Savannah Shipman " American vs. Turkish high school: Learning to appreciate the differences |

Savannah Shipman " American vs. Turkish high school: Learning to appreciate the differences

Savannah Shipman
Middle Park High School exchange student to Turkey

In Turkey, high school is referred to as lisesi or koleji. Currently, I am studying at the Marmara Koleji, or Marmara Private High School.

Every morning, I take a school service to and from school approximately 40 minutes one way. Classes begin at 8:45 a.m. and finish at 3:50 p.m. Each day, there are eight periods, and at lunch I join friends then mingle during the breaks in between the classes.

Yet beyond those similarities of Marmara Koleji and Middle Park High School, the differences are easier to spot.

Every Monday morning, we stand in single file, dressed in our uniforms to sing the National Anthem of Turkey. We end the week the same way, every Friday. As we shuffle to our classrooms, teacher may point to us and ask us to remove any non-uniform sweaters we may be wearing. Since it is the teachers who rotate classrooms instead of the students, there is no need for lockers and the walls of the classroom remain fairly blank with no posters or classwork pertaining to certain subjects.

Turkish students in grade nine choose the track they wish to continue in their final years of high school and into university. My schedule is actually a mix of classes between two tracks made up of 11th grade mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Turkish and Turkish History. Since Turkish and history are only taught in Turkish, I am given alternative assignments, which sets me aside even though it does help me improve in the language. My math and science classes are taught in both English and Turkish, so I am able to fully be apart of the class and complete the same work. If there is confusion, my teachers and English-speaking classmates seem to enjoy helping me out.

In my free time, I volunteer in the English Preparatory class for eighth graders, play piano, or create ceramics in my school’s large art room.

After visiting a few of my friends’ schools for a day and while attending Marmara, I have found one thing lacking that is quite easy to find in the many American High Schools ” school spirit. Clubs and sport teams exist here, but do not stretch beyond the normal limit of the school day. For two hours every Wednesday, students are given free time meant for these extracurricular activities.

Very little that is planned or practiced in the clubs or teams actually gets off the ground, simply because there is not enough time. At one of my friend’s schools, there are no such activities that go outside of the classroom.

Since there are so few of things that require a pep build-up, cheering, or support, there is no real need for a sense of school spirit. Extra curricular activities are often stifled anyway after eleventh grade because students begin their preparation for the OSS, a university entrance exam comparable to the SAT. Almost all of my Turkish friends spend an extra three hours after school, three days a week and on Saturdays, at preparatory classes.

Another thing that is close to non-existence in Turkish high schools is homework. All work is completed within the classroom or saved for the next lesson. If in the rare occurrence a teacher does assign extra work, the students usually do not complete or even begin it.

Whether or not the differences between my current school and Middle Park are for the better, attending and participating in class gives me a planned schedule almost every day and allows me to interact and enjoy time with the friends I have made here.

Marmara Koleji is just another perspective on a daily routine that I have learned to appreciate as a year in my high school experience with or without the traditional mascot or uniform.

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