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A Letter From Slovakia

The Chill Of Winter Descends

SLOVAKIA -- Wow. Already into my 3rd month here in Slovakia. Time really flies when you’re having fun! I haven’t gone to any castles since the last update but we have had some pretty cold weather here with it being close to 30-40 degrees F for the last month, which I have been told is abnormal. Anyways I have found many ways to have fun… inside and out.

I’ll start with the things that I am doing regularly. Every week I play hockey with the local youth club in Piešťany. I’m really enjoying playing 3-4 times a week. The boys and girls on the team are all really great and I was able to attend a game and be on the bench. I worked the door and quickly learned what “open the door” is in Slovak :P. I also received a package from my USA Mama and I was very excited to see all the goodies she sent me along with some hockey gear I had requested. I also bought a new hockey stick because I really don’t like the one I have been using.

Also I am attending school regularly, I go every Monday-Friday as long as I don’t have to do anything else. School is pretty hard for me. It’s not hard in the content of the courses, I actually think that if I understood I would do very well, it’s but more that I don’t understand pretty much everything the teachers are saying because they talk too fast for me as of now. In a month or two I think that I will understand more and it will be easier. Mathematics class I enjoy because I can understand what the teacher writes on the board and so I have been able to take those tests and do well on them, but she talks the fastest of all my teachers haha.

I really like my classmates they have all been awesome and I like to talk about things with them and try every day to speak Slovak and have them understand but always my Slovak is not quite right. I learn more and more every day in Slovak. My host parents help me a lot but I think I learn a lot most in school when I have my Slovak-English dictionary and I look through for words and try to remember them all and write down words I think might be important. Also I go to church almost every Sunday and I don’t understand much of what the pastor says but I like to take this time to reflect on some of the things that I have done here and it always makes me happy and thankful for this awesome experience.

So next I have some specific experiences which I would like to mention from this month. I’ll go in chronological order for these. So before I knew there was a girl who went to my District from Slovakia two years before… Turns out she is from and lives in Piešťany and so I got into contact with her and all the current exchange students and 3 past exchange students got together for some coffee and it was really nice to meet them and talk about their exchange and ours and Slovakia.

Another thing I did was go to a hockey game in the local Arena. Buuut I brought the Sofia and Isadora to their first ice hockey game! They are from Mexico and Brazil respectively and I was excited to see their reactions and how even they thought hockey was only about fights lol. Also I went to a Southern American/ Mexican concert in a town nearby with the 3 other exchange students and that was incredible. There was a Brazilian man who Isadora was able to talk to and a guy from South America that Sofie could talk with. There was lots of dancing and it was cool to see the traditional Brazilian dances, makes me want to go to Carnival… but not this year.

Another new experience this month was helping my host grandfather with farming his field. It was already tilled and we helped plant the seeds, clear some debris, and flatten the soil. It was cool to learn the method and it is not so hard when there is a tractor doing the heavy work. Finally I was able to go to Zdiar in the Vsyoky Tatry, High Tatry Mountains, and that was awesome. I really enjoyed the 4 days there and being with another family, which is very close to my family. They were from Eastern Slovakia and its really funny how different they speak even though its only a 5 hour drive away. I didn’t hear a huge difference in how they spoke but I was able to hear their accent in a few words. I was proud of myself for this :D. We had a ton of snow there in Ždiar and it was fun to go on walks through it and build snowmen and have snowball fights with my host brother. OHH Also on our way to Ždiar I was able to see Soňa!!! Žilina is on the way to Ždiar and I was so happy to see her and see that she is well, it was a quick meeting but totally worth it. I’m hoping she can come to Piešťany soon or I can go to Zilina. Either would be awesome. Then we returned back to Piešťany and that’s the end of October for me!

Also I would like to talk about my host family really quickly. My host father is Rasťo and he works 2 days on and 2 days off. He is a manager for a headquarters at a company in a different town. He is a handyman and an outdoors-man. He loves to go for mountain bike rides and together we have gone and its awesome when we go! In my family he is the only one who can speak English. He doesn’t know everything but his English is better than my Slovak! My host mother is Monika we speak in Slovak together. She is awesome, she is just like any mother and seems to know everything about me before I know it :P. I have my host brother Simon who is 12 and goes to school and works really hard to do well every day and plays water polo. I’m helping him with his English and he is getting better! Finally there’s Goro the dog and he is always excited for everything and loves walks and when he gets excited he runs in a small circle and wags his tail. My first host family is wonderful I am treated just like I am their own child, even if I do something bad, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better family. I’m already two months into my time here and somehow I feel like time is still flying by but also going a tortoise speeds. I really really am enjoying my time here in Slovakia and every day I learn more about myself and the people around me.

The culture here is really hard to describe because its very similar to my own with a few small differences that are hard to explain without showing pictures or anything. I can say that in school teachers have a lot of respect and it its very very bad to the teacher, for example if you don’t stand up when they walk in/out they will glare at you very strongly and maybe yell at you if you don’t  quickly, I haven’t gone that far and I hope to not. Also the people are more reserved at first. It takes a few meetings for people to open up more. Once they do they are very kind and really appreciate a lot of what they have because many people still remember when they didn’t have enough under the USSR. Sometimes I talk about this with my host father and I really have learned from him a lot about what happened during that time and how it really helps me appreciate what I have and how much I do have. Anyways I’ve said my piece for now and I hope you enjoyed :) Dobry Deň, Good day!

If you would like to see pictures please add me on facebook! James Williams 

Here is the album link: Here or

James Williams is a 2017 graduate of Geneva High School. He is spending a gap year in Slovakia as part of the Rotary International Exchange Program. He was sponsored by the  Geneva Rotary Club.

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  • Thanks for the post and pictures, James.  Your father and I spoke about the year you'd be spending in Slovakia and after having spent time in Europe in my 30s, I wish I had done something like what you're doing when I was your age.  It's nice to read about your experiences, the readers feel like we're on the journey with you.

    • Yes! I'm very happy I decided to go on this journey! Thank you aswell!
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