Sunday, September 18, 2011


Rotary keeps stressing that we're here on a "student visa" and school is "very important", so here is a little run-down!

I've been to two weeks of school so far, and it is VERY different!

It starts at 8:30 and ends at 4, except for Wednesday's everyone gets off at 11:15. For me and the other exchange students (there are 5 in my school-from Brazil, Ecuador, New Zealand, and Australia) we get out Thursday at 12:05 as well because we aren't taking two languages. I'm in the "sports" section, so I have 6 hours of PE a week. I basically stay with the same group of students for every class, so hopefully it will be easy to make friends with them! With my schedule, I take 6 hours of PE a week, 4 of math, 4 of French, 4 of English, 3 of science, 2 of drama, 2 of history, 2 of religion, and 2 of geography. You can choose whether to take 3 or 6 hours of science and instead of drama you can take philosophy. All the other students are taking 3 hours of Dutch, but because I've never taken Dutch before they didn't want to put me in the advanced Dutch class so I just have off hours.
French, English, Religion, History, PE, Math, Science, and Geography are all mandatory for at least 2 hours a week. My schedule is only for people in the Sports section, people in the Latin-Grec section obviously have less hours of PE and more of Latin and Greek. It's different than the U.S. because you don't pick your classes, you pick your section and go to the classes that section requires. The classes are about 50 minutes long, and we have a 15 minute break in between 3rd and 4th hour for a snack because we don't eat lunch until 12:50-way later than the 10:43 lunch I was used to! I think the schedule changes a little bit each week, but I'm not really sure about that one. My religion, geography, french, history, and math class are all in the same room. My teacher for French is also my teacher for history. My schedule this week is like this:

                                Mon          Tue           Wed         Thur          Fri
8:30-9:20              Religion       Off          French         PE          Math
9:20-10:10            Science      English       Math          PE           Geo
10:25-11:15          English         PE            Off         Science       Rel
11:15-12:05           Drama         PE          French       English       PE
12:05-12:50            Off           English      Done         Math        Drama
12:50-1:30            Lunch        Lunch        Done         Done       Lunch
1:30-2:20               Geo          Science      Done         Done          PE
2:20-3:10              French        History       Done        Done         Math
3:10-4                   French        History       Done        Done         Done

So sometimes we will have double hours, like I have with PE, French, and History this week. Other times, I will have the same class twice in one day (like Friday with Math and PE) but at completely different hours. You can leave campus on Tuesday's and Thursday's for lunch, but there is this massive hill you have to climb to get back to school so not many people do. For off hours, you can go into this room and study but absolutely no talking, or you can go outside and chill. If you want to use the computer lab, you have to find a teacher on their off hour to supervise you. Long lunches are the best, because all the elementary schoolers and middle schoolers are trying to eat at the same time, and it is chaotic.  On Thursdays they serve fries, but every other day they have pasta with ham and cheese (the equivalent to chicken alfredo in the US) or Bolognese. You can also buy a sandwich for 2 euros that is HUGE with french bread and it is delicious. You can also buy any type of soda you want. At my school in the US, they weren't allowed to sell pop during school hours.
Lockers here are 25 euros, and they're tiny. They aren't like the long rectangular ones, they are square and deep. You also have to buy books for all your classes. You can sell them back at the end of the year, but not for the same price. For the lockers, they give you keys not combinations. 
When you walk into class, students stand and wait for the teacher to come and tell them it's okay to sit. It's very respectful. I keep forgetting and the other kids have to remind me almost every time. When teachers leave a classroom, they lock the door, so the kids just hover around after passing periods until the teacher comes and unlocks it. There are no clocks in the classroom, but it is a very religious Catholic school so there are crosses in every room and obviously, the religion class. For PE, all the students wear the same t-shirt, but you can wear any type of shorts. A lot of people wear jean shorts. Everyone loves that I was a cheerleader, my sports teacher wants me to teach a cheer section to all the kids in my class. Normally, we split into boys and girls classes for PE. We rarely do the activities together. There are no PE lockers and no mirrors or bathrooms in the locker room. Everyone just leaves their stuff laying around and the teacher locks the door. The bathrooms are in a separate room.
Flip-flops are not allowed in school, and they are crazy strict about tank tops and short shorts. Luckily, its been too cold to wear either of those, because I don't have any modest summer clothes. No one wears sweats or t-shirts to school, its all dressy, all the time. Everyone is fashionable.
The subjects here are HARD. It's not just that it's in a different language (although that is a fairly big factor), but that the subjects are more advanced. I've never taken a religion or geography class in my life, but now I'm in senior level in a different language!  We started out math doing calculus, which I wouldn't understand in English. In science, we do chemistry first, then physics and biology. I'm not good at science in any language. We had the first chemistry exam on Thursday, and it was a disaster. I didn't even know what the questions were asking, let alone the answers. Most of my paper was blank, the rest was a disastrous mix of French/English/made up elements. And another cool thing, the elements name's change in other languages. So I really understand nothing. It's ridiculous.
The handwriting here is different as well. Everyone writes cursive, their ones look like teepee's, their fives and nines are all rounded, and instead of saying 80 you say 4 20's. 
With Rotary, I have to take 4 exams but not pass them. I'm thinking I'm going to pass English, and that's about it. Everyone is my best friend in my English class, because I'm actually smart there. They all say I speak too fast when I speak English, and I think "Ya, imagine that speed with a thousand teenagers speaking at once. That's my position!" My French teacher said I could read the books in English and I wouldn't have to present because the other students wouldn't understand. I can't decide if I'm relieved I don't have to present or insulted that he thinks my french won't get better...
My math teachers name is literally monsieur Ndayikengurukiye. I'm not making that up. Most people just call him Kanguruke (like Kangarookey) behind his back. He has a super strong African accent and the Belgians can't even understand him. I have no hope for math this year. 
They don't have boys and girls bathrooms. They have stalls in this lobby area. 4 are for boys, 2 are for girls. The boys have urinals, and the girls don't even have toilet seats so you have to squat. I'm wondering where the logic in this is. Why not 6 boy and girl toilets with actual toilets and toilets seats! I mean boys can pee in a toilet but girls can't pee in a urinal! And girls bathrooms always have a line, and boys never do, so why not make more girls bathrooms than boys?? And no one really washes their hands here, they have a sink in the last stall but there is hardly ever soap and never paper towels. Mirrors are also very rare here...

Here is a picture of the bathrooms:

Everyone here can speak English but is too scared to speak in front of me. I think that's not fair because I have to speak my horrible French in front of them! Once they start drinking, they are much more willing to speak English but at school I'm out of luck :)

That is all I can think of for school as of now, but I'll probably add more later on! And soon I'll post about the Fete de Wallonie and FOOD!


  1. Kenzie,
    I'm glad you are finding it different. I guess I didn't realize it would be a catholic school :)
    And if you are OK with it, I will show this post to my students, minus the bathrooms, because you wrote it so well,a nd it is so authentic! Amazing how many times I can say something, no one hears it, but if it comes from you... It'll be better!
    Love that you write this blog. Good continuation. M. Lapoujade.

  2. Of course you can show it to them! I keep hearing words I know you taught me but don't remember, and then I get a little sad that my attention span is so short...