Foreign exchange student navigates a new school

Junior Paula De Hipolito Ruiz has noticed major differences between Ritenour and her school in Spain


Paula De Hipolito Ruiz

My transition here has been very different from Spain. Schools are not the same and the educational system is not the same either.

Firstly, schools are not as big in Spain. There is just one building for the entire school from first grade to twelve grade, including kindergarten, so there are not so many people in a school.

Secondly, you can not choose your subjects. When you are in tenth grade you have to choose a block (science, technologic, or humanities). Inside those blocks, there are different subjects; the science block takes chemistry, physics, biology, and science culture; for technologic, there are classes in chemistry, physics, biology, and technologic design; and finally, for humanities there are Latin, philosophy, and economy classes. There are also the obligatory subjects of Spanish (literature, grammar…), maths, history, and English.

In the United States, you can choose all your entire schedule and choose the things you like, but you have to still have the obligatory subjects at the level you need, not like in Spain where all the entire grade needs to do the same level.

One thing that impacts me is that you can attend classes with people from different levels. If you go to a Spanish school, people are in the same room with people of the same grade, and we do not have to change classrooms every hour and be with people from different grades. Instead, the teachers are the ones who move room by room every hour. This can sometimes change, for example, if you are in a class with people who have chosen a different block at the time you have to take the subjects of your block.  In the US, people from different grades can be in the same class, and every hour the students change their room classes.

Sports are not nearly as important in Spain as they are in the US. We only have a few, like soccer (which is very important to Spanish people), basketball, and volleyball. There are some schools that can have more, but only as many as two or three more, and the sports are for all the school year, so they run from September through May. In the US, sports are so important, and even more so if you want a scholarship for college, so all schools have a lot of choices about what sport to play.

Lunch is also very different in Spain. We do not have lunch hours, we only have one lunch where all people go to lunch and you can choose if they want to eat at school or at home. When you are in 10th grade you actually finish school before lunch. In Spain, people eat lunch between the hours of 1-3 pm. 

Finally, we don’t have dances in Spain, but here, there is a Homecoming dance with a spirit week and a Prom dance at the end of the school year.

At the beginning of this school year, I got lost every day, a lot of times. I didn’t know the lunch hours so I tried to find people that were in my classes, but I did not see them and that is because they had a different lunch hour. In sports, it was different because now I have practice every day for two and a half hours, and in Spain, I had one hour and a half practice two days a week. 

It has been different, but I have been getting used to it, and now I prefer this over the things we have in Spain.