OPINION: A German in America

A Comparison of the Different Schools From a Student Perspective

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Hi! I am Jenny, and I am an exchange student from Germany. Even if it was only one week of school, I realized some (actually a lot) of differences between the schools. School in Germany is completely different, so I want to tell you a bit about it.

A different school system

In Germany you only have two different schools while you visit three different schools in America. In Germany you visit the primary school only for four years (1st to 4th Grade) and then you can choose between three types of schools, which all have another level, which is another difference. The highest level is “Gymnasium,” you will stay there for at least 8 years, but there are some gymnasiums which have nine years, so it is from 5th to 12th/13th grade.

I will compare High School especially to this type of school, because I visit a gymnasium in Germany. However, the lower level of school is called “Realschule.” They only have classes from 5th to 10th grade, and then you graduate. With this graduation you cannot apply for a college.

The Max Born Gymnasium. In Germany, “gymnasium” means what AP means at Lincoln. (Jennifer Schwarz / Lincoln Lion Tales)

The third type of school is called “Werkrealschule,” which is the lowest level of school in Germany. There you graduate after 9th grade and just as “Realschule” you cannot apply to a college with this graduation. This is a whole different system than in America, where everybody visits High School. But that is actually the reason why we do not have advanced classes in Germany, instead of that, we have a whole advanced school.

My school in Germany is way smaller than Lincoln, and especially “gymnasiums” are often very small. We only have around 650 students, while Lincoln has around 2000, and we even have more grades. Our school contains only one main building and one very small building with only 12 classrooms in it.

Another organization of classes

Another difference is that our grades are separated in different classes. You have nearly every subject with the same classmates and you have a special classroom where you actually stay most of the time. Also, you have a class teacher who takes care of any problems or upcoming events in the class. You have two class speakers (students in the class)  for every class too, who tell the class about upcoming events in the school, organize events, and take care of the class, if there are any questions, or problems.

You have one class from 5th to 7th grade, and then a different one in 8th to 10th grade. As you may have realized when you read about our classrooms, our teachers don’t have their own classrooms. They always have to come to the class they have.

Every student has to have 12 to 15 subjects (depends on the grade). You can not choose which subjects you want to have, you can only choose which second foreign language you want to do (French or Latin), which religion class you want to join (Lutheran, Catholic or Ethics), and if you want to do a third foreign language (Italian or technologies).

A different structure of the day

Since we have so many subjects every day has a different structure. We do not have the same class at the same period every day, and some of the subjects like Biology are only once a week.

One period is only 45 minutes, but we mostly have double lessons, which means we have an hour and a half with a break of 5 minutes between each period to go to bathroom or to drink something.

Also, a normal day of school is from 7:45am to 12:50pm. We have our first brunch break of 20 minutes between second and third period, and a second brunch break of 10 minutes between fourth and  fifth period. One to three days per week (also depending on your grade) you will have school in afternoon, sometimes its until 3:35pm, but sometimes its until 5:10pm. Our lunch break (only if you had school in afternoon) is an hour and ten minuets.

Our classrooms look very different. We have a desk for the teacher in the front, and behind that there is a blackboard. We mostly have black boards, but in some rooms we also have smart boards. The students sit in rows with eight people per row, and a small walk between the two sides of the classroom. Every desk is made for two people, and the chairs are separate.

Unlike in High School, in order to graduate from “Gymnasium” only your grades and points from 11th and 12th grade will count. These two years are very hard for the students, so everyone is afraid of it. Only if they have the grades and are a “Gymnasium” graduate will be accepted to College. This is really different from America, because all 4 years of High School are important for your graduation.

A whole different atmosphere

Our lessons are different too, we do not use many laptops. I had never heard of Google Classroom, Google Documents, Khan academy, or Quizlet before I came here. Also we do not have syllabuses since most of the teachers just tell us about the grading and the supplies we will need and you can write down what you think is important. There are some teachers who give a paper with the grading and the needed supplies for the students, but that is really rare, and the parents definitely do not have to sign it.

We do not have a lot of lockers and you have to pay for them. We do not have an extra PE locker ether . We leave all our stuff in the changing room after we changed and the teacher locks the door and after PE we take our sport clothes with us again.

Another difference is that nearly nobody drives to school, which is actually because in Germany you can only drive on your own when you are eighteen. Also there are only a few parents, who drive their kids to school, so the kids walk, bike, or take the bus/train.

We do not have sport teams at school, so we do not have Football Games, which is a big social event in America. If you play a sport, you join a team in your town.

We have only a few clubs like Spanish, student newspaper (it is not a class in Germany!), drama or choir.

We also do not have school dances. We have a dance class in ninth grade were we show our parents our classical dances that we learned at a dance. We also have a “dance” after graduation, but it is again not like an American school dance: There is a big ceremony for the graduation, then you have dinner, and again the parents join the dance too.

A lot of people told me, that Football

Lexi Cazares, Varsity Cheerleader 17-18. (Katarina Bellamonte / Lincoln Lion Tales)

Games and School Dances are a big part of High School, so it is very sad that we do not have it. I think that is why, every German teenager girl is obsessed with American teenager movies and series, for example Thirteen Reasons Why. A lot of teenagers have seen it, and so they think, that is how High School is like. Of course not all of the bad part, but especially the Football Players, the School Dances, the look, etc.

As you have may realized, there are a lot of differences between school in Germany and school in America. The first day was really hard for me to find everything and see how everything works, but now I really like to visit Lincoln and it is really cool for me. Someone asked me, which school system I liked better, the answer is I like both. Maybe I like the German one a little bit better, but that is only because I am used to it. Both school systems have advantages and disadvantages and it is really interesting for me to be able to experience both of them.

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