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Differences between Swedish school and American high school

Thea-bengtssonMy name is Thea, I'm from Sweden, and I was an exchange student in Traverse City, Michigan 2009/2010. Here's a story about the differences between the Swedish and the American schools. Enjoy.

My first day at Traverse City Central High School was just like in the movie Mean Girls. (Don't freak out yet) It's like a language that you don't understand. It feels like you don't fit it. Because everything is so different. Just having lunch, going to the cafeteria, where was I suppose to sit? I didn't know a single soul. So I just thought, this year will be whatever I do with it. It can be great or I could just sit in a corner by myself experience nothing. I chose to out myself out there. I asked a girl next to me in line in the cafeteria if I could sit with her. She was so nice, Lauren I still remember her even thou I just had lunch with her that first day. But it was in that moment that I decided that I was going to make my year in to something great, I wanted to be a part of the american culture.

So how was my school? Well I attended a pretty big school, 1550 students. My first day I got to pick by subjects. My school had trimesters which I'm not used to. In Sweden we have two semesters and we don't get to chose our subjects. So I thought I would just pick the one's that sounds the most fun. So one class that I picked was weights, me, 3 other girls and 35 football guys. I felt kind of little there. The boys were so big and I felt like a young girl that could barley lift the bar. Okay it wasn't that bad.

Traverse city - Central High School

In Sweden I can come and go as I want when I'm at school. I don't have to be there if I don't want to. If I need to get out, for a dentist appointment or something I could just leave. Nobody asked where I was going unless we had a test. So it's not very strict. In the US I was 5 seconds late to my history class and I got a tardy. So the school called my host parents to let them know. They just laugh but I was never late again.

If you got 3 tardy you got detention. Luckily, I never got that. You call your teachers by their last names and I don't even know what their first names are. In Sweden it's the opposite. I barley know what my teachers last names are.

School lunch

So the school lunch, was it pizza and fries like in Jamie Oliver's TV show? Yes, they had chicken nuggets, hamburgers, pizza, sodas, candy and tons of other unhealthy food. I friend of mine had chicken nuggets every single day! She loved it. Me? I brought lunch with me 3 days a week and bought 2 days, and I usually got a bagel or yoghurt. Not so much pizza. But once in a while I got some chicken nuggets.




High school spirit

The school spirt was something extra! Before every football game the buys would put on a nice shirt and tie. I played tennis during the spring and when we had a game day we wore our tennis hoods. It was fun because everybody wished you good luck. During the fall the boys played football and I think every single soul from the school where there! It was a different theme every friday and everybody got their costumes on and supported our boys. Of course we had cheerleaders as well, the popular girls. They raised the spirt and everybody were singing and cheering for our boys. It was so much fun!



In Sweden we don't have school sports, so It was fun to see how it affects and the school become one unity. It was one team, the players, the cheerleaders, the band and us up on the bleachers. We were all friends and it was fun to see everybody get together.

High school prom

As you all know in the US they have home coming & prom. At my school we also had white out. Prom was so much fun! I think I could write an essay about it. It was just l thought it would be. Spending days at the mall to find the perfect dress and then getting asked by a boy to go with him. I went with Stuart Stevenson. He asked me in the cutest way. I got a little bag of swedish fish and when I opened it he had put a note inside "Thea vill du gå på balen med mig". He had looked it up and wrote it in swedish! It was so cute and we had a great night!


Not like in Sweden where everybody pretty much get wasted before their prom. It's more about just having fun and dancing all night with your friends, without the alcohol. In Sweden it's 18 to drink and in the US it's 21 so of course it makes a difference. I had a blast at my prom in Sweden as well, but it was more about showing of in front of everybody else how pretty you are while in the US it was more about just having a fun night.

Graduation was so much fun but also so sad, because it meant that my year was over. It was a great last day with all of my friends gathered and my family came from Sweden to experience the day with me. It felt great getting my diploma, knowing that I had a done it, being an exchange student. I had been away from friends and family for a full year and that was the day it all ended. It was time for me to say good bye to a country that I fell in love with.



My host parents and my host sister


If I would have the opportunity I would do it all over again! It was so much fun being and exchange student and now I have friends all over the world! So if you get the chance to go, take it because you won't be sorry!

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