Junior Project Blog: Learning in Germany

I am spending my Junior Project at Europa Gymnasium, but don’t expect me to come back with any extra muscles. Gymnasium is a type of German college-preparatory school, but across the street from Europa Gymnasium lies the combined Realschule and Hauptschule, which are the slower paced high school and the vocational high school, respectively. The Gymnasium goes through the 13th grade, at the end of which students take a test to receive both their diploma and college admission.

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A street

I am staying in a small town entirely surrounded by frozen fields, though all I can see is houses. It is a surprising contrast to the dense Sylvania that I am accustomed to. The density here is in the buildings, which are, unlike in small American villages, are neatly placed close together. However, no houses lie out of town at all. There are no houses up on remote streets or out of town a mile. The only building out of town is a chapel, and then the next village pops up after a few fields. We are only about 20 km (12.5 miles) from France as the crow flies, but here things are quite German, so long as everybody is speaking Hochdeutsch, or High German, rather than a dialect.

The first thing Madita, my host, asked me when I arrived in Germany was “Are you Catholic or Protestant?” In America we usually don’t ask about religion unless we know somebody well, but at Gymnasium students must take one of three courses: Catholicism, Protestantism, or Ethics. Students who are neither Catholic nor Protestant takes Ethics, so I was planning on taking Ethics. However, nobody in my main class took Ethics, so there wasn’t an Ethics class available to take. Instead, I went to Protestant class, where I understood almost nothing in the discussion about sickness and death. I usually don’t think about GFS as being theologically diverse.

We tend to lean heavily liberal, we all go to Meeting for Worship, and we take our main break around Christmastime. However, being in Protestant class (and most likely Lutheran, though not much of a distinction seems to be made between Protestant religions here) made me think about how the entire class had similar theological beliefs.

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The sun catches a side of the Gynasium School

Math class was the class where I understood the most. The new unit is on exponential functions, but we started by doing problems with exponents and scientific notation. Once I figured out the vocabulary and what the word problems meant, thanks to my great math teachers, this class was a breeze.

We had lunch when we got home, which today was early, around 1. There are eight periods of 45 minutes each, like GFS, plus some breaks, so the school day adds up to be about the same length, but there is no lunch break at school. Some students eat after school if their parents don’t want them to come home to an empty house, and often on longer days students bring sandwiches, but there is no formal eating break.