Ana, Outbound to Czech Republic

Its officially been almost 100 days since I’ve been here (99 today) and the time has gone by so fast, yet it feels like an eternity at the same time. Again, I don’t know where to begin with this journal. I guess we can start with the weather. This Florida girl is freezing over here. It hasn’t snowed yet, but the weather is normally 0-4 degrees Celsius (that’s 32 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit). My host family took me to buy boots, a winter coat, a scarf, mittens and some beanie-all things I have never owned or needed to own before. It was quite funny for them to watch me attempt to put a scarf on correctly since I’m incredibly clueless with anything winter related. Everyone here is amazed when they find out I’ve never seen snow before, and I’m impatiently waiting for the first snowfall.

An update on the dance lessons: they were amazing! As I mentioned in my last post, I hate dancing and dresses. But I actually had fun and wore a total of 4 dresses throughout the 12-week lessons. That’s more dresses in the past three months than my entire life. The final ball was incredibly nerve-wracking as all of our host families (my current and three future ones), all of my teachers, classmates, and basically everyone in the town attended. This event is a big deal to Czech students and their parents, maybe even more than prom in the U.S. We did an introduction routine, the waltz, tango, jive, cha-cha, salsa, blues, polka, foxtrot and mambo (at least those are the ones I can remember). Me and my partner weren’t too great but it was hilarious to laugh at ourselves and I had a great time. I will always remember these lessons.

I have become very close with the exchange students in my town. It feels as if we’ve known each other for years, not just three months. They are a great support system as they’re going through the exact same thing I am. In October, we were told by the director of our school that we would do a ten-minute presentation in Czech in front of the ENTIRE school. We all hate public speaking so you can imagine how nerve-wracking it was for us. The point was to share our culture with the school and get more students to recognize us. We all worked together to create our presentations and practice our Czech. It was terrifying to have to speak for ten minutes in front of a crowd of native speakers. Although I stuttered a bit during my presentation and probably mispronounced multiple words, I am proud of myself for doing it. Nobody laughed at us and they seemed impressed with our effort.

My dance lessons are over, and soon we will wrap up our Czech lessons that we have three times a week. I’m currently looking for another hobby to take up, possibly a sport since all I do is eat here. In America, I would usually be given a list of all the clubs and activities at my school and just pick a few, whereas here they don’t do these things in school. I have to go out and look for them myself, which makes it a bit more difficult. The city is quite small and I feel as if I have explored it fully. It’s strange to see classmates, teachers, and Rotarians walking around, there are constantly people I know passing by me and saying hello. Living in a small town has its ups and downs. Sometimes finding things to do with friends requires a bit of creativity. We have eaten at all the restaurants, tried the cafes, been to all the stores, the movie theatre, and the bowling alley. That’s about all there is here. It’s very different to home, where I’m so close to St. Petersburg and Tampa and there are endless possibilities of what to do it now seems.

The Rotary here has been great so far. My Rotary club is invested in their exchange program, and we attend the meetings once a week. In September, I attended the first orientation meeting and met all the students living in either Czechia or Slovakia, District 2240. It was held in Trenčin, Slovakia, where we got to go on a hike altogether to the beautiful caste there. The next Rotary event will be the Christmas weekend in Prague, which I am looking forward too. I will also be attending the Vienna Christmas market with my host family. I’m so excited to celebrate the Christmas holiday here!

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