Jonah Paxton

Croatia

Hometown: Ponte Vedra, Florida
School: Allen D. Nease Senior High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Ponte Vedra Beach Sunset, Florida
Host District: 1913

Host Club: The Rotary Club of Prelog

 

My Bio


Dobar dan, my name is Jonah Paxton and I am a freshman at Nease high school. I am enrolled in the IB program and dedicate most of my free time to school and the Boy scouts of America. I am close to achieving the rank of Eagle Scout and have spent three years working to get to this point. Boy Scouts gives me the opportunity to pursue my two favorite activities, volunteering and being in the outdoors. My favorite hobbies are camping, hiking, rock climbing, swimming, and wrestling. I live at home with both of my parents and a younger brother along with two dogs. On the weekends, my family and I like to play Frisbee, go to the beach, and see movies. My dad and I like to play guitar, although we’re both terrible. I want to send a big Hvala, Thanks, to RYE for giving me the chance to study abroad and experience cultures and traditions that are unique to Croatia. I am most nervous about making friends in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language well, and trying to develop lasting friendships. I can’t wait to spend a year in Croatia because I’ll be able to participate in unique activities which will allow me to explore and take in Croatian traditions. Thank You and Goodbye, or, Hvala i Doviđenja.

 

Jonah-Croatia

My village Donji Kraljevec

My village Donji Kraljevec

Picture of Spancierfest

Picture of Spancierfest

More Varazdin

More Varazdin

City of Varazdin

City of Varazdin

City of Varazdin

City of Varazdin

Tracoscan Castle

Tracoscan Castle

Lake from Trakoscan Castle

Lake from Trakoscan Castle

Eat and Meet

Eat and Meet

Jannik and I messing around. Classic exchange students!

Jannik and I messing around. Classic exchange students!

New European Haircut

New European Haircut

Exchange students at the Rotary Grill Party

Exchange students at the Rotary Grill Party

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

RYE Florida

RYE Florida

Snowman

Snowman

Shoveling Snow!!

Shoveling Snow!!

Thanksgiving feast with Rotary

Thanksgiving feast with Rotary

Christmas in Croatia

Christmas in Croatia

Salzburg trip

Salzburg trip

The Broatians hanging out

The Broatians hanging out

City of Dubrovnik

City of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik Stari Grad

Dubrovnik Stari Grad

Jannik and I in Ston

Jannik and I in Ston

Ston

Ston

Fancy dinner party prep

Fancy dinner party prep

Journals: Jonah - Croatia 2015-2016

  • Jonah, outbound to Croatia

    Before a Rotary youth exchange student is allowed to spend a year abroad, they are required to attend an event known as “Outbound Orientation”. During this orientation, Rotarians and past exchange students describe everything there is to know about exchange to the kids who are about to leave. They talk about adapting to new cultures, what the kids are supposed to pack for the trip, and how they’ll react to exchange as the year goes on. Towards the beginning, I had a tough time believing the idea that some kids that completed an exchange a few years ago, would have any clue about how my exchange would go. But, I have to admit, they knew what they were talking about. Who would’ve guessed?

    Since Christmas, time has gone by much faster. I feel as if I have only been here for a couple months, but in reality, I’ve hit my seven-month marker. And unfortunately, that means I’ll have to go back to Florida soon. In three months I’ll have no more fried squid on Fridays, no more coffee breaks during school, and no more krafne… You know, I don’t think anyone would mind if I just decided to live in Croatia for a few more years, just for a few more krafne. If Rotary disagrees, I will just send them a few krafne, then they’ll understand.

    On a different note, the other exchange students in Croatia and I took a weekend trip to Dubrovnik last month. The city of Dubrovnik, located at the southernmost part of Croatia, is a city on the Adriatic Sea. It’s actually where Game of Thrones is filmed, and the new Star Wars, plus the new 007 movie. So it’s a pretty popular tourist destination with beautiful scenery and rich history. Anyway, we took a bus from Zagreb on Thursday night and arrived to Dubrovnik on Friday morning with the ride itself being a healthy 9 hours. Once we checked into our hotel, everyone got a much needed coffee. But because Dubrovnik is so touristic, the coffee cost almost triple what it would have been normally. We were so tired though, that nobody cared to spend a few extra kuna for some caffeine. The hotel we stayed at was nicer than anyone expected, and everyone took a power nap before we left to explore the older part of the city. We got to walk around the beautiful Dubrovnik Star i Grad, and even got to peek at some of the set of Star Wars and Game of Thrones.

