October 30, 2013 - The English as a Second Language department for the Lake Orion Schools district tested 73 new students with 23 different languages this year for English skills.
Apart from noting the extensive differences in American "fatty" cuisine, and the lack of public transportation, eight students in the foreign exchange program at Lake Orion High School all agreed on two things: the school organization is very different and the people are much nicer.
Some students even partially picked up on what Lake Orion is known for to the locals, where living is a vacation.
Maya Mitrovic from Belgrade, Serbia, commented that it's school that is a vacation. She can manage to both study and hang out with her friends after school and still get good grades. Back home she has 16 subjects a week, with a revolving set of 7 classes a day.
"Everything here is so organized," she said. "You have time to do it. Back at home you don't know what to do first because you have so much homework, and then you finish doing nothing."
"School is so much harder. For example, advanced math here is like my easy math at home," she said. She also noted needing hall passes for everything, and that in Serbia students can leave school if they want. "It is their responsibility to catch up on homework and to finish college."
In Serbia, Sweden, France and Germany, students cannot pick electives, for the most part, they are given mandatory schedules. High school here is more like college there with the rotating classes and students.
Swedish student Fredrik Held said classes are very different. In Sweden you stay with one class of 30 people for three years before going to "gymnasium" where in the second year can a student choose from three extra courses.
"Generally there is a lot less options in subjects," he said. He does receive quite a different perk than students here. "We get paid to go to school in Sweden, we get about $150 each month in U.S. dollars," he said.
Leonore Seiffert from Germany said they have school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and a couple days until 4 p.m. She is with the same students all of her school life, she said.
In Italy, Michele Pavesi says life isn't all about school, like it is here.
"School is only a place to study and a place where you meet other people, but our life isn't there. After school you go back home and take a nap and stay with your family because you are tired and you can't hang out because you have homework," he said.
There are no sports at school either, he added. "Because your spend so much time here at school doing sports. The people that are on your sports team are most of the time your friends. You get defined by what you do in school," he said.
David Kim from Korea said some of the main differences in U.S. schooling are shorter classes, friendlier teachers, no uniforms and no hair code.
While talking to the group of eight students they talk about things in their country. "You're like, I don't like this about my country, I don't like this thing about my country. But in Korea our school starts at 6:30 a.m. and my school gets over at 10 p.m.," he said.
After school students are required to attend an additional academy, for example a math or science academy.
"I get back at 2 a.m. and have to do homework, and I sleep like two or three hours," he said. "Korea teachers spank a lot. If I'm late, or if I get a bad grade," he added.
Kim was slouching in his government class at LOHS and said his teacher walked over to him. Kim thought the teacher was going to tell him to sit up straight, so he did so quickly, but this was not the case.
"The teacher said, 'oh what happened, what's wrong', and I said, 'uhh,' nothing." He paused. "This is vacation."
Kim plans on staying in the States after high school to attend community college and visit Seattle.
Aside from the different academic organization, all the students noted the ubiquitous Dragon spirit.
"I would never pay $40 in Germany for a sweatshirt with my school name. I would never pay it, and here they ask me why I don't wear it. So I bought one and I like to wear it," said Nikolos Hamann from Germany.
"They are like D, D, D-R-A, and I am so happy about it," Mitrovic said.
Mitrovic, like many of the students, made friends very easily at the high school, and loved Homecoming.
"The people, they are real here. They don't pretend they're your friends because they are, or they are not, and that's the thing I like about the states," she said.
Romane Betend from France said she will leave the states feeling more confident after adapting to her experience here. She is the youngest student to participate in the program, the same program her brother did two years ago, and said she has learned quite a bit.
"I will test my limits when things get frustrating. If I don't understand everything at first I will have to be patient and accept the challenge," she said.
Students are tested on their English skills when they arrive to the high school, and if a student needs additional lessons they can take one or two English courses at the CERC building.
Generally if a student begins to learn English in fifth or sixth grade in their home country, they will be more prepared to immerse into the Lake Orion class system by their junior or senior year.