From the 22.10.12 to the 26.10.12, I experienced one week at a school in Switzerland. That week was an eye opening and incredible experience and also introduced me to some people I know I will be friends with for a lifetime.
The differences between school in Switzerland and school in Australia is huge – the list goes on and on and on. To start of with the education system: in Australia we graduate after 12 years of school, although in Switzerland they only have 9 years. At the age of 15 after these 9 years, the kids choose which career path they go into and they are given a whole lot more of options after high school than us in Australia. They can either go into a high level high school or an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship is the option most students choose, and the only ones that continue into a high level high school are the ones that would like to become doctors or scientists. The school I went to consisted of students between the ages of 15 – 25 all who were completing apprenticeships. They would work 3 days a week and then come to school for the other 2 days. Some of the younger classes worked less and came to school more.
As they only went to school for two days (average) and they had round 14 subjects, they had a lot to fit into one day. Their school day would last from around 08:10 to 17:45 – one very long day. In that time they would study a range of subjects, in classes that went for 45 minutes each. They all studied five compulsory languages, which were English, German, Italian, French and Romansh. All the students could speak very well in all of those languages – which helped a lot as they could speak English. I had hoped to learn a bit in all those languages, but as I was only there for a short time, most of the lessons consisted of me talking about Australia as they were all keen to know everything about it.
The rule that the students, teachers and principal found craziest was how at my school, if you are caught with your phone it means big trouble – even suspension. “And you still have students??” was a teacher’s words when he heard that rule. All the students were allowed to have their phones out and check them in class, although out of respect, a lot of them still kept them away during class time.
The school was around one tenth of the size of my school (Mountain Creek State High School) and was all in one little building. Connected onto the school was a nunnery and oh did I mention we were in the middle of the mountains! The school looked like something straight out of the ‘Sound of Music’. The view from every classroom was spectacular, snow tipped mountains and all. Sometimes a cow would even pop its head through the classroom window to say a big hello!
Another big difference over here was the uniform – you wouldn’t see any knee high socks, leather shoes, pleated skirts, buttoned up white shirt or ties. In fact you would normally see some trackies or same clothes the students had worn for the last few days. As it was so normal for them they didn’t fuss around with having to look perfect and having a new outfit every day, they wore what they were comfortable in and looked as beautiful as ever. In Australia it is closed in black leather shoes, no exceptions! In Switzerland it is anything but closed in shoes, it is actually against the rules to wear closed in shoes inside the building! Everyone wore “home shoes” which looked like clogs. ‘No way I am ever wearing them!’ I thought, which would be the thought of every Aussie teenager. Although quickly I learnt it in fact looked stupid being the only one that wasn’t wearing them.
I was fortunate enough to be given permission from the school to teach Taekwondo to all the students during their sport lessons. I have been doing Taekwondo for 6 years now and 2 years ago I graded to my first degree black belt. My club, Ultimate Taekwondo is incredible, and I had definitely been missing training so it was wonderful to train again. Twice a week in the afternoons in Australia I would help teach a Taekwondo Junior class which I love, so it was wonderful to be able to do some teaching again. The students were all very enthusiastic about it and put in their whole effort. Teaching Taekwondo in Switzerland was and amazing opportunity and I will treasure it forever. All the students had a smile on their face no matter how many push ups I told them to do – it was great!
Everyone at the school made me feel so welcome and appreciated that so much. The teachers taught their whole lessons around me, which was very strange for me to be the centre of attention. The school gave me so much confidence which will help me throughout the rest of my trip and throughout my life. I met some wonderful and inspirational students who I have since become very close with, which has made me so happy. It was an experience worth having and really changed the way I look at school and other aspects of life. Any young travellers it would be my utter most highest recommendation to go and spend a few days in a school, experience the difference and meet people your age!