International students compare McNick to schools at home

woojin korea

There are ten students at McNicholas who have left their homes in another country to receive an education and cultural experiences in America. They find some things to be the same, but they are also greeted by many differences. Other students at McNicholas take the American education system they have grown up with for granted. They may not realize just how different McNicholas can be from a school in another country.

Of the ten students, there are nine who are considered international, because they receive credit for their courses, and one who is an exchange student because he is here for the experience. Many of the international students seem to agree that school here is easier, the teachers are nicer, and having everything in English is hard to get used to. There are other small differences that vary from country to country and even school to school.


Sophomore Ploy Sithisakulrat is from Bangkok, Thailand and this is her first year at McNicholas. She wants to graduate from McNick and go to an American college before getting a job in the United States.  Sithisakulrat mentioned that most schools in Thailand are Buddhist schools. This affects the way students are expected to act. Sithisakulrat said, “Teachers over there are stricter than here because we are Buddhist so we are very respectful to each other, especially people who are older than us.” High school in Thailand starts in 7th grade and lasts for six years, but Sithisakulrat said that most schools have all of the grades, not just the high school.

At Sithisakulrat’s Thai school they wear uniforms, much like McNick students. However, Sithisakulrat mentioned that the sleeve length of their uniform shirt is based on their grade level. Her school starts at 8:45 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. on most days, but they line up to sing their national anthem before 8:00 a.m. and then go to class. Sithisakulrat said, “Classes and homework over there are definitely a lot harder.” She also mentioned that instead of taking multiple tests each quarter, they only take a midterm and final test so “the test will be harder.” At her Thai school, there are not electives like at McNicholas.


Senior Jelle Kunz is from Brandenburg, Germany, and this is his first year at McNicholas. Flying to the U.S. to come to McNicholas was his first time on a plane, but he has traveled many places in Europe by car or train. He is an exchange student, and will return to Germany at the end of this year.

Kunz said that in Germany there are 7 years of high school, which come directly after primary school. According to Kunz, German students take different classes on different days, instead of taking the same seven classes every day.  Kunz said that some days there will be nine classes in a day, and then different classes the next day; sometimes taking a total of thirteen subjects.

Until the last two years of high school, students are told what classes to take and they do not have electives. Kunz also mentioned that there are three 20 minute breaks throughout the day. He said, “I like these breaks more because they’re longer.”

Kunz also said that in Germany students are not given time to work in class on presentations and group projects; they must find the time to do so out of class. There are P.E. classes in every grade, and Kunz said that the schools must teach you to swim.

Kunz mentioned that at McNick students socially group themselves differently than at his school in Germany. He said that here, kids have their groups of friends based on what sports or activities they do. In Germany, students have the same group of classmates all day, and they are friends with the students in their classes. Kunz said that in Germany, school uniforms are very uncommon.

South Korea:

DSCN1200Freshman SeHe Jang and junior Woojin Kong are both from South Korea. Jang wants to graduate from McNick and then go to college in America before going back to Korea to get a job. Kong is also planning on graduating from McNick and attending an American college; she said she is thinking about NYU or Boston University.

There are three years of high school in South Korea, which come after three years of middle school and six years of elementary school. Jang said, “Here language is very hard,” but Kong said, “Korean school has harder classes. Some of the math classes are way ahead of McNick.” Kong said she started school at 7:30 a.m. and normally finished around 4:20 p.m. Jang said that her school started at 8:30 a.m. and normally finished sometime between 4-5 p.m. Kong said that they also have only a midterm and final exam instead of many tests.

For their school lunches, they cannot pick what they eat. Jang said, “Lunch here is very delicious.” They both seem to agree that school in Korea is stricter than here. Both of their schools wore uniforms and Jang said that they did not wear hoodies, but wore cardigans instead. Kong said that they usually “watch movies or go to karaoke” for fun.


More than half of the international students at McNick are from China. The students from China are: juniors Iris Chun Chen, Ningyi Li, Kevin Yi Zhang, and Sam Zou, senior Hanye Li, and sophomore Cicy Zhang.

In China, students attend three years of high school and most of the Chinese students currently at McNick went to public school. According to Kevin Yi Zhang , there is a test that determines which high school you can go to. Their school start times varied, although most started somewhere around 7 a.m. and ended somewhere around 6 p.m. Ningyi Li, who attended a boarding school, said that their school day did not end until around 9:35 or 10:35 p.m. Their teachers come to them, rather than them going to different classrooms. In China they are often taking three sciences at once in addition to Chinese, English, history or government, and math.

Hanye Li said that in China they had a lot of homework, but much of it was math and science practice and not as many essays and projects as here. Cicy Zhang said, “Here there is much more time to do stuff.”

Ningyi Li also commented, “Time is different. China has a lot of studying; sometimes there is no time to play.”

In China students are required to learn English from a young age but Kevin Zhang said that one of the more difficult things to adjust to was the English here. Zou also mentioned that he still had difficulty with some English words.

The international students experience many differences from their schools at home when they come to McNicholas. Ningyi Li said, “Here there is more freedom, it’s more fun, and it’s easier.”

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