Foreign views on prom


Words like homecoming, prom and spirit days may be familiar to most students here in the United States, but to foreign exchange students, they are a whole new concept from the traditions they are used to.

For Korean exchange student sophomore Sang Hyun Lee, the only school activity remotely close to American formal dances is a school festival at the end of the year.

“Usually we have to wear our school uniforms every day,” Lee said. “The one day we could wear normal clothes is for the school festival.”

Students prepare early by making their own “shop”, or project, like making a ball dancing room, a haunted house, a theater and more.

“You tell other students about your shop before the festival so they will go visit,” Lee said. “I sold brownies, waffles and juice once, and we get to keep all the money we earn.”

Students in Lee’s school usually stayed in one class with the same classmates but for the festival, they can step out of those boundaries.

“We can work by ourselves or form groups with any class,” Lee said. “On that day, the school feels like a department store.”

Only about half of the students choose the project, and the other half can just hang around and visit them.

“Sometimes kids try to sneak out of school to do something else,” Lee said. “But they eventually get caught after festival is over in the afternoon.”

During the festival, there is a tradition of competing and choosing the “best girl” and the “best boy” where they have to dress as the opposite gender.

“The boys would have to dress and perform like a girl while the girls do the opposite,” Lee said. “Sometimes even teachers participate.”

The festival also showcases many performances including a talent show.

“Other than the talent show, every grade has a class that performs something,” Lee said. “Usually we try to be the class to perform of the other 10 classes, and the teachers pick which class is the best and gets the money to prepare.”

Parents and students from other schools are welcomed to go, but usually only the Alumni, parents and currently enrolled students participate.

“I think it is very fun,” Lee said. “But so are American school traditions.”

Lee particularly enjoyed the spirit days that took place the week of a formal.

“The days where we would dress as ballerinas or game characters were really fun,” Lee said. “My friends back in Korea also thought it was very cool.”

For Lee, spirit days are a strange but very interesting tradition.

“The dance was very awkward for me though,” Lee said. “My friends in Korea were surprised at me for wearing a dress like that.”

Because students in Korea usually wear uniforms, they had no occasion to wear formal dresses.

“Formal dances in America, you can show off your beauty and stuff and I think that’s very cool,” Lee said. “Schools in Korea normally don’t allow makeup or coloring or curling your hair.”

Lee wishes her school could be less strict on the rules like in America.

“They should at least let us curl our hair,” Lee said. “My hair gets crazy if I don’t.”

On another side of the Globe, Norway exchange student senior Eirik Legernes experienced something much different.

“We don’t have formals for school,” Legernes said, “But we have a huge Christmas dance for the town.”

The dance is to celebrate the ending of first semester for the students and to celebrate the holidays for the rest of the town. Around 500 people participate.

“We have a DJ and we dance all night,” Legernes said. “The dance starts at 11 at night and ends at four in the morning.”

Legernes believes high schools in Norway lack special events.

“Back in seventh grade we had a lot more dances and fun days,” Legernes said. “From eighth grade to 10th grade, we focused more on school work I guess.”

There were more chances to do fun activities when Legernes was younger.

“Back then we went on expedition trips and stayed in a cabin for a weekend,” Legernes said. “We also had ski days where they took the whole school skiing.”

As students in Norway moved up the ladder, they are separated into grades and then classes.

“Unlike in America, we are assigned a class and we stick with it,” Legernes said. “Whatever we did we did with our class.”

Legernes admires the school spirit of American schools.

“I really love how connected you guys are,” Legernes said. “You all seem to know each other well and cheer for each other for school sports and formal dances and things like that.”

For Legernes, school spirit is rarely seen in Norway.

“We don’t have a team for our school,” Legernes said. “We have many, many clubs instead and nothing like prom or homecoming.”

Legernes found the tradition of asking people to prom very interesting.

“Like for the Christmas dance, people usually just go with their girlfriend or boyfriend,” Legernes said. “But nobody goes around asking people.”

Legernes especially likes one way someone asked a girl to prom.

“I really like how Lane Clark built a snowman in the back of his truck,” Legernes said. “Then he wrote ‘some people are worth melting for.’”

Going to an American high school helped give Lergernes a wider outlook.

“I think traditions like this are strange but fun,” Legernes said. “Maybe I should go back to Norway and spread some ideas.”