Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie

Horizons broadened in exchange trip


Five months ago, I took my heavy suitcases and a grey backpack and hugged my family for the last time in 2018. With a plane ticket in my hand, I left Slovakia behind and stepped forward to my dream. I traveled for almost nine hours, until I was finally in the U.S. ready to fulfill my dream of studying abroad.

I left everything that I knew behind: my family, my friends, my dog, my school, my city and my country for 165 days to experience and get to know something new. I didn’t know what to expect, so I expected very little. Thanks to that I received so much more and I fell in love with this place very quickly. As a little child, I used to watch American movies and always thought about what it would be like to study at an American high school. Now, it was all happening.

During my first few days in school, I felt like I was in a movie. Everything was new, new people, new classes, new teachers and a new school system. I was surprised how nice everyone was and how the students and teachers were willing to help me at any time. Throughout my whole exchange, it didn’t matter how tired I was, I always enjoyed the classes and learned a lot.

I’ve learned how to do improvisation in my theater class. I’ve learned how to dissect a pickle and a sheep’s brain. I’ve learned that diffusion rhymes with confusion. But I’ve learned a lot about myself too. I’ve learned what I can do when I’m willing to work for it. I’ve learned how precious people are when you get to know them. But the most important thing that I learned is to value things and people that life gives me.

Far away from my first home, I found another one. I found a second family. I found amazing people to talk to, to laugh with, to sing with and to dance with. With these people, I share wonderful memories.

I came here for 165 days and I wanted to do as many things here as I could. I had my first and last homecoming and my first real Halloween. I cheered on football, volleyball and basketball games and tried to participate during spirit weeks. For the first time in my life I went to school in my pajamas. I truly enjoyed pep rallies. I even woke up at 4 a.m. to come to the morning pep session. Believe it or not, even going to Target or Walmart was a big thing for me. But, the biggest thing was definitely seeing the President because it was an opportunity of a lifetime.

It’s crazy to think about how things could have been different. How my whole time here would have been different if I chose a different seat or a different class. And how everything is happening for a reason and a simple little thing can change everything.

That’s the reason why I am even more grateful for every smile, every “Hi,” every question, every conversation and simply everything that has happened to me. All those random acts of kindness made me feel welcomed.

Even though some of the questions were very strange, I realized that I’m probably the first and the last person from Slovakia that people will ever meet. I didn’t realize a huge difference between the culture until I got money from an ATM machine through a car window and was told to try ice cream with fries.

No matter how basic “life starts beyond your comfort zone” may sound, it’s true. Because just after experiencing something new, something life-changing, you realize that life is so much more than you know. Be involved in school, get as much out of it as you can, because SHS has so much to offer.

Time flies fast when you are having fun and everything has to end and the time for me to go home is quickly approaching. I’m leaving happier and maybe a little bit heavier, full of amazing memories and experiences. I will always remember this time as one of the greatest times of my life. Ďakujem.