    We slept like rocks that night, and woke up the next morning to an enormous breakfast buffet. After we stuffed ourselves, we got on a bus with a bunch of other Rotarians to go to a city called Ston. Ston is known for its incredible salt production and vineyards. As a gift, we received bags of salt that were made in Ston. The Rotarians told us that no matter how much salt we ate, it wouldn’t have an effect on our bodies. So all the exchange students decided to try and prove them wrong by eating handfuls of salt. The Rotarians were right, It had no effect, other than our funny faces from all the raw salt in our mouths. In my opinion, it was probably the tastiest salt I’ve ever had. Once we recovered, everyone went to a local seafood restaurant and had a great time.

    Later that night, we drove back to our hotel. Some of us chose to explore the city a bit more, while others chose to explore the hotel’s sauna and pool. Try and guess which one the guy from warm, beach filled Florida went to… Yeah, I must have spent more time in that sauna than anyone ever has. It was like a mini-Florida. Hot and humid, with everyone in their bathing suits. I felt right at home. The last day in Dubrovnik was fantastic. We spent all morning taking pictures of the city and its stone wall. And after that, we ate sandwiches on the bus ride back to Zagreb, and slept the rest of the way. Overall, great trip.

    About a week later, Rotary club Zagreb hosted a fancy dinner party. It was great to see everyone in black tie, and even better to dress in it. Another great Rotary event with more fantastic people. And now, it’s Spring break. I didn’t make any huge plans to do anything. I’ve just been hanging out with friends and classmates (and a little bit of Netflix). And soon, I have my Eurotour with the exchange students in Croatia and Austria. We’ll be going all over Europe to places like Rome, Venice, Milan, Monaco, Avignon, Strasbourg, and Linz for two weeks in May. I’m really excited to go, and I can’t wait to post pictures on Facebook about it.

    To wrap things up, I’m very happy in Croatia. I am having a magnificent time while I can, although it is a bummer that I have to leave soon. As always, thank you Rotary for everything you’ve given me, I am extremely grateful. Thank you, Hvala, Goodbye, Doviđenja.


  • Jonah, outbound to Croatia

    It’s incredible how fast my exchange is flying by. Almost 5 months in, and it feels as if I’ve only been in Croatia for a few weeks. I’m definitely not prepared for the idea of leaving in June.

    Since my previous journal, a few important events took place. Well, there was Thanksgiving, Trip to Salzburg, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, but first, I’ll discuss school. Prva Gimnasia Varaždin has been a blast to attend. I have great friends, interesting subjects, and helpful teachers. Interesting enough, my relationship with my classmates fluctuates depending on the subject we are in. For instance, in English, everybody is my best friend, while in Croatian, no one seems to recognize me. Of course it’s not that literal, but that’s the concept.

    For Thanksgiving, I planned a trip with the other exchange students, for us to meet in Zagreb to eat a Thanksgiving feast. We each brought something for the potluck, and luckily I was in charge of drinks and cups. Among the rest of the food was turkey, stuffing, mac and cheese, vegetables, and sweet potato pie (my favorite dish of the night). Once the meal was finished, we all looked like walruses, who had also eaten a large meal which had left them slightly bigger than when they started.

    In early December, the Croatian exchange students and I took a weekend trip to Salzburg, Austria. We all piled into a small bus and drove eight hours to reach our destination. We slept in a nice youth hostel with the 80 other exchange students in Austria, and it gave us a chance to swap stories about exchange. Out of the 12 exchange students in Croatia, there are two boys, and one of them is me, and being around other guys was a pleasant change. During our time in Salzburg, I roamed the city. I got to see the house of Mozart, and visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It might be because I am from Florida, or that I’m an exchange student, but the point is I hate looking like a tourist. That might have been one of the reasons that I joined Rotary in the first place.

    Next on the list is Christmas. Croatia celebrates Christmas a bit differently than the United States. In Croatia, there is a much larger emphasis on family, while in the US, gift giving is a big part of the holiday. On Christmas morning, I received slippers, a shirt, and some toiletries. Even though it wasn’t as much as I receive in Florida, I still thought my Christmas was fantastic. Another big part of Christmas is church, in Europe. I sure felt that when I was sweating inside an overcrowded church on Christmas Eve. New Year’s Eve was standard, I just hung out with my host family, and waited for 2016.

