Leanza Mayo

Czech Republic

Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
School: St. Augustine High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: St. Augustine Sunrise, Florida
Host District: 2240
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Trutnov

 

My Bio


Hello! My name is Leanza and I'm currently a Senior at St. Augustine High School. I am fortunate enough to be spending my exchange in beautiful Czech Republic. I hear it's pretty cold there so that will definitely be a climate shock, considering I've lived in sunny Florida my whole life. I come from a blended family with 4 parents, 3 sisters, 2 brothers, and 2 nephews. My dad and step-mom live in New York. My mom and step-dad live with me in Florida. My siblings range from ages 16 to 24. Through high school I've spent 4 years in the AICE program, the Academy of Future Teachers, and played soccer. I am also the Vice President of our Senior class, a member of NHS, and was our school mascot for 2 years. I love to stay involved, so I'm always attending performances and sporting events when I can. When I'm not at school, I'm usually working or hanging out with friends. I love to laugh and spend time with people, although I can be very independent as well. I don't have one single friend group I hang out with on the regular, I enjoy spending time with as many different people as I can. With that being said, I do have one best friend that has been by my side since I moved to St. Augustine. Her name is Madison, and she will be spending a year in Brazil through the Rotary Youth Exchange program. I still cannot believe we will both be on opposites sides of the world, but I'm ready for the adventure this coming year holds! I cannot be more thankful for this opportunity, it's all I've wanted since Freshman year and it's mind-blowing that it's finally happening!


My first friend in the Czech Republic, Kateřina. We went hiking in the mountain range, Krkonoše. This mountain range shares a border with Poland.

My first friend in the Czech Republic, Kateřina. We went hiking in the mountain range, Krkonoše. This mountain range shares a border with Poland.

It looks better in person, but these are the mountains that surround me.

It looks better in person, but these are the mountains that surround me.

This was at Orientation for district 2240 in Strečno, Slovakia

This was at Orientation for district 2240 in Strečno, Slovakia

My first time trying Trdelník, a traditional Czech pastry. (Adding to my exchange 15)

My first time trying Trdelník, a traditional Czech pastry. (Adding to my exchange 15)

Have you ever seen a zucchini this big?

Have you ever seen a zucchini this big?

The gates to Narnia.. seriously from the movie!

The gates to Narnia.. seriously from the movie!

Lukáš <3

Lukáš <3

Czech girls take on Germany

Czech girls take on Germany

My host mom took this picture of our family

My host mom took this picture of our family

Snow!

Snow!

Dresden with my best friends

Dresden with my best friends

My sister, Nik <3

My sister, Nik <3

The architecture in Dresden was breathtaking!

The architecture in Dresden was breathtaking!

Fall went by fast

Fall went by fast

Journals: Leanza - Czech Republic 2015-2016

  • Leanza, outbound to Czech Republica

    Ahoj :)

    I really don't know where to begin… So much happens in a month. It's crazy because it feels like I've only been here for one month but enough has happened to fill 6 months worth of time.

    I guess I can begin with my new host family. I really love it here. My family speaks only Czech with me unless I really don't understand something, then they will try to tell me in English, so that's very beneficial. I have two younger brothers and a sister my age. My sister went on exchange last year to Ecuador and when she found out I was on exchange here, she asked her parents if I could move in even though I had never met any of them.

    Saying that my parents are generous is an understatement. They changed their extra room/office into a room for me, they are constantly caring for me, they have taken me to Prague, and include me in all the family gatherings. I love my extended family as well, my aunts and uncles and cousins. I am especially fond of my grandmothers here. They are very patient and calm, yet eager to talk with me even though they don't speak any English and know we will have a few language problems. My host mom is very big on cleaning, so we all do chores everyday. 

    We are also expected to constantly keep our room cleaned, which I actually have managed to do the majority of the time. (My parents in the U.S. won't believe this when they are reading it, hahaha.) I have formed a really close relationship with my four year old brother, Lukáš, even though I hardly ever understand anything he says. He calls me Leo most of the time and it's so cute. I have never been one for nicknames, but I am definitely fond of this one. I don't ever sleep in on the weekends because if my little brother is awake, the whole house is awake, hahaha. My family is insanely loud, always yelling and laughing, and I love it. The atmosphere here is everything I had hoped for. I feel so fortunate to have a big family and especially this family.

