Hannah, Outbound to Slovakia

August 25, 2018:

Ahoj! Volam sa Hannah and welcome to my blog!

I am not going to lie to you. Exchange is hard — but it is ALL worth it. If you are going to read anything in my blog it is that no matter how difficult the application process, preparation, and adjustments, exchange is the best thing you can do for yourself. Now for what you really came here for:

I arrived in Slovakia on August 21st at 15:50. For the two weeks prior to my departure, I did everything in my power to be as prepared as possible. I packed away my room, made piles labeled “bringing”, “maybe”, and “heck no”, and soaked up every last minute I had with my family. One week before my departure date, the reality of what I was about to embark on hit. So I did what any sane person would do: drain three cups of coffee at my favorite coffee shop and make list after list of things to-do, words to learn, papers to print, and hugs to give. After feeling satisfied with my preparations, I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of my time at home. My family, dogs, and I spent so much time together that I think they were sick of me by the time I departed.

My journey to Slovakia went about as smoothly as I had expected. Four flights, 28 hours, and one sleep deprived girl resulted in a lot of running from gate to gate and rushing through international security to make it to my flights. But God is real because as I was about to miss my very last flight, it got delayed! And Mallori, another exchange student from district 6970 going to district 2240, was on that flight. We spent our delay and flight together and talked about our arrival in Slovakia. It was so perfect because I was able to share my worries with someone else who really understood.

Now I have been in Slovakia for a little over a week. My family is so wonderful, although they speak very very limited English. When I first arrived they had a friend come along to work as a translator because their English and my Slovak was so poor. Although it was a little awkward to talk through someone, it made asking all the first night questions a lot easier than if I had to do it on my own. After she left, we began to speak in broken English, Slovak, and through google translate. Our conversations are limited and simple, but I feel like I have learned so much already. We can communicate enough that I am never uncomfortable but are not quite at the point where we can fully get to know each other. But that is okay because have 4 more months together to learn!

I have two younger host siblings and my grandmother, grandfather, aunt, and baby cousin all live right next door. Since school hasn’t started yet, I spend a lot of my time with my younger host siblings. My little sister reads Slovak fairy tales with me and teaches me different words. My little brother is a toddler so we are on the same language level, meaning that we get to learn together! It is so perfect because when he is taught a new word, I get to repeat it over and over again until both he and I understand it.

Since my siblings are so much younger, we tend to spend most of the day at home and go out in the afternoon once my host dad gets home from work. Since being here, they have taken me to the Low Tatras, the largest underground cave in Slovakia, Spisska Nova Ves, Levoca, and on bike rides through their village. Last weekend was also the 750th anniversary of my town, so there were traditional festivals where they preformed traditional songs and dances. Once school starts, I hope to join a local traditional club where I can learn some of them as a way to become more immersed in the culture.

School starts on September 3rd and I am a little nervous. I have heard it is very different from the American school system and I am afraid of getting lost or being rejected. I think that’s been the hardest part of being here so far: I haven’t had the opportunity to meet my peers or get to know anyone from my school so I am going in blind. I also don’t understand the public transportation system, which is how I am getting to school. Luckily my host mom is able to drive me for the first week while I adjust, but after that I will have to learn. I know it will all work out in the end and I may be laughing at this post a week after I start school, but we will just have to see.

Thanks for reading. Dovidenia!

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