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Swiss international student wraps up year at NHS

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International student Victoria Hess spent the academic year at NHS, where students in her Advanced Placement/Concurrent U.S. History class had a surprise party for her.

By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

For Victoria Hess, an international student from Switzerland, spending a year at Nashville High School was “different than I imagined it would be It was a great experience.”

Hess was at NHS the entire academic year which ended in May. She took a full load of classes, made presentations about her life back home, and ran track for the Scrapperettes.

Shortly before school was out, her Advanced Placement/Concurrent U.S. History class gave her a surprise party and a couple of Scrapper T-shirts, courtesy of the Scrapper Booster Club.

Hess said her parents are from Germany and moved to New York City, where she was born. She stayed there for two years before going to Switzerland.

Before her sophomore year of high school, Hess applied to an organization which places international students in American homes and schools, and she was accepted. She came to NHS in August 2022.

“The school system is pretty different,” Hess said. 

In Switzerland, “The schedule is not the same every day, but we’re with the same students in class all day. I enjoyed going to an American high school, because the schools in Switzerland are pretty different.”

Hess did not receive academic credit from her year in the U.S. and will be required to repeat her sophomore year, which is common for many international students.

Hess said she came for the whole year “to experience the American way of life. All the fast food restaurants were a big shock,” she said. Hess is fluent in English and other languages, including German. 

“School is pretty hard. I’m used to German; here it’s English,” she said. Language did not turn out to be a problem, however, in her written work and in conversations with other students.

In her history class, Hess wrote a paper about St. Petersburg, Fla., and shared her research with her classmates. Toward the end of the semester, she told about her grandfathers during a study of family and local history.

Hess also spent an entire class period telling about her life in Switzerland, including school, food and entertainment. She made similar presentations at junior high and other NHS classes.

Sports teams are different at American schools from those with which she was familiar.

There aren’t school teams back home, she said; instead, students play on club teams after school is out for the day. 

“School spirit here is amazing to experience,” Hess said, after a year of attending Scrapper and Scrapperette games. “We have normal P.E., but we don’t get to experience anything like here.”

Outside of school, Hess said she enjoys cooking and riding horses. “I could only ride the English style. Since I came to the U.S., I learned how to ride Western.”

Hess said she wants to become a veterinarian, “but a lot can change.”

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