School In Chile VS School In The US

An Exchange Student Experience


Magdalena’s Class of 2023 picture of 2022.

Magdalena Lagos Romero, Editor/Reporter

Hello! I am Magdalena Lagos Romero, I am an exchange student from Chile in South America. In The Morgan School, I am a part of the class 2023. This is my first year in an American high school, and I have been here for almost 7 months. In this time, I have found a couple of differences between my school, Colegio Ingles de Talca (a private school in Chile), and The Morgan School in Clinton, Connecticut.

In August of 2022, I came to the US as an exchange student. Now that the time has gone by, I have found a lot of differences between my school in Chile and the schools here. One difference is the fact that most of the schools in Chile require uniforms every day.


The School: 

Most of the schools in Chile are from 1st grade to senior year. It is not usual to have only high school students in the same school as six-year-olds. Every generation (grade) has 90 to 100 people, and the grades are separated into smaller classes of 30 people each. These groups of 30 or so students are named A,B, or C. If there are more students, they have to add more groups. We have classes with the same 30 people approximately every year, so we have known each other since 1st grade. Also, every class has its own room, and the teachers are the ones that move to different classrooms. Another difference is that our school year is from March to December, and senior year is from March to October. Then you have to study for the test to get into college.




Our school schedule in Chile is given. We don’t choose a lot of our classes. I only choose my elective classes in my junior and senior years, but all the other classes are just given, and I have to take them. We don’t have separate math classes, like in the US. We have a math class and there they teach you Algebra, Calculus, Geometry, and the different types of it. Additionally, there are 10 to 15-minute breaks between classes where I can go outside, talk with friends, and have a snack. We have classes from 7:50 am to 4:00 pm from Monday to Thursday. This is different from the US where we have school from 7:30 to 2:00 pm. Also, students are not allowed to work in Chile, while almost every senior student in the US has a job.

In Chile, at the beginning of junior year, I have to choose between a scientific or humanities career path, which will make me have more science or history classes. I can change it at the end of semester or at the beginning of senior year, but the objective of these classes is to learn more for the Prueba de Acceso a la Educación Superior (PAES), Higher Education Access Test, which is similar to the SAT.  The career and college that I can apply for depends on the NEM. The NEM is all my grades from high school similar to a GPA and the score on the PAES test that I started preparing for in high school. 



The number of different classes that I can have here in the U.S is impressive. There are many AP and college classes. In Chile, I don’t have those classes, and also I don’t have lessons with people from different grades. Classes in the US help me discover more about subjects and topics that I may have an interest in. This helps me learn more about myself and gives me an idea of the career that I want to do in the future. There are some classes that I have never heard of before, like Journalism (we don’t have a school newspaper in Chile), cooking, jewelry design, forensics, computer science, media broadcasting, engineering, history of rock and roll, marine science, and a lot more. In Chile, we have more basic or common classes but nothing as extravagant as the schedule here at Morgan. 



The education here is different for me. In Chile, the teacher is in front of the board with a PowerPoint explaining the subject. Students have to take notes in a copybook with no electronics or Chromebooks. In the US, teachers explain the content, but students are mostly doing work or reading articles and answer questions about the readings. If I don’t understand something the teachers are willing to help me, but not a lot of people ask for help. Similar to Chile, students don’t have a lot of homework, and if students have homework, they have a lot of time to complete it, or it is work that students started in class that they need to finish. In Chile, students also don’t have study halls. 



In the U.S., sports are an important part of high school. Some students do 3 sports seasons with practice almost every day of the week. In Chile, it is not like that. Students have one season from March to December. They stick with that sport, and  have 3 practices a week or 4 if they are lucky. There are also fewer options for sports. There are no state tournaments. Something similar to a tournament would be “Los Nacionales”,  a tournament from teams of every city of the country and only the top teams get into them. It is like similar to state championships.


School Spirit:

In Chile, we have different activities that are fun that reflect our school spirit. For example, we celebrate the first last day of school for the seniors. There is also a special breakfast for the freshmen. We commemorate Women’s Day, Students Day, and a lot more. One of those is “Las Alianzas” where the whole school is split into two colors (some schools do more colors like 3 or 4). Seniors and sophomores lead in red, while juniors and freshmen lead in blue. There are three days full of activities with the two teams competing against each other to win the points for every activity. Activities range from soccer games with students from 1st grade to high school, to Sudoku, trivia, if you know the song, volleyball, to eating contests.  Even teachers are involved in these games. Every activity gives points to the Alianza, and the one with more points wins. Wednesday and Friday night we have something called “La Velada ” that goes from 6pm to 9 pm. In La Velada, we have to prepare special dances. The queen and king of the Alianza have an interview where judges ask them questions. We have band competitions, and then on Friday night, the winner is announced. Every school can change the rules and the activities. This event is the one that students look forward to every year and there are months of preparation behind the event. However, we don’t have that much school spirit for sports games. It is not usual to watch other sports, and we don’t practice that much. We don’t have school plays, clubs, or dances like homecoming and prom. We have graduation for seniors that is similar to prom.


Personal Opinion:

Every school system is different, and both the Chile and United States systems have their positives and negatives. That is why it is so hard to choose one over the other. In the US, I  like the school spirit and the different classes that I can take. Overall, I think that I learn more with the education back in Chile. That being said, here in the US, I can develop more interest in some topics that I couldn’t before. One example of a subject that I have developed an interest in is psychology.  A psychology class is not something I would take in Chile. No matter what, I am grateful for having the opportunity to be here and have an American high school experience.