Claire Flemister

Czech Republic

Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
School: Ponte Vedra High School
Sponsor District: 6970
Sponsor Club: Ponte Vedra Beach
Host District: 2240
Host Club: Prostejov

 

My Bio


Ahoj, dobry den! Ja jsem Claire. Hello, good day; my name is Claire Flemister and I will be studying in the incredible Czech Republic for the 2016/2017 school year. I am a junior at Ponte Vedra High School. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and moved to Florida almost 10 years ago. Going from the warm, bright summers of Florida, to the cold Czech Republic will certainly add to my shock, I just hope I get a little snow out of the cold! I split my time between my parents, but I am usually at my house with my 2 cats. I have 4 siblings ranging from 50 years old to 20! At school I am active in Model United Nations, and I am a Link Crew Leader (I help underclassmen ease into and navigate high school, and frequently volunteer for my school) . This year in school I am taking AP Chemistry, AP Language Composition, I also take 2 languages (ASL and Spanish). In my free time I love being creative, whether I am playing or listening to music, knitting, sewing, or writing creatively, I am doing what I love. I am so very grateful for the support I have received from my peers, I am ever so lucky to have several friends also going on exchange this year. I have been active in Rotary clubs since middle school, which is where I found out about RYE, that night I sat down with my parents and begged them to let me participate in high school, now almost 6 years later, here I am...FINALLY! After exchange I hope to apply my language skills to my goal of studying linguistics in university and beyond. I can not even imagine how this exchange will change my life, but I can not wait!


My 1st Host family in the Prague Airport

My 1st Host family in the Prague Airport

D2240 Orientation Kromeriz

D2240 Orientation Kromeriz

Representing Florida at the top of Prague Castle overlooking the whole city

Representing Florida at the top of Prague Castle overlooking the whole city

D2240 in front of the John Lennon wall in Prague

D2240 in front of the John Lennon wall in Prague

Proud to be an American!

Proud to be an American!

This was a picnic with my friends in September!

This was a picnic with my friends in September!

Low quality picture of high quality people, some of my friends getting punč at my towns Christmas Markets

Low quality picture of high quality people, some of my friends getting punč at my towns Christmas Markets

The Czech-USA Ambassador came to my school and I was able to meet him

The Czech-USA Ambassador came to my school and I was able to meet him

Journals: Claire – Czech Republic 2016-17

  • Claire, outbound to Czech Republic

    Read more about Claire and all her blogs

    Well the new year is already upon us, and I haven't updated since August…. Sorry! I always judged the previous students, wondering how hard it really was to update everyone, well know I get it!! I have been bad at updating on all my social media, its almost as if I disappeared, but I didn’t! 

    I have been totally immersed here, which at times is overwhelming, but now it feels like home. I thought the holidays were going to be hard, and at times I longed for my family, and our traditions, but being here, and learning Czech traditions, overshadowed any sadness. 

    How normal everything feels constantly blows my mind. My ability to seamlessly move through my village, town, and school, surprises even me. When I talk to my sister, or parents back home I am reminded how I am almost living a double life. I have activities, friends, and even a family, they know little about. My daily life is so different than before, but I love every second of it. 

    I recently switched host families. I moved December 2nd, and it has been a wonderful change. My first family was great, and they took care of me, but I did not feel fully a part of their family… But with my new family, I almost feel too much a part of it, haha. Before I came I could never imagine calling a virtual stranger ‘mom’, or ‘dad’, or ‘sister,’ but here I am! My host sister is easily one of my best friends, she has amazing english, and for the first 3 weeks I was here we spent almost every free second together. Every night I have to move my stuff back into my room because throughout the day we have just been together doing homework, or binge watching netflix. My host parents know almost know english, which was a terrifying prospect for me before moving in, but in reality has gone very smoothly. We learned how to communicate, and my Czech gets better everyday because I am forced to use it. 

    Because English is such an international language, it can be very easy to get by with only English, but honestly theres always a wall between you and your family or friends when you don't speak their language. Czech is difficult, but everyone here has been so kind to me, and really supports me when I speak. There are always mistakes, like during my presentation on faraday, I called his mother fat, instead of caring, everyone got a good laugh out of it, including myself. Mistakes are inevitable, and they can be embarrassing, but you have to be able to laugh at yourself. 

    A common phrase I heard before arriving was “colder the country, colder the people.” But I have only seen the opposite. Czech people can get a bad reputation for seeming cold, and people blame it on their communist past, but they don't act very differently than other Europeans. In the USA there is this polite standard, of smiling if you make eye contact, even if it is with a stranger, or having empty “Hello, how are you? Good? Good, and you?” with almost everyone you encounter. Here, (for the most part) all of that is cut out. Why waste the time and air if you don't really care how the other really is. I love that in Czech if someone asks you, they genuinely care, and want to start a conversation. It was surprising at first when people would respond with negative things that had happened, or if they felt good, they had a full explanation as to why. It feels more meaningful here. Though at times I miss the “American” way. 

