spent in school.


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