What’s it like to learn in America?

Imagine what it was like when you were getting ready to start your senior year in high school. You then decide to travel to a different country where they speak a different language to attend your final year of high school. What would that be like? Jenny from Sweden, Sebastian from Norway, Miguel from Spain, and Tobit from Germany choose the Copper Country to finish their high school experience.

The first difference in their experience was the school day. At Hancock High School they started at 8:10 a.m. and were done by 3:32 p.m. Their home country school day was much different. In Sweden school started between 8:15 a.m. and noon, ending between 1 and 5 p.m. depending on the day. And class periods? They varied in length from 45 minutes to two hours.

Each student found differences in instruction. In Norway and Spain, students stay in their same classrooms all day, the teachers are the ones that move from classroom to classroom. Each student noticed more decoration in American classrooms, representing the creative signature our teachers are able to put in the classroom that is theirs for the day.

Miguel notes the focus on learning content theory in different educational subjects in Spain. They spend all their time learning from books. He was surprised when he conducted his first hands-on laboratory experiment in class here. Many of the others stated they didn’t have this opportunity to apply their knowledge through hands-on activities, focusing their time on studying for major exams. Miguel noted in Spain if you fail two courses you have to repeat the grade level, there is pressure to perform academically.

Sebastian shared that students in Norway could choose to attend high schools with different academic themes. Carpenter School, Electrician School, and even Fishing School were options. The fishing industry is strong in Norway, but Sebastian commented he get sea sick so that was not an option he considered. In Sweden, Jenny spoke of the special classes students to take that prepared them to move right into the workforce in industries such as baking, restaurants, hair stylist, and college prep focusing on science, economics and more.

Each student noted how friendly our local students are. “They all say ‘good morning’ to you each day!” They shared how well behaved students are here, “students here are very respectful of their teachers.” In each of their countries they noted how students and teachers engage in a very interactive dialogue during class, some traditionally call teacher by their first names.

And what about living in the Copper Country? They love it! Three come from much larger cities. Jenny noted that you can’t get your drivers license in Sweden until you are 18. All mentioned how much public transit, scooters and bikes are used.

“At school you can see over 200 bikes in the bike racks in front of the school,” said Sebastian.

And their comments about living in a small town?

“Everyone knows everyone!” 

Very different than the big city.

What do they like here? Our cafeteria food! Much better than in their home country. Our courageous young visitors provide us with valuable information as we look to improve the K-12 educational experience for our own students. Thanks to all for helping make their Keweenaw experience and lasting memory!


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