A letter from a study abroad student to Jackson-Reed


Sabrina Bergeron, Junior Editor

Dear Jackson-Reed,

In 2021, I studied abroad in Germany with the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program. My name is Sabrina Bergeron and I am a junior at Jackson-Reed High School.

While in Lehrte, Germany, I attended a gymnasium (high school equivalent) and completed 10th grade. I found many things differed between the American and German school systems. First and foremost: the length of the school day. Coming from a country where school was 9:00 am to 3:30 pm every day it was shocking to leave school at 1:10 pm daily. 

The structure of the school day was also very different. You would have a class period, then a 20 minute break in which most students left campus to pick up a snack from the bakery down the street. During class, at the half-way mark, you were given a five minute break to recuperate before the second part of the lesson. Most students went outside during these breaks. I found my classmates had an overall more content outlook on school because teachers gave them time built into the school day to relax.

In addition, we had no substitute teachers. If a teacher was out, the class would be canceled and students were permitted to leave. In those instances I would do homework with my friends at a cafe near school or go home. 

Even the school drinking fountains were different. Jackson-Reed’s water fountains are your typical “push the button” drinking fountains sometimes attached to a bottle filler. But my school in Germany had three options on their water fountains: “still”, “bubbly”, or “extra bubbly” water.

Grading also proved to be very different in Germany. There was no Aspen to check or Canvas to view. We typically had two exams per semester; classwork and homework were not graded. Final grades were composed of exam scores and an overall participation score. The latter would focus on how often you raised your hand to speak or if you were taking notes and following along with the lesson.

Extracurricular activities are managed differently in Germany. There were no school sports teams or clubs. If students participated in a sport, they would do it through a local community center. I rowed while living in Germany and I had to join a local boathouse.

These are only a few differences I encountered going to school abroad but there are many more culture shocks I experienced in every aspect of my daily life. •