If anybody ever told me that one day I would find myself in the United States far away from my home in Russia, I would probably laugh and not pay much attention.
But it did happen. I spent three weeks in Lincoln city, Nebraska, together with a group of eight lucky students from my gymnasium, under the guidance of two teachers.
We were staying with host families, whose kids attend Lincoln High School (LHS) and every day, five days a week we went to classes with them. So we had to live the life of an average American student. It was really interesting to discover a lot of differences between Russia and the USA, between our home town and Lincoln, between the two schools. Here are some of them.
To begin with, Samara is practically the same size as Lincoln, but has a much larger population. Lincoln is not so crowded and noisy, and the traffic is not so bad as in Samara. In the US people are allowed to drive cars at a younger age than in Russia. So a lot of students drive to school in their own cars, and in front of the school there is a big parking lot. Public transportation is affected too — buses, trams and so on — we saw only one bus, only after a week of staying there!
It was the most memorable evening in our life. Pumpkin Carving and preparations for the Halloween Party! In the end we put all our ready-made pumpkins together and took pictures (here you can see two Russians and their hosts Miranda Freeman, Tuesday Bassen and her mother Jen)
As for the schools - they are really different! LHS is a very old school, whereas the Perspective Gymnasium, where we are studying, is only 10 years old. In addition, the rules in Russian schools are very strict comparing to those at Lincoln High. The main thing is that the students themselves choose the classes they want to have and attend them every day, which means that every day they have the same timetable. Another thing is that, during classes they are allowed to do everything they want, except eating and drinking! They can even sit anywhere they would like to, do their homework for some other class or even nod off and nobody will care!
The only restriction about students’ clothes is that they are not supposed to wear huge chains on their pants or skirts, and that’s all! So you can see both boys and girls wearing long coats, metal ties, a lot of chains and bracelets on their arms and with their faces and ears pierced all over! It is also quite normal at school to walk barefoot or be seated somewhere on the floor to have some rest.
We have so got used to the American culture that it is practically impossible to distinguish us from the people around!
There are some other rules different from ours. For example, before classes you can go and have your breakfast in the school cafeteria. At lunch time you may also choose to go there (which is not bad as they’ve got a wide variety of good food), or you can go elsewhere, say to a cafe. However you are not allowed to bring any food to school.
There are really strict rules concerning students’ being late for classes, especially when this happens more than once. The classes are 49 minutes long and each break is 6 minutes. As the school is huge everybody has to hurry not to be late. If you are late and you don’t have any good reason, the teacher makes a note in a special notebook. When it happens three times or more you are summoned to the principal. If it doesn’t help either, you even may be asked to leave the school for good!
Those are but a few differences between the two cities and school systems. It was really interesting for us to explore a new world, and we had a great time in Lincoln, though we didn’t quite manage to get used to all the rules.
by Alina Selyukh (Samara)
Edited by Angela Nissing (USA)