Education Across Borders


Callie Menke, Staff Writer

The first day of school can be extremely overwhelming. But imagine you’re over 4,676 miles away from home, you have to speak a different language, and you don’t know anyone. This was the case for Jill V. 

Jill V. is a part of the foreign exchange student program. After two years of waiting in the program, she finally came to America from the Netherlands. But before Jill* knew it, she was thrown into what seemed to be a completely different world. 

“At first I was like, oh we’re gonna leave at 7:15? Because at my old school, I would only start at class nine. Here, I wake up at six just so I can get ready. So my morning routine is completely different now,” Jill said. 

Paula Gracia is another foreign exchange student, who is also learning to adjust by following different rules/expectations and still enjoying the newfound freedoms that MN has.   

“Here there are no phones but in Spain, there are no bottles. It wasn’t okay to carry around a water bottle at my old school. But everybody carries a water bottle here,”  Gracia said.

Day-to-day expectations aren’t the only difference that these foreign exchange students have to come accustomed to. The curriculum here varies compared to the curriculum in other countries’ education systems. 

“In Spain, you don’t have the ability to choose your classes. I’m now taking International Relations and Interior Design. Back home you don’t have the opportunity to take any of these classes,” Gracia said.

History, math, and science are the few classes that are familiar on these students’ schedules. They appreciate the new opportunities and unique experiences.

The exchange students are surprised by a few other drastic changes. Jill observed differences in the curriculum in her history class. 

“Here it’s all about America. We don’t have only Dutch history, but here it’s just U.S. history. We have history for the entire world. It’s hard for me because it’s so different that I actually enjoy it. But it’s so weird too because it’s all America,” Jill said.

Oda Klo, from Norway, is another foreign exchange student at MN. She believes the biggest difference here from her old school isn’t the curriculum, but the school’s enthusiasm.

“At Millard North the school spirit is everything. Every school activity is such a big deal here. At my old school, it wasn’t like that. No one really cared in the way that we would all just go to school and then go home,” Klo said. 

Klo was also surprised at the way we test here in America. In American schools, we prepare for the ACT and SAT only in high school. Whereas in other countries there are different testing methods. 

“We have the finals, and finals are a huge percent of your grade. So everything you do starting from elementary school is preparing for those finals. You learn everything just for finals,” Klo said.

Even though there are a lot of changes that these students have to get used to, being a part of the exchange program is an opportunity that these students don’t take for granted. 

“It’s really scary because everyone here knows each other and you’re coming into your last year. But I also feel more like myself here because nobody knows me. It’s a fresh start where I can do new things,” Jill said. 

It’s only September and Jill is now a member of the cross country team, Klo is enjoying the school spirit of Mustang Nation and Gracia is pursuing interior design. They are all thriving in their new educational setting, imagine what is yet to come.