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American school culture shock

Editor's note: Let me introduce Lauren Fenech, a Lecanto High School senior. She is 16 and from London. She moved to the United States nearly a year ago. She writes here about the differences between American and British teens and high schools. Lauren is the daughter of Kathy Baird and the stepdaughter of Matt Baird.


Nov. 27, was a very big day for me. I woke up in a place so unlike Citrus County. I woke up in a country where we don't have Checkers, where the clouds are gray and its citizens pale. In case you haven't guessed from that really descriptive information, the place is London. Yep, I'm a Brit, something that I'm proud to be, I might add.

Anyway, so Nov. 27 was, in a way, my wedding day _ my big day. On this day, we left the place where I'd grown up and moved to the country where the Brits believe the art of speaking takes place. I am talking about America. My mum had remarried, and we were moving here to be with my stepdad, so yes, this was a big day. I mean, how often is it that you immigrate?

I won't bore you with all that nonsense about the plane journey, and how the food tasted like rubbish, and how little leg room I had, because if anyone really wants to read all that jumbo, all he or she has to do is turn on CBS. There will be some kind of article about increasing leg room, etc., which isn't really all that exciting, unless of course you live in the grownup world. I want to tell you about the culture shock I had when I first started Lecanto High, and let me tell you something, a culture shock it was!

Let's start on Dec. 8: first day of American school. Now, back in England, everyone has this glorified idea of what American school is like: think of the film Clueless, and there you have the answer to what runs through the heads of British teenagers who want so desperately to be like the Yankees, or Rednecks, as it goes in Florida. So, I walk into the lobby of my school, and wait in guidance for the tour of the place I can call home for the next 1{ years. I'll always remember that tour, thinking, "I could have sworn that hallway looked just like the math one" and "ohhh, this is downstairs."

I'm looking at my sister and longing for the days of navy blue uniforms and the four-floor system, which seemed so much simpler than what I was about to encounter, and would have to live with.

Biology in Room 115 was my first lesson. I had never felt so self-conscious in my life. Walking into that classroom was one of the hardest things that I'd ever done. I absolutely hate being the new kid in school and getting those curious looks. I had never been in that position before, and it's not one that I intend to do again anytime soon. The teacher was cool though, really easy-going, and I felt like I was able to ask him where my next class was and not feel totally stupid. Nice feeling. Only, it was one that lasted for maybe five minutes.

Trying to find my next class, English III, was not easy. I was downstairs, and the class was upstairs, in an outside extension from the school. Sounds simple enough, but for me, and my bad sense of direction, combined with my extreme nervousness, it was far from simple. Before I knew it, I was in the front office, close to tears, because I felt like a total failure for not being able to complete such a simple task as finding a classroom.

I remember that there was a teacher's assistant who helped me find my way and showed me a shortcut to my other classes, which were thankfully on the same floor. I'm bad at remembering faces and, to this day, I can't remember what she looked like. I wish I did, because I don't feel like I adequately thanked her.

The rest of the day I had English III, Geometry and Journalism I. Interesting classes, if you consider I have little sense of logic when it comes to math, and I find short stories the most incredible of all creations. You can guess how the rest of my day went. Not too bad, considering that the classes were good, but I was the one with the problem.

I hated this new system. I know I'm not one to judge, but I couldn't help it, and then I had to contend with the bus journey home. I hate anything that is big and yellow and moves. But the bus wasn't so bad. In fact, it was probably the best part of the day.

I was intrigued by the fact that the kids on the bus were interested by the way I spoke. I had been pretty quiet throughout the day, so until now, I had no real idea of what American teens thought of Brits. It was an interesting ride home. I think American teens are a lot more upfront and fun to be around than some of the English kids that I've known for years.

I got home, and my mum was waiting for me and my sister on the porch. She was smiling, and so was I _ until two seconds after I'd stepped in the door. It was then that the tears I'd been wanting to shed all day actually came. I sat and I cried.

Talking about it now, I feel like I was a big baby, but it's not something that I feel I should hide behind. For the first time in my life, I actually missed the idea of wearing the school uniform that I'd constantly complained about wearing in England. Now, I'd have to make sure that I dressed "just right" so that the other kids would like me. I had to get used to being around guys again. I'd been in a girls school for almost four years, and it is something of an adjustment, believe me.

I had to get used to the way American school worked. In England, our classes stayed the same all year round, on a six-period schedule. Here it is block scheduling, which seemed totally foreign to me, almost as foreign as England is to America.

So I cried, and I proclaimed that American school was a thing I definitely did not want to do. But you know what? After some little pulls here and a push in the right direction, I'm actually beginning to love it. I started Lecanto High feeling distressed, but when I graduate in May, I know I'll take many valuable lessons away with me. A culture shock it was, but an experience I won't ever forget.

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