PAX, Program of Academic Exchange, is a non-profit educational organization that promotes and arranges international student exchange to foster the positive development of the world’s young people and to support international peace, friendship and cross-cultural understanding.
For more information, contact Tanya Barton at 540-955-9135 or the PAX national office at 1-800-555-6211.
Clarke County PAX student Sarah Koop in her own words:
CDN: What is your name? Sarah Koop
CDN: How old are you?
SK: 17 years
CDN: Where are you from?
SK: I’m from near Hanover in Germany
CDN: When did you arrive in the US?
SK: I got here on August 14th but before I spent three days in New York in orientation.
CDN: Had you been here before?
SK: No, I’ve never been to the U.S. before.
CDN: How does the US education system compare to your home country’s education system?
SK: Sometimes I think the only thing that is similar is that we also graduate after 12 years, but even this is not right for every region in Germany. Instead of high school we have 3 different kinds of schools, that differ in the level of education, after 5th grade. There you finish school after 9, 10, or 12 years. If a student goes to the kind of school with the lower educational level he/she can still move up if the grades are good enough. Most of the colleges just accept students who graduated from the highest level of school.
I go to the highest level and my former schedule in Germany contained six class periods on three days and eight class periods on two days a week. So school starts at 8:15am and ends either at 2:25pm or 3:45pm. Until 11th grade we can’t choose the classes we take and the different grades are separate from each other. Other than for music, art, and science the students have their own room. So the same couple of students spend the whole day together.
Other than lunch and the time in between each period there is not really a time to socialize since we don’t have the school sports after school.
CDN: What is your favorite class at Clarke County High School? Why?
SK: My two favorite classes at CCHS are DECA and Photography. The teachers are so nice and we don’t have these kind of elective classes in Germany. I just love taking pictures and take my camera with me almost everywhere. In this class we don’t use digital cameras and also develop our pictures on our own. So it is much more that just taking pictures. DECA is so much more than just school. Actually you’re working towards the competition, which seems to be the major thing. I’m also going to Now York with this class.
CDN: Are your classes here more difficult or less difficult than your classes at home? Why?
SK: School in Germany is way more difficult than here in the U.S. I can’t remember taking a multiple choice test in Germany. We have to write essays, analyze things and participate in class. Depending on the amount of tests you take, in some classes participation counts even more than the tests.
CDN: Clarke County has been debating whether the books “The Color Purple” and “The Hand Maiden’s Tale” should be included in the advanced reading program? As a visitor from another country, what is your opinion about this?
SK: I’m sorry but I don’t know anything more about these books than the names so I can’t really answer the question.
CDN: What have you enjoyed the most about your time in the US?
SK: Hmmâ€¦ I’ve been here fore 6 months so there is so much I could say. I always love spending time with the friends I made or getting to know, do, and see something new. But recently the most amazing thing was Christmas. It was not only different because I’ve always gotten my presents on Christmas Eve since this year. Christmas morning we woke up and the amount of presents under the tree had increased again. I seriously have never seen so many presents in my life before. Also the ornaments and lights on the tree this year where more than I’ve ever seen before. Everyone was so happy. We spend about 1.5-2 hours opening presents and the rest of the day spending time together. It was just great. A white wonderful Christmas.
CDN: What have you enjoyed the least about your time in the US?
SK: First, I had problems with the fact that you can’t get anywhere without a car. And since I can’t drive it was difficult at first. I am used to the situation in Germany where I can just take my bike or the next bus or train. Now I kind of got more used to it and also got to know people who can drive.
CDN: What are your plans for the future?
SK: My plans for the future are not to forget how to speak English, annoying everyone in Germany by the amount of stories I gotta tell them, and definitely coming back to visit my host family and friends.
CDN: Would you recommend a PAX experience to another member of your family? Why or why not?
SK: I would definitely recommend doing a high school year with PAX but I don’t know if I’d do it to my younger sister. I just can’t see her in this situation. Probably just because she is my younger sister and the situation being so far away from your family in a totally different culture is not easy all the time.