School: A Universally Different Institution

by Katrina Frei-Herrmann

This summer, I travelled to Berlin, Germany, to visit family who live there. I have been to Germany many times, since almost my entire family lives there, but this trip I had the opportunity to attend school with my cousin, a senior at a college-prep school. When I started the day, I was certainly not expecting what occurred.

I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and drove with my great aunt to the ferry. My cousin attends a bit of an untraditional school, which is literally on an island. Once I stepped onto the ferry, I felt a sense of calmness and familiarity. There were herds of teenagers, looking just like any teenager from any school in America. The conversations were similar to those of American teenagers, too. They were talking about television shows, Netflix, sports, and how their weekend was. Everyone was chatting or conversing throughout the entire ferry ride. Once we finally arrived at the island, I was pushed and shoved by German teenagers exiting. They were all happy to finally be grounded on the island, and I was too.

The rest of the day seemed to fly by very quickly and smoothly. Classes were very similar to those in America, but there was not as much discussion in the classroom as there is at HB. The teachers seemed to be respected a lot more—the students listened with full attention.

My last class of the day was German class. During the class, they were discussing a class trip that they were going on in a couple weeks. As a class, they were going to go to Krakow, Poland, which they were all very excited and anxious about. One thing that I wish we did more of in America is going on class trips. My cousin was staying four nights with his class in Poland, learning history from a first person perspective. I think if we would take more time in our classes to go out to to historic sites, the information would stick with us a lot better.

Finally, it was the end of the day, and I was famished. In Germany, unlike here at HB, there is usually no assigned lunch time. Between classes, there are usually breaks of 15 minutes or so. In this time, students might eat a sandwich or chips, but there is no true half hour block for a formal lunch. I was upset by this, because I do love food, and since I was away from it all day, I was very hungry.

I started my day at school in Germany not knowing what to expect, but as it continued, I began to feel more and more at home. When I woke up, I was expecting everything to be vitally different. There were actually more similarities than I anticipated, and when I left, I loved it and wanted to return.