My name is Candela and I am an exchange student from Spain. I am staying the whole year. Since I was little, I have been curious about the U.S.A., and my dream has always been traveling here. When my mom asked me if I wanted to go for a whole year to the United States, I suddenly became the happiest person alive. I arrived here on the 5th of August. I flew with other students, everyone from different parts of Spain.
School in Spain is way different from school here. In Spain, the teachers are the ones who move around classes, and you stay the whole year with the same students in one room. I personally prefer it here because you have the chance to meet more people. Our lunch time is at 15:00 (3:00pm), and we eat lunch at home and then don’t come back to school. Being in a school in a different country made me realize the prominent cultural differences between people of the same age. I asked the exact same question to five American students and five Spanish students. Their responses have exceeded my expectations and reaffirmed my belief that there is a stark contrast between two cultures on opposite sides of the globe.
My first question was: What do you think about masks inside of school?
Every American student answered that they are necessary in order to be safe, but most of the Spanish students don't really care about them, and think that they are not really useful if, after school, students meet each other indoors without them.
My second question was: what do you think is the best education system?
All of the students agreed that the best way to teach is to let students participate in class, interacting, teachers working with the students, other than just the teacher talking while the students listen.
My third question was: what is your goal for this school year?
The Spanish students are looking to enrich themselves with the experiences that people give them, not having problems with friends and taking care of their mental health. They are also looking forward to getting good grades, but it isn't their first priority. On the other hand, American students are looking forward to obtaining good grades and going to college.
The fourth question was: Do you think that the dress code should be a thing?
Every American student responded with a resounding no, they think everyone should have the freedom to express themselves and that the actual dress code is really sexist. Two of the Spanish students think the same way, but the other two think that it is necessary, that limits of decency need to be respected; when you are inside your high school you are representing that high school and you are in charge of how other people see it. They think that students should wear whatever they feel comfortable with but with some limits, like not wearing political t-shirts or swimwear.
The fifth question was: Do you think that there is a hierarchy between the students?
Most of the Spanish students think that it does exist: popular girls and boys have more influence than others, they act like they are better, but it is not the case. American students think that it really doesn't exist, some people think that they are better than others but in reality they are not.
The last question was: what do you think when you see the flag of your own country?
All of the American students agreed that it reminds them of Republicans, and when they see it they think about homophobes, racists and sexists. Every Spanish student feels indifference to their own flag.
Doing an exchange year is really important for learning from new cultures, not only to learn but also to grow inside as a person. I think it is really funny to experience culture shocks. This is a long-lasting experience that every person should have.