    As I said, I went to Prague with my family. We went for one night and even though I didn't see it during the day, Prague at night is beautiful! I also went to Dresden, Germany last week with my school. Something really cool about going on exchange to Europe, you most likely will get an opportunity to go to another country with your school. It's totally normal and insanely cheap. I paid a little over 20 USD to go to Dresden for one day. This included the bus fair and museum we went to. It was the most fun trip I have been on. I have made some really good friends, and I really enjoyed the trip and hanging out with them. It was great. This coming weekend I will be in Prague again, this time with Rotary and other exchange students for a district meeting. We will have the opportunity to go to the Christmas markets there. I'm really excited, I love all of the Christmas markets here in Czech Republic.

    Christmas here is more of a month long celebration. I love it. Instead of stockings, my family has these bags for every day of December and each morning we open them as a family and there is a piece of candy for each of us. We also have four candles at the dining room table, and you light one for each week of December while you eat. So right now when we eat, we light two of them. There are Christmas markets all through the month of December, they have many handmade things for loved ones, along with delicious traditional Czech food. There is also a special celebration I just experienced last weekend. It is for little kids. Saint Mikuláš (dressed like a Bishop) comes to the house with a Devil and an Angel at his side. It is usually other members of the community dressed up (maybe teenagers or young adults). They question the children on if they have had good behavior during the year. It is common for kids to cry when this happens because they are so scared by the Devil. My brother and little cousin were bawling their eyes out. But in the end they get candy and treats. I thought it was really cool.

    My favorite moment since my last entry: November 21st. It was the first snowfall. My family and I had been cleaning and preparing food all day for a family gathering at our house and right after I finished getting ready, I heard my host dad call me. I went to the kitchen and looked out the window and it was the most beautiful snowfall. My dad lives in New York so I have seen snow before, but this was so different for some reason. It felt like Christmas to me. Then as more snow began to fall, my family showed up and the rest of the night I was in the best mood. I'm always really happy with surrounded by my family here, and the snow just made it better. It doesn't snow every day, but when it does, for some reason I am taken back to that day and I am in such a great mood. I was scared of the cold weather, coming from Florida, but oddly enough it puts me in such a happy and content mood.

    Something new I've learned about Czech Republic: people here repeat clothes very often. People wear the same shirt two or three days in a row then again a few days later. It's not just some people, both of my host families have done this, as well as everyone I know in school basically. This is perfect for exchange students because we obviously can't bring our whole closet with us. So I never feel uncomfortable or out of place repeating outfits after a few days. It's something about this culture I really enjoy. They buy fewer things that they really enjoy wearing, and can wear them more often.

    Advice for future exchange students: making friends is really difficult here. It's the culture, they are more introverted, but don't give up. Always smile, always offer to hangout. Yes, it is awkward at first. I had to hangout with a few different people until I found my best friends here. Plus, I was the one who had to message them first, talk to them first, and ask them to hangout first. I love them though, and waiting to become close with them was totally worth it.

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE


  • Leanza, outbound to Czech Republic

    Ahoj!

    At my orientations in Florida and here in Czech Republic I had to learn about culture shock. As I learned about it, I thought that there can't be one general pattern for everyone when people are so different. For me though, I have learned I am going through the exact same pattern I have learned about. When I first got here I was so fascinated with everything, I was still a tourist. I thought I could live here forever, and there really aren't that many differences. Then as time went on, I started to pick out all the differences between the U.S. and here. I became homesick, never wanting to actually go home, but I missed certain things about the U.S. Now I've grown to appreciate everything different here. For example, the windows in houses here just make more sense. There's a handle and if you turn it halfway it opens the window, if you turn it all the way it cracks the window at the top. It's more modern and it just makes more sense. I hated opening my bedroom window in the U.S., it was rather difficult to push up to open and push back down to shut.

    Another thing I didn't think was very different was school. Except, the more time I spend in school, the more I realize it is different. So my school is the Gymnazium in Trutnov. Basically a Gymnazium is a school for students planning to go to University. There are other schools in Czech Republic dedicated to certain work forces, such as a nursing school. This prepares students who are planning to be nurses in the future. A Gymnazium requires students to be well-equipped in all core subjects. Students in my school enter at the equivalent to the 6th grade level I think, then others usually can enter at the 9th grade level. Your class, which is the group of students you are in classes with every year, depends on when you entered the school. I am considered the equivalent to a Junior in the U.S. but students here start school a year later, so the students I am with are 17 turning 18. The grade above, equivalent to Seniors, are students my age.

