Friday, September 13, 2013

girl meets world: my first week of school in another country

So, today marks Friday and my first official week of school ever. Plenty of people have asked me what school looks like in Switzerland, so here's a quick rundown of the differences I've noticed:

  • There are two different types of high school: FMS and Gymi, or Gymnasium. Gymnasium is for students to pursue "higher" branches of learning, and FMS is for things like teaching and art and dentistry etc. You can easily get a job coming from either high school. (I got put in FMS... explanation to come later.)
  • You have only one class of students, and you see them every day. Mine is about 17 people, which is the average for FMS--Gymnasium classes have an average of 25 people (but they can't be any more than that, it's illegal.) This is actually really nice, because I have the same kids in my class every day and it's easier to make friends.
  • Every day is not the same... your days are broken up into 50 minute sessions and each day is different. So on Tuesday I have Physik, Musik, Geschichte (history), Englisch, and Deutsch, but on Wednesday I have Klassenstunde (a weird thing that varies from week to week), Musik, Biologie, and Mathematik.
  • This also means that you can take way more subjects than in American high school, simply because you have so many timeslots to fill. As of my last counting, I have 14 different classes. I'm not sure if that's a lot? It seems like an awful lot to me...
Anyway. Now that you know all about Swiss high school, here's an average morning before school for me:

6:00am--wake up. I refuse to wake up earlier than 6 (well actually I normally end up waking up at 5:50 because I have a weird tendency to anticipate my alarm... but I refuse to get out of bed earlier than 6, so). I get dressed, pack my school bag, review my bus schedule so I don't miss the bus again, and do all the normal things that one does in the morning.
6:30am--eat breakfast. It's still dark outside, and cold. Brrrr, Switzerland.
6:50am--leave the house. I have to catch the bus at 6:56 to the Rheinfelden main station, and then take the train from Rheinfelden to Muttenz, and then walk for about 10 minutes from the Muttenz station to my school. Hopefully I don't get lost, because my school is in the middle of an industrial area and there aren't that many people around at 7:30am to ask for directions.
7:50am-- If I'm lucky, I find one of my classmates and we walk to class together. If I'm not, I rush madly up and down stairs in an attempt to find the room. After I've finally located it (I swear the FMS building has no logical order to their room numbers whatsoever) I go into the classroom and we all wait for the teacher, who shows up promptly at 7:55. These are Swiss people, after all.

Voila. And school hasn't even started yet!

But after I find my classroom and my classmates, things get easier. Since we all have the same classes, I can just follow everyone else around and theoretically get where I need to be at the time I need to be. So far it's worked pretty well. :)
The majority of my classmates are really friendly and super nice about showing me where classes are and translating for me when I have no idea what's going on. Also, people keep commenting on how good my German is already, which is not exactly right... but it makes me happy, haha.

I'm currently in Physik, Mathematik, Biologie, Franzoesisch, Deutsch, Sport, Art (which I can't remember the name of in German), Wirtschaft und Rechts (economics), Computer Science (which I also can't remember the name of), Musik, Geschichte, and Englisch. Also my other Deutschkurs, something called PP that I don't understand, and something called Klassenstunde that confuses me.
Because I'm feeling nice, I won't drag you through my entire schedule for the week. You're welcome.


  • Music! We started with music theory (thank you, Animate Studio and voice lessons and voice teacher who gave me two years of intensive theory) and sang in the second hour. Also, the songs were all really old hits in English. Think Moonlight Shadow and House of the Rising Sun. Since I like singing and I could actually read the lyrics, it was a good class for me.
  • The economics teacher told us we didn't have any homework because I was in class and I might not understand it. This made me a lot more popular with the other students ;)
  • For my very first day we had three hours of Art. Hooray for art, it doesn't require you to speak very much and you have plenty of time to draw and think and attempt to translate what the teacher is saying. Probably the best Monday class to have, ever.
  • French is an optional class, because all the teaching is either in French or German and I've had neither of those languages in school. Because I've wanted to learn French, I stayed in the first class just to see what would happen. That said, I was surprised to discover that I actually understood part of what was going on! Language has always been something fairly intuitive for me-- some people get math, some people get science, I get languages. But I wasn't expecting to be able to read and understand very much, as I've never in my life taken French. I think maybe Spanish helped, or possibly my brain was in learn-a-new-language mode... either way, it was a nice surprise :)
In the majority of my classes, I don't have homework (hooray!) This is mostly because my teachers are really nice and understand that I have no idea what to do with written German homework. I do understand what's going on in the class, and I can follow along to some extent. From what I've heard about school on exchange, school is really boring, but so far I haven't found that to be true.

and so concludes a very long probably boring post.
We'll see what happens next week... stay tuned!


  1. It's awesome to see how well you are getting along over there. While reading this it reminded me so much of John! :) Hope you are having a fantastic time and are learning bunches. We miss you and hope to see you soon (AWANA is already missing you). Don't forget to be in your Bible daily and bathe yourself in prayer.

    Lots of love (in a friend type of way :P)

    Michael Hilgeman

    1. Michael!

      Haha, thanks :) There's so much immersion over here that I don't think I can help but learn. And I have a whole new respect for John after realizing how hard school is in another language...
      I miss you guys too! How's AWANA going?
      (And thanks for the reminder too. Lately I've been struggling with the fact that I need to rely on Him for my needs, not myself. But that's another conversation and not really for a blog comment.)

      say hello to everyone for me!



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