German Students Adjust to Canadian School
By: Cheryl D., Grade 12, Garden Valley Collegiate, Winkler, MB

You look around, feeling very alone and nervous. The language spoken around you is vaguely familiar, but still incomprehensible. You long for something or someone that you know. Taking another glance, you attempt to convince yourself that this will become the familiar for you. You have just walked into a new high school in a foreign country.

For many students, this experience is terrifying and difficult. At Garden Valley Collegiate, there have been a number of new students coming from different countries, especially Germany. Although in a sense, school is school, there are also many differences in the school systems.

In Germany, the average school day runs from 7:40 am - 12:45pm. There is also a two-hour evening class once a week. A high school in Germany has grades 5-13 in it, and then there is an elementary school for Kindergarten - grade 4. An average high school has about 300 students, although this number can vary depending on the area.

The structure of the classroom is quite different in Germany. Esther Schaefer, a German immigrant to Canada, said, "The classes are more relaxed here. They are... stricter in Germany." In Germany, there is also no option for the subjects that a student studies. There are only required subjects, including Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Math, English, and several others.

Students stay in one classroom all day and each subject teacher comes to the classroom to teach. When asked to compare the difficulty of courses in Germany to courses in Canada, Schaefer replied, "I think they are easier here, because they are less strict."

Although Schaefer enjoys the more relaxed atmosphere of GVC, she misses some parts of her old school. In Germany, there were 45-minute classes as compared to 65-minute classes here. She also misses her friends and teachers, as well as the school choir. She is involved in the GVC Senior choir, but commented that "It doesn't compare to my Germany choir!"

Just like in Canada, German schools offer a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. They have the common sports and music programs, but go beyond that to also offer sewing and dancing outside of school hours.

For Schaefer, the hardest thing about coming to a Canadian school was learning to speak English all day. Although all German students study it from Grade 5 on, she found it difficult to suddenly make that her primary language. She was very happy with the way she was accepted in GVC, but she has a bit of advice for any GVC student who is new to Canada. "Try to be Canadian and try to talk. Try your best, don't be ashamed. Just talk!"

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