Since the programme that I'm participating in is called "High School Exchange Year" a big part of my Irish life is school. I visit a normal Irish school, with all other Irish students. Or at least Irish girls, since it is a girl school. My school is called "Presentation College Tuam" but it has nothing to do with a real college. It is a secondary school, which can be compared with a 'Gymnasium' in Switzerland.
Irish students visit first a Primary School, and when they are about 12 years old, they move to a Secondary School. Secondary School lasts five or six years.
Third Year/Junior Certificate
Transition Year (optional)
Sixth Year/Leaving Certificate
The Leaving Certificate can be compared with our 'Matura'.
After passing your Leaving Certificate you can go to University. What you can study depends on how many points you got in your Leaving Cert.
I'm visiting 5th Year here, which is quite hard, but since I already had most of the topics we're looking at at the moment, it isn't too bad.
5th Year students have to choose at the beginning of the year which subjects they want to for their Leaving Certificate. The general timetable consists of the three main subjects that everybody have to do: English, Maths and Irish. Well, Irish students are learning Irish since they are about four years old, so I'm exempt from it ;) Furtheron you can choose three choice subjects. In my case these are Home Economics, History and Biology. I'm really happy with my choice, because all of the subjects are interesting. Then I more subjects like Religion, Careers or PE. (I haven't really found the use for them ;)) In addition you can choose if you want to do Higher Level or Ordinary level. The whole sense of this is, that one is more difficult and you get more points in your Leaving Cert for doing Higher Level. Nonetheless, I'm doing Higher Level in all of my subjects.
Since I'm in Ireland, I have to wear a school uniform every day. It consists of a white shirt, a black jumper, a checked skirt and black socks and shoes. Furtheron you can buy a black blazer. Irish teacher, or at least the principal and the vice-principal are really strict about the uniform. When you're inside the school building, you're not allowed to wear anything else than your uniform. Not even a scarf, which can be really annoying because the school can be really cold sometimes...