My International Experience

Photo courtesy of Klaudia Rixmann

Photo courtesy of Klaudia Rixmann

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I spent seven months in the German high school Johannes Kepler Gymnasium of Reutlingen (Kepi), and although it was a life-changing experience, I couldn’t have been happier to start a new year back at Kettle Moraine School for Arts and Performance (KM Perform). Studying abroad was eye-opening (and something I highly recommend), and I did notice both positive and negative contrasts in Kepi’s education style. The differences and similarities in structure, curriculum, atmosphere, and extracurriculars between Kepi and KM Perform shine light on the positive and progressive direction in which KM Perform is headed.

Perhaps the most glaring structural difference is that sixth grade and middle school are mashed into high school. Yes, at Kepi Gymnasium there are seven grades in one school. Every day I had a bit of stressful fun attempting to avoid the wild, careening children running up and down the halls. At first, this mixture of young children and near-adults was baffling and a little irrational to me, but I soon realized the method in the madness. The younger ones are able to get a glimpse of what the rest of their pre-college school career will look like. They see older students working hard studying and practicing while balancing their personal lives. Additionally, German students stay with the same class of peers all the way up until the 11th grade. This builds a tight community that forges strong relationships and initiates conflict resolution. Socially mature children that have older role models develop into motivated students.

Although KM Perform doesn’t enjoy the company of eleven- to fourteen-year-olds, classes are regularly mixed between freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. This mixture of ages appeals to the German example of developing role models. The fact that KM Perform utilizes focus areas also allows students to build long-term friendships as well as placing students in situations where clashes will have to be settled – building the skills of conflict resolution and tolerance.

One of the other structural differences I greatly enjoyed was the open campus. Every day for lunch I would walk to the city or home to grab a bite to eat. On the warmer days, my friends and I would sit outside at restaurants and watch the city life move past as we munched on the popular lunch choices of Doener (pita-style sandwiches originating from Turkey), Currywurst (curry sausage), or Leber Kaese (a thick, hot slice of meat in a fresh bread roll). If a class was canceled that day (which happened occasionally), we would go to the park and work on homework or play soccer. Being able to freely step outside and take a break during school gave back the energy needed to finish the rest of the day. Additionally, it awarded me with a sense of responsibility and respect, making me feel like the young adult that I am.