    Since winter break began, my host dad and I have gone to a local gym to play badminton and work out. However, there has been some snow in Croatia, and having to shovel it out of the driveway is my way of working out. I like to think that I do a good job at cleaning the driveway, but I usually see my host dad going over my previous streaks of snow.

    On a different note, I’m starting to see next year’s exchange students are getting ready for their year abroad. It just makes me remember when I was in the same situation, just so eager to explore the world, and having my own expectations of what Croatia was going to be like. Now that I’m actually here, I can say that my original expectation of what my year abroad was going to be like, is completely different to what it actually is. Exchange is really a once in a lifetime opportunity, and is unique to each individual. What I am trying to say is that I’m very lucky to be here, and that I’m grateful for everything Rotary has given to me. Thanks everyone!

    To see my homepage click HERE


  • Jonah, outbound to Croatia

    Has it really been two months since I arrived in Croatia?! Since my arrival in what I consider to be my new home, I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life. Why don’t I get started?

    Compared to my first month in this beautiful country, things have gotten better. To start, I have definitely improved my language skills. For instance, I am now able to hold a basic conversation from beginning to end with only minor mistakes. And, on a good day, I can navigate through an intermediate discussion. In my opinion, the most frustrating part of exchange has been the language barrier, especially when I hear my name being thrown around in a foreign conversation. It goes a bit like this... Ja sam iznenađen da ste prevođenje ovo, Jonah, ako što prevedeno to, onda to nema smisla. Confusing, right?

    Since my last journal, there have been many changes in my weekly schedule, with the biggest change being school, Prva Gimnazia Varaždin. School starts at 7:30, however, I must wake up around 5:30 in order to catch the 50 minute train ride to my school. At school, I am enrolled in over 15 separate subjects, some of which are history of art, ethics, Latin, and English (my personal favorite). My school also offers the students a free period, giving us time to grab something to eat, get coffee, and hang out. The students follow a weekly schedule that distributes necessary subjects to each class. For example, my class has English, art, and Latin on Monday, and gym, geography, and math on Tuesday. Subjects are different lengths in order to fill our 7 hour school day. School ends at 2:15, giving me just enough time to take a train back home.

    Honestly, I love going to school. My class, consisting of the same 23 Croatian teenagers, is the main reason. As opposed to schooling in America, Croatia puts together a class of around 25 kids and keeps them together for the entirety of school, meaning, if you don’t like someone in your class, get over it. The classmates spend 8 years with each other in primary school, and 4 years together in high school. Anyway, my classmates are the reason I have such a great experience in Croatia. My classmates and I are friends as well as colleagues in school, we can have fun together and still get work done.

    My class is my main source of Croatian too. Everyone speaks English in my class as well as Croatian, giving me an opportunity to improve my translation. However, like many other exchange students, my classmates filled my vocabulary with Croatian curses, swears, and vulgar expressions within the first few weeks. And, to express my appreciation, I help them with their English. In fact, in English class we read my Rotary journals. Shoutout to Razred 2.D (my class, if you were curious).

    Outside of school, I hang out with a few friends, but there isn’t much to do in a village in the middle of nowhere. I also like to be with other exchange students on the weekends. The majority of exchange students in Croatia live in the capital Zagreb. Zagreb is about an hour and a half away from Donji Kraljevec, my village, and we enjoy meeting up and going out to eat in the city. The exchange students and I have been on a few trips with Rotary too.

    One weekend, we took a bus to Plitvice Lakes and hiked around for a bit, and the next day, drove to an old castle to take a look around. More recently though, we had a barbecue with Rotary. We ate tons of meats, pastries, and soups, and afterwards, got to listen to authentic Croatian music. All in all, every Rotary event has been a blast!

    On a more serious note, I can definitely tell that I am changing in Croatia. Not just my attitude, however, my emotional stability, general outlook, and behavior are all improving with every day I spend in this fantastic place. I feel much more comfortable than when I first got here too. I am able to stay calm around stressful situations, and I am talking with many more people the longer I stay in Croatia. Rotary Youth Exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope to take full advantage of this unique experience.

    To wrap things up, I want to thank Rotary. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity, and thanks for all your hard work to make it possible. Hopefully my year abroad won’t pass me by too quickly, and give me enough time to fully appreciate this phenomenal country. In my opinion, the most relatable expression to an exchange student was said by Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation, “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I know I’m doing it really, really well”. Well, so much for me maturing while in Croatia. Doviđenja!