    I know many people are reading this after recently finding out their countries, so congrats! Exchange has been such an amazing blessing. The people I have met, from Florida, Rotary, my classmates at school, and other exchange students from all around the globe, I have all been able to meet because of RYE, in Florida and here in D2240. If you ask people around the world, Florida is recognized as one of the best, because it is; and I am so lucky and proud to represent 6970, and Florida RYE. 

    For those of you who received Czech Republic, or Slovakia, I want to tell you a little more about them, because so often it seems that know one really knows much about them! 

    The Czech Republic and Slovakia are individual countries, and have been since the fall of the USSR in 1992/93. Czech Republic and Slovakia very much live in the 21st century, they are not like the idea many people have of previously communist countries. Most homes here look like they are straight out of an ikea magazine. Czech and Slovak are mutually understandable, the only difference is spelling and a slight accent. 

    People here are some of the most genuinely kind people I have ever met.
    Most of the younger generation (below 30) are learning, or fluent in English, the older generation however is usually fluent in German, or Russian. But many still know some English, and many are also fluent. While you shouldn't rely on English, and in many places you cannot, I understand that it is comforting to know it will usually be there. 

    Czech people will blow their noses loudly, and everywhere, and no one will bat an eye. They also almost always have a pack of tissues on them, or near them. Soon you will too. 
    Kofola is a Czech version of coke, and almost everyone drinks it constantly. Czech Republic is one of the only countries where Coke Cola is not the number one soda. 
    Czech people tend to have very dark or black humor, communism is a very popular topic to joke about, but do not add in your jokes unless you know the people well, it could come off as rude. 

    You will become weirdly patriotic during your exchange, and you will appreciate the USA, and target, and many other things you didn't think about, but over all you will adapt 
    cold sick. When they eat you eat with your fork and knife, fork in left hand, knife in right, and when you are done, you put them parallel on your plate. Many times since you are from the USA they will give you more food, and while Czech people do not like wasting food, you do not have to eat it all, it is not rude.

    If you have any more questions please reach out to me, or other outbounds, we want to help! And congrats on your exchange, it will be the best year of your life. 

  • Claire, outbound to Czech Republic

    Read more about Claire and all her blogs

    On August 19th I blew out the candles on my 18th birthday cake, put on my blazer, and drove to the Jacksonville airport to leave for exchange. I wish I could say I had an easy time and that there were no hiccups, but that would be a lie. I had every issue imaginable with my flights, even though I had weighted my bags, they were too heavy, and my ticket was wrong so I was moved to a later flight, which was then diverted, and then I spent over 20 hours in the Dallas Airport waiting to leave the country, but finally I boarded a plane to London, which would connect me to Prague, and then my year would begin! 

    I think it is safe to say that I got all the bad out on that first day, ever since then (except for when my bags didn't make it into Prague) I has been pretty smooth sailing.

    The best attitude to have for exchange is to have no expectations, and I didn’t. So many people had told me that Czech people are closed off, many times will not be friendly, but usually once you get to know them they will be great. But when I walked out of customs I was greeted by my family with hugs and a banner. They were so loving and kind, it was overwhelming. If my flights hadn't been delayed we would have spent the night in Prague, but instead we settled for a drive around the city. 

    The USA has nothing on European architecture. After a few minutes my neck was hurting from constantly looking up trying to memorize the city, and get used to the way europeans drive. It is hard to sum up those first moments, when everything starts to settle down. Everything is so overwhelming that you cant process anything, but you are trying to process everything, all of your language feels like its fallen out of your brain, English and your host language (maybe that was just because I had only slept 4 hours over about 48 hours). 

    After Lunch and a quick stroll around a mall, we all packed into the car and started the journey across the country, I wish I could talk more about it, but after leaving Prague, the whole car was basically asleep. 

    After a few hours though, I awoke and soon had my first taste of Kofola. At first it tasted like someone put cough medicine into coca-cola, but now I crave kofola, it grows on you so quickly! 

    My life is just a whirlwind, so many little things, but this country has quickly begun to feel like a home. Some of my biggest fears were living with my host family, making friends, and other little things I can’t even remember. 

    My family has accepted me into their family so completely! The first night my host grandmother (who lives next door) made me dinner, she said that since my flights were so bad she would try to fix it with food, dish after dish was laid in front of me, and after living off of random airport food, it was way to much, but much appreciated. My host grandparents speak no english, and were impressed with any czech word I spoke, which helped my confidence. My first night in my room was nice because I finally was sleeping in something that wasn't a chair! I want to write every detail about my exchange down, every breath I took, and every laugh I have had, but its too much! 

    School started September 1st and was only an hour long, I was so panicked about making friends and understanding, but I was quickly invited to go out to a cafe with my classmates. Thats were I spent the following 3 hours! My classmates have been indescribably amazing, they include me in so much, and often invite me out! Teachers are a different story…I don't blame them though, what do you do with a kid who doesn't really understand, and can’t really communicate?

    I urge anyone thinking about applying and reading these journals to contact us, or at least me, this is such an amazing opportunity, and I can not wait for the upcoming months!

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