Wow it is a been awhile since I have written a blog post but here I am. It has been about 2 months since I have arrived in Slovakia. A lot of ups and downs have happened in this short time but I am finally finding a routine and rhythm in the culture here. One of the big things I have been getting used to is school. Two words that describe Slovak school is: organized chaos. School is Slovakia is definitely different then what I am used to in America but I come to appreciate it and like it. There are so many things in fact that the only way I could say it all would be in list format so here we go…
- THE LUNCH IS REAL FOOD. Now I know half of you just rolled your eyes at that statement. But specifically younger generations will understand more of what I mean and why it shocks me. American school lunches are pre-heated dishes out of a box. Everything is shaped the same way, same size, and same color. Short answer: most kids bring lunch to school because it isn’t even worth it. Now I am not saying school lunches in Slovakia are 5 star restaurant level. However you can tell someone actually made the food. They cut the potatoes, washed the apples, and cooked the REAL meat. When my host brother told me 600 out of the 800 students at my school ate lunch I was shocked. Now I understand why. Although it may not be the best it is a warm edible meal that you will eat.
- You eat lunch after classes. Different days might end for you at different times but that doesn’t matter. You eat lunch after all your classes are done. It actually makes more sense. I never feel lazy or tired in the afternoons. If I bring plenty of snacks I feel even better.
- 10 minute breaks. Most amazing thing ever probably in school here is that you have time to: find your class, go to the bathroom, get water and be back in class before the bell rings. No rush. In my school between classes 3 and 4 you have 20 minutes. Why? So you have time to eat. If you have 7 classes you end at the day 2:20. That break is around 11:00 so you are able to eat then focus better at the next classes.
- Teachers AND students move classes. This was very confusing to me when I first arrived. Teachers don’t have a set classroom they teach out of everyday. They don’t decorate the room or have their desk there. They show up with the rest of the students, teach, then when class is over go to the next classroom to teach a different class. 3 to 4 teachers share a small room where their “offices” are. If students need to find a teacher there is at least a place to start looking for them.
- Students in the same class have the same schedule. This saved me my first couple weeks when I didn’t know the school or where classrooms were. If I followed the same people I was in class with they would led me start to my next (…most of the time…). I have been able to get to know my classmates better because it is learning 30 new names and faces verses a 100 or more like in the USA.
- Classes in general are teachers lecturing students. Now this is great and all however there is one problem… I am not fluent in Slovak In fact when a teacher talks I get excited if I know a word they say or recognize a phrase they use. I do what I can in classes which in most of them amounts to zero. Most teachers don’t want to grade me and I don’t blame them. There is no point in giving me marks when, for example, have never taken a Physics class in English then expect me to be able to do Physics in another language. My classmates who are fluent in Slovak are already confused by it so no matter the amount of translating I do and questions I ask, the cause is hopeless. There are classes I do enjoy a lot. English language class being the first (basically because I understand what is happening), Spanish language class being the second, then others such as mathematics, art and culture, informatics (computer programming) and physical education.
- I have 15 different classes that I attend over the course of the week. It is a lot for me considering that I had only ever had 7 classes at once maximum. It is really nice however because you don’t have the same schedule over and over, day after day. At the same time it allows for time between classes to work on any possible work assigned outside of class.
- Getting to and from school is a whole different ball park here. One of the things I love about Slovakia is the extremely prominent public transportation system. My ticket to and from school in Nitra is a 2 minute walk from my house to the bus stop, a 35 minutes bus ride, then a 15 minute walk from the bus station to my school. I throughly enjoy this however I might begin to dread it when the cold, rain, and snow start to set in.
- Little fun fact about my school: this year was incredibly chaotic. Last Monday in fact was when we finally got our final time tables. Normally it would hae been way sooner but the school had more schedueling and administration problems this year. We still don’t have assigned rooms for each class but we at least now have classes set in stone for the year.