    On my first day I was told I only need to take 3-4 classes every day. I thought that would be pointless because how can I make friends if I am not in school?

    I am taking: Czech literature, Czech grammar, Czech composition, PE, 3 English classes, German, History, Geography, Social Sciences, Computer Programming, Art, Math. I also have lessons on Monday and Friday one-on-one with a teacher to improve my Czech. (The crazy thing is the other students also take Physics, Chemistry, and Biology… I decided to not take part in those classes, haha) In the Czech classes, my teacher brings me separate worksheets to help me practice reading and writing Czech. I am so thankful to use class time actually doing something. Honestly, most classes I have no idea what is going on.

    German class is quite an interesting challenge.I was given a workbook in Czech to learn German, and every class my teacher gives me work to learn German… in Czech. Right now when I think of colors I think half in German and half in Czech, haha.

    My art class is two classes long on Wednesdays and I'm with a different class for this subject. I am so bad at art, but I took it to do something.

    Math is really funny because I just started taking this class recently. My worst subjects in school were math and science so initially I did not want to take any of these here if I didn't have to. Then, one of the math teachers started talking to me everyday and told me I should go to her math class because numbers are the same. Now Tuesdays and Fridays I have math. It's funny because she teaches the equivalent to 8th graders. I am in an 8th grade level math class. It's gets funnier, because I actually feel challenged in this class. These kids look at me and probably are thinking, "What is this 19 year old girl doing in our class and why can't she add?" Sorry U.S., I'm proving the stereotypes to be true, haha.

    Classes change daily, you don't have the same schedule everyday. The teachers and the students change rooms. Instead of having a room, teachers share a cabinet of offices with other teachers teaching the same subject. They spend their time there usually if they don't have a class. You generally stay with your class of students in every class. There is 10 minutes between every class, and once a day there is a 20 minute break between classes. Lunch is 30 minutes but at different times everyday, and every class doesn't have lunch at the same time. My school starts at 8:00 am, and depending on the day it can go until 1:30-3:30.

    Something different in school are the boards. These boards are either white boards or chalk boards. The boards are trifold, so there is a front and back to both sides. If it's a white board, there is a smart board in the middle and white boards on both sides. It's an efficient use of space. It takes up less room and covers the same amount of material the long white boards in the U.S. would. Also, all the boards in my school can move up and down. So the teacher can write at the very top of the boards then move it up for the class to see. It's a small difference but it makes so much more sense.

    My favorite moment since my last entry was: I moved host families, and my first night in my new host family was amazing. I really feel at home here, and I could write a whole journal entry on my amazing family but I am going to wait until next time.

    Something new I've learned about the Czech Republic: It is not inappropriate to blow your nose anywhere, anytime. People don't leave class to blow their nose. People blow their nose on the bus, during conversation, at the dinner table. It's just not rude or uncomfortable here.

    Advice for future exchange students: the exchange 15 is real. You will gain weight, especially if you go to Czech Republic because the food is absolutely amazing. My advice is, you only have a year to enjoy all the food this country has to offer, so do it. Don't stress about the number increasing on the scale as long as you're comfortable. Just embrace the exchange 15.

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE


  • Leanza, outbound to Czech Republic

    Dobrý den,

    Today it has been exactly one month since I left from the United States to the Czech Republic.

    I can't really find proper words to write what I have felt in this one month. I could give you 33 adjectives and it wouldn't be enough.

    Before I left, I thought I was well prepared mentally for this journey. I am so thankful for the orientations RYE Florida provided, because being here I have noticed not everyone from around the world is prepared as well before they leave. That being said, there are still not enough workshops or lectures or stories from Rotex that will prepare you fully. I did not realize the intensity of this exchange until I was here. This is because no one has ever been in your exact same position, no one can prepare you for YOUR exchange. Every single one is different and unique in their own way.

    Rotary has always said this is not a vacation, and I knew this fully, but I want anyone considering exchange to not take that statement lightly. Would I ever reconsider knowing how truly challenging it would be now? Absolutely not. Today I am still struggling, but I feel the potential this year holds for me and I couldn't be more excited. Plus, it's not like this month has been terrible or anything. It's been amazing. I just wanted to break through the sugar coat trend many people post, I want you to know the truth. Everyone struggles on exchange. It is normal. It is worth it.

