Definitely the best experience I could get as a teenager in 21st century
You have to be a little crazy, and say “yes” to everything
I had the best year of my life here. I got the best host family, or families as I should probably say, because my host family, the Gautney’s are really good friends with the Parkers, and they always share their exchange students. So as I spent the whole year with the Gautney’s, sometimes I spent some time with the Parkers as well. I stayed at their house or went on trips to places that are far away from here, like Las Vegas and Hawaii. I love them all so much, they are amazing. They always tell me I fit their family so well, and they told me that they had “the best hosting experience”, which makes me really happy, because as well as they take me as a part of their family forever, I take them as my family forever.
I spent my exchange year in the best town and state in the U.S., and I attended the best high school. I started learning how to play ukulele, thanks to my host brother, and later also a guitar. I met a lot of interesting people, not just from America, but from all around the world, and I found life-long friends and family.
I had amazing Homecoming and Winter Formal experience, I went to Las Vegas, had a helicopter tour to Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon, I spent a week on one of Hawaii islands, met and made friends with native Hawaiians, and played my ukulele with them. I also played a song on ukulele in school for native Hawaiians. I went camping in an RV couple times and had a lot of fun. I went to Seattle and Leavenworth, and in September I went to ICES orientation where I met a lot of interesting and amazing young people, interacting with them during that one weekend really helped my confidence in English and in general.
I enjoyed every day here, and I still do. I was part of swim team of my high school and I ended up winning 3rd and 4th place at districts. I was also a part of track and field team, but the season ended early due the Coronavirus outbreak.
I enjoyed attending American high school a lot, it was way better than in Slovakia. Maybe we didn’t cover as many topics as we would in Slovakia, but I got the chance to pick subjects that I want, and learn more about things I’m interested in and I’ve always wanted to learn more abou. I had amazing teachers. I got to try ceramics class which I’ve always wanted to do, and I loved it! I enjoyed my language arts class a lot, and my teacher had a lot of interesting ideas how to make education more fun. I loved the classes, I learned a lot about not just writing in English but writing in general, and I found my passion in it.
I really appreciated that American high school allows its students to be more creative, pick their own topics and themes for projects/essays, and so, which I had problem with in Slovakia (our school system seems to not be so easy going with using our creativity). I also finished both of my semesters with straight As.
I can see how much I’ve grown and learned here, this exchange year was definitely the best experience I could get as a teenager in 21st century. I want to thank you and your family so so much for spending all of your time helping and managing exchange students and helping them chase their dreams. I am also very thankful for the great job that ICES and ICESlovakia are doing. I want to thank you for your orientations, the one I went to here in the U.S. in Oregon, as well as the ones I went to in Bratislava, I really see how you helped me and prepared me for my life here. There was one specific sentence I remember from your orientation that I had in my mind the whole year and I tried, I dare to say successfully, the whole year, and it was “You have to be a little crazy, and say yes to everything, doesn’t matter if it’s only a trip to grocery store, because you never know what amazing can happen there and what you might miss if you don’t go.”
I was really excited for prom and graduation and in the worst dream I didn’t imagine not having them this year. It was hard to accept the fact that they won’t happen, that I won’t get to say goodbye to the school and all of my friends and my teachers, but it’s life and life is unpredictable. I believe this experience will make us all only stronger and we will make it through all together. I don’t regret anything during this year, as I said many times, it was the best experience I could get, it will be helping me my whole life. All the experiences I got, and the fact that I accomplished one of my wildest dreams, I know that’s not something that happens to everybody everyday. I’m very grateful.
I hope you have the best time you could have during this crazy situation we are at, and I hope you are staying safe. I will be staying in touch.
exchange student from Slovakia
living with the Gautney family in McMinnville, Oregon