Exchange students compare UAHS to the schools in their home countries

by Ella Koscher

“Everything is different.”

Sophomore Aggie Riou made this statement when asked about the similarities between UAHS and her high school back home in France. “Lunch is different, classes are different, the hours are different, the teachers…” she listed on.

Despite these differences, Riou was extremely motivated to be a part of an exchange program and travel from her home country to live in America for a year.

“I really felt oppressed [in France], like I didn’t have the opportunity that I should get and so I wanted to come here and just go out of [my] country,” Riou said. “You’re able to test yourself, challenge yourself.”

To Riou, America was the ultimate destination to spend a year learning and living in another country.

“All over the world [people] think that [America] is…like the dream,” Riou said. “You can do anything…. So I guess that’s kind of what motivated me.”

German exchange student and sophomore Maie Wist echoes Riou’s motivation to go on this exchange to the U.S.

“America…,” Wist said, “…was always kind of like this dreamland.”


The question UA students ask Riou and Wist most is: How is homework different?

“I don’t do my homework in Germany,” Wist said. “It doesn’t count [and] there’s no PowerSchool that counts each time you do your homework.”

Wist said that homework holds less weight in Europe than in the U.S. In France, President François Hollande has even proposed banning homework nationwide, according to The Washington Post.

“We have homework,” Riou said. “But it’s like if you don’t do it, if you don’t go over what you learned the day or the day before, if you don’t memorize what you did, [if] you don’t spend like an hour on your economics class, you’re going to fail.”

Homework is the students own responsibility because, in France, “when you fail, you fail. There is no retake,” Riou said.

The attitude toward homework is just a single difference between European and American schooling.

“The whole education system in France is way different,” Riou said.

Students in France have less freedom to choose their classes than American students. In France, students do not choose their classes until junior year of high school, when they must select the area of study they wish to focus on in-depth—either economics, math or literature.

In Germany, high school is from fifth grade through 12th grade. Wist said that until 10th grade, you stay with the same class, unlike at UAHS where students get jumbled with new students every 48 minutes.

“You’re really close to the people [because] you don’t change your class every day,” Wist said.

Schedules in France and Germany are also extremely different than in America. School life is less monotonous and repetitive.

“[In Germany], I have school days that go on until five o’clock sometimes and it changes every day,” Wist said.

The differing routine is similar in France.

“When people try to explain high school in France they always compare it to college [in America],” Riou said. “So that might be the same, how they change classes every day, change hours every day, and you don’t have the same breaks, stuff like that.”

Life following high school also runs differently in Europe. Some students take gap years, many go straight to college and some start working.

“I want to go on an exchange after school again to [a] south[ern] country,” Wist said. “Some people do that to get some experience, but most of the students go to university. That is also different; we don’t have to pay that much.”

The cost of university for a student in Europe is minor compared to the cost of attending college in America.

“You don’t pay for university,” Riou said. “You just pay for like your food, your room, and stuff like that. People mostly go to college, but it’s not college like here.”


Riou and Wist have found that the interpersonal culture of America is not to their favor.

“Here, you can’t really say your opinion. [America] is kind of like a food chain [and] society and people are above you,” Riou said. “For example, here teachers are above students and you can’t say when you disagree.”

Both Riou and Wist find this irritating.

“With my parents, I’m on one level,” Wist said. “I trust them, they trust me and…they appreciate when I tell them my opinion and here it’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to discuss this [subject] anymore.’”

The relationship between students and teachers is also distinctly different.

“Here, you are babysat,” Riou said. “The student is a baby and [the teacher has] to take care of it. In France, we don’t have this kind of stuff. We have more of a mature relationship.”

Despite these flaws, Riou and Wist have grown to love America with its opportunity for one to be successful in any area he or she chooses, whether it be in academics, theater or sports.

“I wish my friends would come over to America and we would just live in America,” Wist said. “But [you could] say your opinion.”

Riou nodded in agreement.