Ashley, Outbound to Slovakia

AHOJ! My name is Ashley Zerick, I am from Orlando, Florida and I now life in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia!

I never thought it would be so easy to fall in love with a country without knowing much about it before my arrival. Upon my arrival I have been treated and welcomed as if I was a part of the families I have been given to stay with. I've gotten to meet all 3 families I will be staying with while I am in Slovakia and adore all of them. My first impressions of Slovakia were quite tricky because I wasn't sure what to expect but each day here I love the country more and more. Slovakia is A LOT different from Florida; it is fall here but feels the an extremely cold winter in Florida. I feel l lucky to be able to experience real season because there isn't much of a difference between seasons in Florida. The food here is also very different as well, I eat more bread, cheese, and meat, than I ever thought I would... my exchange food baby is rapidly growing but all the hiking and dancing and exercise I am doing is making up for it. The school system is also very different, since I am here to learn the language and culture and not subjects in school, I spend a lot of time trying to learn the language and interacting with my classmates and other exchange students.Rotary has given me an exhausting schedule during the week and especially the weekends. Although it isn't more difficult than mine in Florida, constantly not knowing much of what anyone is saying or what they want you to do makes it a lot more tiring than you'd think. The language here is hard and is compared to learning Chinese. Having extra Slovak classes and constantly being encouraged to learn the language makes you WANT to learn the language so you are able to speak with the people who made it possible for you to be here and to make friends. They aren't kidding when they say language is freedom, having a language barrier between you and your classmates, you and your family, and you and Rotarians makes it really hard to know everyone on a personal level. Being the Extroverted person that I am it makes it a lot easier for people to ask you if you'd like to go somewhere or do something with them, and even if you aren't sure about it; always saying yes will make a good impression and help you in the long run. The first family I am staying with are probably the funniest and most caring people I know and I am happy that they are my first family because it helped me be more comfortable about staying in a house that is not mine and being told "act as if this is your house now, you can do, and use, and eat anything you'd like." but you still feel awkward to eat a small piece of bread. Slovakia is also known for its castles and hiking, since I've arrived in Slovakia I have been to 5 castles and hiked the tallest mountain in the Low Tatras. I've also visited Slovakia's neighboring country; Austria's capital city Vienna; which was so beautiful. And have gotten to spend a weekend in the capital city of Slovakia; Bratislava with Grace who is from Florida as well. I'm so lucky and thankful that I've gotten this opportunity to travel to a foreign country and to meet the amazing people I've gotten to meet so far and cannot wait to see where this year abroad takes me. DOVIDENIA

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