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Update: School in Spain
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve touched upon this department of my life in Spain. School has been no walk in the park, but certain things have gotten easier. I’ve found myself more integrated in the classroom; most of my classmates don’t stare at me when I speak in English now (although they always curiously look at me when I have to speak in Spanish in front of the class). My classes are still quite confusing, but my teachers have been very accommodating throughout. Given the curriculum and educational system of Spain in general are very different to those in the United States (as I’ve outlined in a previous blog post), I’ve slowly been adapting to understanding how things are taught in my bachillerato classroom.
English is quite obviously my easiest class. Students here learn English how most of us in the American education system learn Spanish: grammar, sentence structure, memorizing key phrases, etc. The main difference here is that the students learn British English (their textbooks are manufactured by a British press as well). The difference in certain terminology (such as “rubbish” instead of “trash”) as well as some idioms obviously clashes with some of my preferred phrases and vocabulary, but this is certainly the class I look forward to the most.
Math is also generally easy to follow along. My math teacher is always very curious as to how I learn things back home, so she always chats with me once she assigns the class some problems. In math, I’ve been placed next to one of my friends who can speak English, and he usually translates anything for me that I don’t understand. Math’s status as a universal language greatly helps in carrying out most operations in our practice exercises; right now, we are working on limits and derivatives.
Biology and human anatomy are certainly among my harder class. Both encompass a large group of terminology not common in everyday speech, owing to their statuses as hard subjects for a foreign exchange student. My teachers in both these classes are extremely helpful. My biology teacher made me read out a passage in front of the whole class in Spanish to help me practice my pronunciation, and he constantly asks me if I understand what is going on in class. I was not as nervous as I thought I would be to read in front of the class, and my classmates around me were very supportive: they would turn around and smile at me, quietly applauding, to show me that they were cheering me on. I was also able to hold an entire conversation with my human anatomy teacher, explaining to her that I found her class’s content very hard to comprehend: she very kindly offered to have me work on some sort of project to evaluate me rather than giving me tests.
Chemistry is easily one of my hardest subjects here, but rather because I’m not used to the way the subject is taught here. The students simply memorize laws and formulas to then apply them to word problems. The teacher doesn’t explain much theory, and most of the class, we just work on problems. Numbers are also written differently here in Spain: for example, a 0.9 would be written as a 0,9. This has been very confusing in chemistry when we work with smaller numbers, and for larger numbers, we have to use a decimal point: 1,567 would be written as 1.567.
Philosophy and lengua (Spanish language) are two of my more relaxing classes, although the content in both is very difficult to grasp for me. The classes are relaxing because both teachers are aware of the fact that the content is hard even in Spanish, so they usually let me simply observe or write in my journal. As the teachers speak, I usually try to write a page in Spanish in my journal or research some Spanish quotes. While I have absolutely no idea what my classmates are learning in philosophy, I do know that in lengua, they are learning about Romanticism and they just finished learned about el barroco (the Baroque period).
Physical education is a very relaxed period. We mostly do nothing, and usually the class ends in some form of class game preceded by a warmup. I also have technology as an elective, and I don’t know why I was so surprised to learn that we would have to write code in Spanish: I just assumed that English was the universal language to write code. My computer teacher speaks well in English, so he often explains concepts to me that I don’t understand in English.
Given we are not allowed to take pictures inside the classroom, I snapped this picture of a school building from the outside. Where all the kids are headed outlines the general direction towards the school entrance.
My teachers have been so much more helpful than I could have ever asked for. In most classes, they have offered to give me special projects because my lack of comprehension limits the amount of information in Spanish I can possibly memorize before my exams. Adapting to this school system has been really challenging: I’m not used to memorizing so many facts just to pass a test. Back home, I barely memorize anything for my tests (barring the obvious things like formulas or dates); instead, I relied on the fact that application on tests stems from a solid understanding of the theories and concepts. I remember my chemistry test handed me one of the tests to attempt while my classmates did it; I was so confused upon seeing the same textbook practice problems on the test verbatim (or extremely similar). My classmates have been really helpful in explaining concepts to me, especially Lucia (who sits right in front of me), who practically explains all of chemistry to me.
I managed to sneak in some pictures of my textbooks. Here are my chemistry and math textbooks: the concepts are exactly the same numerically, so it’s certainly easier to understand although the theory written in Spanish is harder to understand. I also included a picture of the code from my computers class all in Spanish.