    So that was pretty general to every exchange. This is about all the great things unique to my exchange:
    - I live in Trutnov, Czech Republic. Technically right now I live with my host family 30 minutes north of that in Velká Úpa. My school, Rotary club, and main square are located in Trutnov. I live in the mountains of Czech Republic and it honestly feels like I'm in a movie. The scenery here is breathtaking. The pictures don't even do it justice, I am so fortunate to see it in person everyday.

    - I am the only exchange student in my school and my entire city. Most people would think that's a negative point, as I did before I came (I was actually pretty upset about it) but there's so many good things to being the only exchange student. One, I am forced to not cling to the other exchange students. I am more approachable this way and will be integrated into the culture quicker because of this, I think. Two, I cannot be compared to anyone else. Since there is no one else, there is no better or worse, it's just me. Three, I really have to push myself if I want someone to talk to. Four, I am learning so much about myself. Being on my own, I am given so much time to think. I am learning my strengths, but also learning to acknowledge my weaknesses. And finally, I have learned that being alone does not mean I have to be lonely.

    Before I came here I never went anywhere without being with someone, I didn't even go get a smoothie by myself. There is no way I would ever go eat a meal somewhere by myself, and now I am learning that it is not something to be ashamed of or scared of. If another exchange student were in my city I think we would always be going out together, and I think this of all the lessons was most important for me to learn. I could have never done this in Florida before now and this was only made possible for me because of the exchange I was given.

    - The language is hard (who won't say that about learning a new language, haha). It's been a month and that scares me because I still am constantly frustrated with myself for not communicating better. But, I am starting to be able to hold basic conversations with people and that's exciting. Czech will be a really cool language to be fluent in.

    - I joined a "Rugby" team they call it here, but it's American football. I'm on an all girl's team. It's really fun, and it's so much easier to make friends when you're not just sitting in the classroom.

    - THE FOOD. Being completely honest, with the research I did on the country, I did not think I would like the food much. I love the food. There's a lot of similarities to food in the US, they have potatoes, chicken, fish, vegetables, fruit but the meals are just prepared better. Everything here tastes so good. Of course they have traditional Czech foods too that are not common in the U.S. It's normal to have a garden, or if not you generally buy your fruit and vegetables locally. I can write a whole journal entry about the food and the culture that goes with it.

    - Getting lost, I heard it happens on exchange... It didn't happen to me until this past weekend... On my 19th birthday :) I got on the wrong bus and had to search for someone who spoke English that could help me. I don't have a Czech number or anything so it was silly. I don't know, it's exchange and it was just another adventure.

    Okay so my favorite moment since I've been here was: definitely the day I rode on the back of a motorcycle through the mountains of Czech Republic. It was beautiful weather, sunny and mid 70s. We drove through small villages and all through the winding roads of the mountains. I remember looking around and I couldn't stop smiling. I think it was an hour maybe (around two hours total if you count the ride back), and I know I was smiling the whole time. It was the first time it really hit me, wow I'm in Europe. I'm in the most beautiful place, on a motorcycle under the sun, breathtaking nature surrounding me. It sounds cheesy but it was so surreal for me.

    Something new I learned about the Czech Republic since I've been here is: they have "house shoes." In every house you take off your shoes when you enter and are given a new pair of shoes to borrow for while you are in the person's home. You even have to bring house shoes to school, the majority of teenagers wear crocs in school, haha it was a surprise for me to see.

    Advice for future exchange students: Force yourself to do things you're not comfortable with. I was so nervous for my first day at Rugby practice and I'm so thankful I did it. It's nerve racking to be the first to talk to students your age when you don't know anyone, and even if only one out of ten students become your friend that day, it's one more than you had. Maybe a goal could be for you to push yourself out of your comfort level everyday, or at least twice a week. Talk to someone new, join something new, ask to sit with people at lunch instead of sitting alone first, there's so many things you can do to push yourself. Trying new things is what exchange is all about :)

    Okay I think this journal is long enough, sorry I wrote a novel.

    I would like to end with thanking my parents and Rotary for giving me this opportunity. I really can't imagine being in college right now instead of finding myself here.

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE


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