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Exchange Student Talks About Her Experiences at Dora High School

Nadine Wickford is from Germany, but she graduated with the Dora High School Class of 96. She was an exchange student who attended Dora in 1995 and 1996. She recently signed up on the website and I asked her if she would mind doing an interview. She agreed and what follows is her story.

Q. Tell us a little about where you are from and anything about your family you'd like to share.

A. Right now I live in Berlin, the capital of Germany. When I came to Dora I was living in a small town, Gorleben, in lower Saxony, somewhere between Hamburg and Berlin, in the former West Germany. The town has about 700 inhabitants and there is really nothing going on. When I was younger I enjoyed playing with the other kids in the woods and near the river Elbe, which is one of the biggest in this country.
I grew up with a brother, who is 6 years older than me, but he went to Boarding School when I was 9, so we couldn't really get into a good relationship, which is different now. My parents own a trucking company, which my grandfather built up and had its 50th anniversary in 1996, the year when I stayed in Alabama. All my close relatives live Gorleben as well, and I enjoy going there nowadays to see my whole family.
Q. Tell us a little about your childhood and the schools you attended. How were they similar or different than school here.

A. As I said, my childhood was pretty nice. When I wasn't in school or Kindergarten I was having fun with my friends. We were about 15 kids at my age, and we enjoyed annoying the elder people, ringing the bells and running away and stuff like that. The children here grow up very different from the ones in Alabama. We do not have any clubs or school teams; we organize the free time by ourselves.

Nadine Wickford was an exchange student from Germany who graduated from Dora High School. This is a self portrait made with her webcam.

School is very different, too. Once you are finished with kindergarten you go to the elementary school. If you are a good student you go there at 9 and get out at 12 o'clock. The kids with learning disabilities have to come in at 8. We leave Elementary school after 4 years, usually at the age of 10 and go on for a two-year orientation school. There we start learning English, in fifth grade (now they even start in 3rd grade). During these 2 years the students get divided into different groups in English and math, according to their skills. After the 2 years the teachers and parents decide which kind of school the kid should attend. We have the Hauptschule, which finishes after 9thgrade, the Realschule, which finishes after 10th grade, and the Gymnasium, finishing after 13 years total. Kids who attend the Hauptschule or Realschule usually do an apprenticeship after graduation. Kids that go to the Gymnasium get a diploma and can go to college or university after that.
Besides that, the school itself is very different from your school also. We have a different schedule everyday, which means that we i.e. have English three days a weeks, math 3 days a week, geography twice a week and so on. Usually we go to school from 8 till 1, we don't have lunch at school and we don't have things like homeroom etc. Skipping school and coming too late to class is not that bad over here. We don't get punished for that, and if you don't feel like attending the art class for example, you just don't go there and tell the teacher that you were sick. Sounds pretty nice, but if you want to get a descent job, you have to learn self-discipline pretty early in your life. Continued Click Here.


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