Jonah, outbound to Croatia

It’s incredible how fast my exchange is flying by. Almost 5 months in, and it feels as if I’ve only been in Croatia for a few weeks. I’m definitely not prepared for the idea of leaving in June.

Since my previous journal, a few important events took place. Well, there was Thanksgiving, Trip to Salzburg, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, but first, I’ll discuss school. Prva Gimnasia Varaždin has been a blast to attend. I have great friends, interesting subjects, and helpful teachers. Interesting enough, my relationship with my classmates fluctuates depending on the subject we are in. For instance, in English, everybody is my best friend, while in Croatian, no one seems to recognize me. Of course it’s not that literal, but that’s the concept.

For Thanksgiving, I planned a trip with the other exchange students, for us to meet in Zagreb to eat a Thanksgiving feast. We each brought something for the potluck, and luckily I was in charge of drinks and cups. Among the rest of the food was turkey, stuffing, mac and cheese, vegetables, and sweet potato pie (my favorite dish of the night). Once the meal was finished, we all looked like walruses, who had also eaten a large meal which had left them slightly bigger than when they started.

In early December, the Croatian exchange students and I took a weekend trip to Salzburg, Austria. We all piled into a small bus and drove eight hours to reach our destination. We slept in a nice youth hostel with the 80 other exchange students in Austria, and it gave us a chance to swap stories about exchange. Out of the 12 exchange students in Croatia, there are two boys, and one of them is me, and being around other guys was a pleasant change. During our time in Salzburg, I roamed the city. I got to see the house of Mozart, and visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It might be because I am from Florida, or that I’m an exchange student, but the point is I hate looking like a tourist. That might have been one of the reasons that I joined Rotary in the first place.

Next on the list is Christmas. Croatia celebrates Christmas a bit differently than the United States. In Croatia, there is a much larger emphasis on family, while in the US, gift giving is a big part of the holiday. On Christmas morning, I received slippers, a shirt, and some toiletries. Even though it wasn’t as much as I receive in Florida, I still thought my Christmas was fantastic. Another big part of Christmas is church, in Europe. I sure felt that when I was sweating inside an overcrowded church on Christmas Eve. New Year’s Eve was standard, I just hung out with my host family, and waited for 2016.

Since winter break began, my host dad and I have gone to a local gym to play badminton and work out. However, there has been some snow in Croatia, and having to shovel it out of the driveway is my way of working out. I like to think that I do a good job at cleaning the driveway, but I usually see my host dad going over my previous streaks of snow.

On a different note, I’m starting to see next year’s exchange students are getting ready for their year abroad. It just makes me remember when I was in the same situation, just so eager to explore the world, and having my own expectations of what Croatia was going to be like. Now that I’m actually here, I can say that my original expectation of what my year abroad was going to be like, is completely different to what it actually is. Exchange is really a once in a lifetime opportunity, and is unique to each individual. What I am trying to say is that I’m very lucky to be here, and that I’m grateful for everything Rotary has given to me. Thanks everyone!

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