The American high school experience vs other countries’ high school experience

Story by Ava Conn, Features Editor

As teenagers all across the world attend high school, their day-to-day experiences may differ tremendously. Everything from classes, to extracurricular activities, is uniquely different at every high school. However, these differences begin to become much more apparent when you compare American high schools to high schools from other countries.

The American high school experience,  known for school sports, dances, clubs, and a variety of classes, is a dream that many students in other countries wish to experience. While it is easy to take all of these amazing things for granted it is important to bear in mind that this is not the case for many students as they attend school.

Foreign exchange students are able to provide a unique perspective into American high schools as they immerse themselves into the lives of everyday American high school students.

Leire Perez Lopez is a foreign exchange student from Spain. Leire has been attending Placer since the beginning of the school year and has been in America for a little over 7 months. She has had the opportunity to do her junior year of high school in the U.S. and says that it has been an amazing experience. Leire was able to further explain how American high schools contrast with foreign high schools.

“High School in Spain is not the same as here, it’s like study and study. We do not have school sports, we don’t have school dances, we don’t have fun there.” She went on to explain the differences between the classes at Placer versus her classes back in Spain. “Here you can choose what classes you want to take but there you can’t. …you have so many classes to choose from. It’s so cool.” 

While there are countless differences between American high schools and Spaniard high schools, they both share similar schedules. School days in America and Spain consist of the same amount of hours with students’ days starting around 8 and ending around 2. While at Placer students take four classes each semester, students in Spain take eight classes a day for the whole year, with alternating classes every other day. This schedule is very common in American high schools.

Sports and extracurricular activities are prioritized very differently in Spain and America. Whereas sports are very important in American high schools and offer the opportunity of scholarships to many student-athletes, Liere shared that high school sports are almost non-existent at her high school in Spain. “They don’t care about sports in Spain. School is the biggest thing there.” Not only school sports, but American high school students are encouraged to participate and join as many clubs and extra-curriculars as possible. Leire explained that if one wanted to participate in any clubs, sports, or extra activities they would have to find those opportunities outside of school because they are not available to students.

The education systems and the way teachers go about teaching their students are also vastly different in every country. Leire explained that “In Spain, you have to study the book, and then you have to memorize everything and then you have to write about what you learned. It’s a lot of studying. While here it’s more like projects and assignments, I don’t have to study that much here.” She said the biggest difference she noticed is that at Placer they do a variety of projects and hands-on activities versus just reading and writing about the curriculum. 

Here in America, you go to elementary school for six years, middle school for three years, and high school for four years. In Spain, the education system is set up differently, students in Spain are required to attend primary school and secondary education. Their primary education lasts from age six to twelve years. The second stage of education is their secondary education. However, once a student completes their secondary education in Spain they are able to choose if they want to complete two more years of schooling. Students have the option to continue their education for two more years for the Bachillerato certificate which allows them to attend university. Their second option is to undergo vocational training which prepares them for specific skilled jobs. Despite the education systems being set up differently, students from both Spain and America are introduced to the history, mathematics, culture, literature, and more in order to be prepared for their adulthood.

Every high school student’s experience is different from one another’s, but the differences are on a much larger scale compared to high school students of other countries. With study abroad programs one is able to recognize and enjoy all of these differences.