International Weekend at VHS
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Each year, students in the Verona High School International Weekend Club host foreign exchange students for a weekend who are staying in a different part of New Jersey for the current school year.
Senior Giuliana Frizzi, a member of the club, hosted two students, Anne Heidemeyer from Germany and Theresa John from Tanzania.
“It was really interesting to see how their cultures and lifestyles differ from mine and I’m glad to see that they’re enjoying their time here in America,” Giuliana said.
John chose to come to America for the year because “it has always seemed so awesome and free.” Heidemeyer agreed. Though both are enjoying their newfound freedom, it took a while for them to adjust to the American lifestyle, especially the new school system.
Heidemeyer had never heard of a class being referred to as “on-level” or “Honors”, because in Germany, there are separate schools for “on-level” students and separate schools for “Honors” students. After middle school, students must take a test to see which level school they qualify for, which creates a very competitive atmosphere as students fight for a spot in the higher level schools. Then, a student’s grades in the last two years of high school determines college acceptances. “The college application process at home is similar to how it is here in America”, Heidemeyer says. “It’ a lot of pressure and a very hard to decision to choose the right school.”
However, nothing about John’s educational experiences compares to America’s schools. She has gone to boarding school since she was about 11 years old, and since the school is 7 hours away from her home, she rarely sees her family. “Our teachers and administrators are very strict”, John admits. “If you do not follow the rules, you are put to work, sometimes in the field or in construction.” John and her classmates have a very strict schedule to follow. They must wake up at 5 a.m. and go for a jog, then have breakfast and begin the day of class. Class goes from approximately 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. with lunch and dinner breaks in between. After class, John and her classmates usually stay in the school until 10 p.m. then finally go to bed and repeat the next day.
“We stay in one classroom all day and there are usually about 60 students per class,” John adds. Such a heavy academic schedule does not allow a lot of time for sports, as John explains that she and her classmates can only play sports or participate in activities at their leisure on the weekends.
While America is very different from countries like Germany and Tanzania, International Weekend students like Anne Heidemeyer and Thereza John have really enjoyed their time in America has they both agree that “it will be hard to say good-bye to the American lifestyle.”