Experiencing American Education

My observations as a foreign exchange student


Photo by Christian Science Monitor

Former President Barack Obama visits an elementary school.

Agota Mihalffy, Guest Writer

When I came to the United States as an exchange student, I thought I knew everything about American schools. I imagined it would be somewhere between Mean Girls and The Breakfast Club, but I hoped it would be similar to my school in Hungary. I could not have been more wrong. Because let’s be honest, I believed that it was all what I had seen in movies. After spending two months here, I had to realize that almost everything is different.

First of all, the age limit for driving is higher in Europe (usually 17 or 18). In addition, my school has a rule that seniors who already turned 18 are not allowed to drive to school, even if they own a car. My first day at Skutt was a shock for many reasons, and one of them was the hectic traffic in the morning and the biggest school parking lot that I have ever seen. Hungary has a highly developed public transportation system, which means we have hundreds of bus and metro lines in our cities. It is also a cheap way to travel, so most of the students use it every day.

Also, Hungary is it is half the size of Nebraska; it would take seven times Hungary’s territory to cover Texas. Because of this, only 10 million people in the world speak Hungarian, my mother tongue; it is extremely important for us to learn at least two foreign languages. Normally, most European students take English or German as their first foreign language. Then most people choose French, Italian or Spanish as their second one.

You might be surprised, but it was really hard to get used to the way you say “How are you?” as a form of greeting. In my country, if you ask someone how they are doing, you actually want to know. They will tell you about their day, or how they feel about things; meanwhile, here people will probably just say they are fine even if they are having a bad day.

After school, most of students here go to practice or join some other extracurricular activities. In my country, school sports technically do not exist. I was on the basketball team at my school, but we only had four games in the entire season. If you want to play sports, you have to play for a club in Hungary.

Going to cheer for the SkyHawks on Friday nights seems like a natural aspect of the high school experience in America. This strong school spirit is one of the many things I love about Skutt Catholic. In Hungary, we cannot do that for two reasons. One, we do not have school teams, and two American football does not really exist there; the most popular sport is soccer.

Another thing, I like about American schools is that this system encourages students to think and to develop their own ideas. However, my favourite thing about Skutt Catholic is that it provides students with countless opportunities to try new things.

A lot of people ask me which system I like better. Of course, Hungary is my home, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Honestly, I cannot say that one of them is better than the other because both will always be an impactful part of my life.


Guest Writer

The Skutt Catholic Flightline strives to include new voices to add to the outreach of the program. Anyone interested can request coverage or email us at [email protected]