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
Learn more how to become an ICES Exchange Student and Study in the USA