PANDORA — Although they
did not know each other prior to embarking upon their foreign exchange
experience at Pandora-Gilboa High School, Maria Hroudoba, Samira
Teymouri and Anna Abelovska have become good friends.
young women come from different European countries: Maria is from the
Czech Republic, Samira is from Germany, and Anna is from Slovakia. The
Czech Republic is a land-locked country, and is bordered by Germany to
the east and Slovakia to the west.
Anna and Samira arrived in
Pandora in mid-August. Anna’s host family is Billie Jean and Brian
Kreuzberg, while Samira is staying with Jessica and Derrick Storer.
Maria, whose host family is Tonia and Barney Hovest, arrived on Jan. 13,
and will be staying for one semester at P-G.
The three explained
what had prompted them to become exchange students. Samira related her
best friend’s older sister had been an exchange student; the friend
wanted to experience the United States in the same fashion and discussed
it with Samira. The two friends went to listen to former exchange
students relate their exploits. Samira recalled, “I liked the idea more
and more.” She applied for a program in Germany, and was referred to the
Aspect Foundation. Initially, she asked to stay with her aunt and uncle
in Washington, D.C.; however, the agency did not permit their students
to stay with family.
Anna’s family encouraged her to become an
exchange student. Her older brother had been an exchange student and had
lived in Ohio.
“I didn’t want to go at first,” she confessed. “I
took a test (with the Council on International Educational Exchange) to
see if I could go, and I passed! I don’t regret anything.”
is here through the Youth for Understanding (YFU) program. She confided,
“I always wanted to live here. I didn’t know about people or colleges.
This helps to really learn about America, and find out if I really want
to live here.”
The young ladies’ impressions of life in the United
States differ. Anna’s village, Dobrá Niva, is similar in size to
Pandora. She has noted that people here are more interested in sports,
which suits her just fine. She is an accomplished athlete, and has
participated on the P-G cross country and basketball teams. She also
hopes to play softball and run long-distance in track this spring.
observed, “It is flat here. We have a lot of hills. But I have been
impressed with how nice, friendly, and outgoing people are here.”
hometown in Hamburg, which has a population of nearly 1.8 million.
“This is not at all what I’m used to,” she acknowledged. “I’m used to a
big city. The weather is different, too; it’s a lot colder here than at
home.” Samira said, “It’s like I have seen in the movies, or on tv.”
“Yes, the movies!” Maria and Anna chimed in, their heads bobbing in agreement.
here has been easier for Samira, but she believed the grading is more
difficult. In Germany, 60 percent of students’ final grades are based on
class participation and 40 percent is based on tests. She has rarely
experienced a final exam; teachers give finals only if they so desire.
Anna attends school in a bigger city, where she does not have the same
classes every day. Her exams are oral; final grades are equally based on
class participation and test scores.
Maria indicated her classes
at home are similar to those at P-G. When she brought up the fact that
she does not have computers at her school, the other two students nodded
their heads in agreement. They said having computers is very
beneficial, especially in helping to record lectures.
“We have to take notes in every single class at home,” Maria demonstrated, writing with a pen on paper.
liked attending Rocket football games this past fall. She described,
“It was like in the movies, or like that TV show…”Glee,” she laughed.
The girls exploded into gales of giggles at her comment.
hopes to be on the track and softball teams this spring. Because she
came later in the year, she missed tryouts for the school play. She was
given a small part, though, which is in line with her future
aspiration—to be an actress.
Although the three have acclimated to
the food in the United States, they miss their native cuisine where
they consume more fresh provisions.
“But we love it,” Maria declared of the food here.
Maria misses drinking tea, as her host family does not partake of the beverage. “And the bread,” she added, “Yours is completely different.”
They also have experienced dining out more than at home.
“Tony’s—oh my gosh, yes!” Anna exclaimed, smacking her lips. “The cyclones!”
young ladies are well traveled. Maria has visited Spain, Italy,
Croatia, Slovakia, Austria, and Malta. Samira has been to Denmark,
Italy, France, and made a quick trip to Poland while on a class
excursion. Anna has toured in France, Great Britain, Italy, Croatia and
Egypt. All three will be joining their P-G peers on a class trip to New
York City, an adventure that they are highly anticipating. Samira said
she and her host family are also going to see some mountains.
exchange students hope they will be able to stay in contact once they
return to their homelands, and plan to do it in way typical to teens
around the world.
“We all have Facebook,” Samira explained.