EXCHANGE STUDENTS compare notes on differences between gC, schools in home countries

by Iris Pinto Hidalgo

Photo Caption: Sara Cassitta

According to my experience and those of the other exchange students, I have been able to verify that the American and European schools have many differences, from schedules, exams, homework, to the very structure of the high school.

I think that what impressed me the most on my first day of class is how big the building is, besides that you constantly change classmates. I had never eaten at school before, although there are schools in Spain where it is also possible, but it was a new thing for me.

When the exam week came I was surprised that these were very different from those we do in Spain. We do one for each topic we see, they are all written, we can only write them with a pen and we do not have any kind of help as the notes of the agenda. We have to learn everything by heart.

Another thing that seemed very different to me was the schedule. Here I have 4 periods of an hour and a half. School starts at 8:30 and ends at 3:30, and we have a half-hour break. In Spain I have 6 periods of approximately 50 minutes: first I have 2, a twenty-minute break, another two and another 20-minute break, and the last two classes, ending at 2:30. We consider that we have classes in the morning and 2; 3-30 is the perfect time to eat.

Homework is not given as much importance as here. Teachers send it and it is part of the grade, but not much.

About the teachers in Spain. the truth is that there are all kinds, some are closer and friendlier, others are only interested in their work and do not even care about your learning. But there are some that I will never forget and that have helped me to be who I am today.

It is a difficult choice, but I think I like school more here. The way of learning is more fun and it makes class days go faster. In Spain students suffer a lot of stress due to the large number of exams we have and I think it is something that does not happen here, and of which I feel proud. 

Emily Schreiber, 11

She is an exchange student from Germany and she says,

“The thing that most impacted me on my first day here was that we do everything on the iPad. The other thing was the lunch break; we don’t have one on my school in Germany. My classes in Germany are only about 45 minutes long and we have 5 minutes breaks over classes and 20 minutes breaks after two classes. In this time you can go outside and walk or whatever you want to do.

Instead of here in my country we take the exams on paper and we have very long exams like 90 minutes long; we don’t have short tests.

My schedule changes all the days. Some days I can finish my lessons at 1p.m and the other at 4 p.m. I have 14 classes in total; not all the days are the same.

I only have homework in my important classes like math or German.

We don’t really have high school so we have 4 years of elementary school and then 8 years of the other school, 12 years of school in total.

My teachers in Germany are very close to their students they call us by name and even have inside jokes and stuff with some of them. we go on many class trips which brings us close together and because I’m always with the same group of people in my class the teacher has always the same class. they grade sometimes after sympathy which is not always fair but can also be a plus for some!

The building looks really different. I cannot see any similarities between them.

 I think I like the American school better, because here you can choose your classes depending on what you are interested in and you can use your iPad and also it’s kind of easier here than in Germany.” 

Sara Cassitta, 11

The exchange student from Italy has these thoughts about the differences on the high school:

“When I went to Greenfield-Central High School for the first time I was very lost because the school is so big and has a lot of classes. In Italy the schools are so different. They are smaller and they don’t have a cafeteria because in Italy we don’t have lunch at school and we have just one break in the middle of the morning. I go to school from 8:10 to 13:20 but I also go on Saturday. In Italy we have 5 years of high school and we have the same classmates for all 5 years, because the students don’t change the classes, but we have one class for all the subjects and the teachers change it. The teachers are more severe than here in US. Here you have one school with all the subjects and students can choose the subjects. In Italy, it’s so different, we can choose the school not the subjects because we have different type of schools, like one for science, one for languages, arts, economy and technical school. So the students go to school with other students who have the same interests as you.  The schedule in Italy changes every day, but every week is the same. In Italy the teachers don’t give us so much homework, other than math or subjects in which you need to practice, but they give us to study. To study I mean sit for hours to read, underline and repeat, because most of the tests are oral and the students have to go to the teacher’s desk and explain what they studied and it’s so difficult to achieve sufficiency. So the school is harder than here.  

Now with COVID-19 in Italy all high school students are online and they have to leave the camera on, they have to explain all the subjects with oral test because the teachers don’t trust written tests because the students can copy on the internet. 

Here teachers are closer and nicer, in Italy they only teach. So we don’t have more of a relationship than learn and teach.

In general I really like the school better here because it’s easier and funnier and in Italy we don’t have sports to play at school. We go to school just to study.”