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE


  • Jonah, outbound to Croatia

    Dobar dan. Hey everybody, I’m going to jump right in to my life here in the best and most beautiful country in the world, otherwise known as Croatia. Even though I’ve only been here for a week and a half, I have already created memories worth a lifetime. But, I’m going to stop wasting time and start to discuss my experiences so far in Hrvatska.

    Since I haven’t started school yet, every day is kind of last minute and random. For example, on Sunday I went with my Club Counselor to a Rotary Event called “Rotary Health Days” on Trakosćan Lake. Whereas, Friday night, my friends dragged me to a music festival in Varaždin called “Špancirfest” (I will go into more detail on those events later).

    However, on a regular day with no special events, it goes as follows:
    Wake up around 8, shower, and get dressed for the day. At 8:30, I usually go downstairs to eat breakfast which is either a sandwich or a bowl of corn flakes. I’m going to go off on a tangent by saying that cereal in Croatia and how it’s prepared is completely different than in America. So, my host mother pours the milk BEFORE the cereal. Again, she pours the MILK BEFORE THE CEREAL. That alone is a huge red flag in America, but there’s more. Once my host mom has poured the milk (before the cereal), she puts the bowl of milk in the microwave, and heats it up. Let me remind you, we aren’t eating oatmeal or porridge, we are preparing cereal. By far, the biggest change in my lifestyle since my arrival in Croatia.

    Where was I again? Oh, that’s right, my routine.
    From 9 to 12, I go with my family to run errands. Errands like going to the grocery store, butcher, deli, bakery, and other food shops (we love food). Afterwards, around 1 or 2, I help my host mom to prepare lunch. In Croatia, lunch is the biggest meal of the day and is normally eaten with the entire family.

    Later, at about 3, I go with my mom to visit my host grandmother. We ride our bikes to her house, and run her set of errands due to her difficulty with walking. When we deliver her groceries back to the house, we drink tea and talk in Croatian. By that, I mean that my mom talks with my grandmother in Croatian, and I sit close-by, silently listening (silently not knowing what is going on).

    We get home at 5 and rest until dinner. Dinner is at 7, and is normally only eaten by my host mother and I. We eat sandwiches and fruit normally, and talk for another hour. I go to a local café with a few friends at 8 and we hang out, talking until 10. When I get back home at 11, I wind down and fall asleep at 12.

    Again, my routine will be different once I begin school on the 11th. In school, I will take 10 classes in a week, but only 7 classes in a day. My school begins at 7:30 and ends approximately at 2. However, the train that I must take to get to and from school takes around 40 minutes to travel on, sigh.

    Recently, I went to a music festival called Špancirfest. All it was, was a 10 day long party in Varaždin with street vendors, performers, concerts, and great food. I went with a few of my friends to walk around the streets and see the concert for that night. First there was a Serbian rap group (which I enjoyed), and afterwards there was a band aimed toward teenage girls (which I did not enjoy as much). The concert was packed full of people, and I think that the outcome of people was record-breaking for Špancirfest. Once the concert was over, we walked through the streets of the city. We managed to get a ride back home at 2 in the morning, and let me tell you, I fell asleep as soon as I got in my room (and the car that took us home). I was exhausted.

    A few days later, my Club Counselor Lily invited me to go to a Rotary event which entailed eating delicious soup and meeting new people. I was hooked before she could mention that it was also a 5k run. We drove to Trakosćan Lake, which was about an hour and a half away, and did what she promised… meet and eat. Fortunately, I didn’t have to run the 5k, but instead, got the chance to hike around the lake (don’t worry, I enjoy hiking). Once our bellies were full from goulash, we toured a castle set atop a hill overlooking the lake. There was tons of history inside and tons of good pictures outside. We were both tired after all the eating, hiking, and climbing, so we left in her car (again, I slept in the car). I’m known for falling asleep in Florida, especially in cars.

    To sum everything up, I have had a phenomenal time. Croatia is awesome, the people are even better, and I feel even better than that. I just want to thank Rotary, and all the Rotarians that make this experience possible. I can already tell that Croatia is going to change me forever, and I have only been here for a week. 1 week down, only 40 more to go! Goodbye, or Doviđenja!

    To see my page with photos click HERE


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