We’re four Danish girls and we’ve been on an exchange in Nantes, France at Lycée International Nelson Mandela for three weeks now, along with 3 of our other friends. We come from the second largest city in Denmark called Aarhus, where we go to a high school called Risskov Gymnasium.
Why go on an exchange?
In our school we all have French as one of our main subjects. Some of us have had French for about 4/5 years, and some, only 1 year and a half. Our classes got offered an exchange-trip to France that could last for how many weeks we preferred. We all had one or another kind of interest in the French language and culture, and it therefore ended up being exactly us 7 curious students. We have all had this idea, that being in France and intensely listening to French 24/7 for three weeks could improve our comprehension and possibly the speaking of the language - and we’ll get to that later!
The Danish school system
The Danish school system that we are used to is generally very different from a lot of school systems in the world. Long story short, we go to primary school (classes 0.-9.) from when we are about 6-16 years old. We then have the possibility to take a year off to go to a very different kind of school, that you could call a “boarding school” (directly translated from Danish it is called an “afterschool”) where we can choose a school to live in that specifies in special interests. In our group, a couple of the girls have gone to a sports-related afterschool where they danced, played football etc. and one went to a music-related afterschool. There, you live for one year with a big bunch of people that you possibly don’t know, and then you get to try to be a bit more independent. And that is where the first step towards independence starts.
In high school (classes 1.g-3.g), we can choose between a lot of different paths. You could call it a “mix-n-match” principe. If you like maths and music, there is a path for you. If you like social studies and English, there is a path for you.
We have, in the French school system, experienced quite a few differences. The first very noticeable thing is for how long the students are in school. At home, the longest days are from 8-15, while normal long days in France are from 8-18. It has been an extremely tiring factor, but it has been very interesting to experience this big difference first handedly.
What do we like/not like?
We are really impressed by the students’ abilities to stay focused during the very long days, and it seems that their memory and ability to know things by heart is really great. However, we did miss the creativity and ability to think in other contexts that we focus a lot on in Denmark. We also focus on learning to use the knowledge in a presentation or project. Since this is something we do a lot in Denmark we’re comfortable standing in front of the class and using our knowledge in new creative ways.
We also found that there is a difference in how much the school focuses on social activities like we have in our high school (board game café’s, movie afternoons, etc.)
What did we learn?
We’ve experienced that it’s common for students to refer to their teachers as madame and monsieur. This is not something we do in Denmark. In general, we think that we have more of a ‘friendship’ relationship with our teachers, than you do in France.
We did all experience improvement of our comprehension skills and expansion of vocabulary. Even though this is great by itself, we were all happy that we went on this exchange since it has been a really nice experience for us. We have also learned that the French people eat a lot of baguettes…:)
Sara, Dawn, Maya & Oline also presented Danish literature twice.