The following correspondence was written by Angelica Pearce, 17, of St. Marys, who is currently on Rotary Exchange in Croatia, sponsored by the Rotary Club of St. Marys:
Hello everyone! By now I have been here almost two months and have been having the time of my life.
I left Pearson Airport Aug. 27 for my flight to Frankfurt, Germany. I arrived in Frankfurt with two hours of sleep and had a four-hour layover. During this layover I got a bit lost but quickly found my way to my gate, had some breakfast and met a fellow exchange student going to Croatia. Once we landed in Croatia we took a bus back to the main terminal where we got our passports stamped and met our host families. I easily found my host mom as she is very tall and thankfully looks like her Facebook profile picture. My host family consists of my host mom Maša, my host brother, Juraj (12), my host sister, Jelena (19) and my other host sister Ivana (16) who is currently in the U.S.
My first week consisted of learning the city, visiting the Museum of Broken Relationships, meeting other exchange students, paperwork and meeting one of my classmates. I started school Sept. 5 at IVX Gimnazija, which is a language school about a 15 minute walk from where I now live. It’s a language school because it focuses on learning languages. This school in particular focuses on learning English, so a lot of my classes are taught in English. As you may know already, there are some major differences between this school compared to schools in Canada.
Let me try to explain the best I can; it’s a little difficult. For one thing, students in the same grade all take the same classes, except students have their own choice of a foreign language (other than English). I’ve been placed in 4.e, which means I’m in the 12th grade and am in class ‘e’. Some of the classes I’m taking here are philosophy, math, French, physics and English. Every other week I start school at 2:05 pm, then the next week I’ll start at 7:55 am. Also, my classes aren’t the same everyday and I won’t always have the same number of classes everyday. Students here also do both oral and written tests compared to at home where we usually only do written. One thing I didn’t realize before I started school is that there isn’t always toilet paper, which means you need to bring your own!
During the second weekend in September, all the inbound exchange students in Croatia went on a couple trips together. In total there, are 15 exchange students, nine from the U.S, four from Canada and two from Taiwan. That Friday we had our orientation meeting. That itself was a little boring, but afterwards a lot of us got together to hangout around the square. The next day, we went to a couple of different places. The first place we went was to Krapina and the Krapina Neanderthal Museum. Next, we went to VelikTabor which translates to ‘big fortress.’ After we visited VelikTabor, we went out for lunch and then headed to Varaždin, the old capital of Croatia. Everywhere we visited was really interesting and full of history, even the bus ride was great. The next day we went to Plitvička Lakes. These lakes look so beautiful that they look fake. They have incredibly blue water that doesn’t seem real. We hiked for a couple of hours, went on a boat ride and had an incredible lunch. Overall, I have to say Plitvička Lakes is my favourite place that we visited so far. This month I will also be going on a trip to Prague, Berlin and Dresden.
This month I have also participated in a 5K run which is something I haven’t done before. I have also been hanging out with other exchange students, going out for coffee and ice cream. I am also taking Croatian lessons twice a week which is very helpful considering Croatian is a hard language to learn. Many people will talk to me in English, but if I attempt to talk in Croatian or need help with my Croatian homework, they are very patient and helpful.
As an exchange student I also attend Rotary meetings which are fairly different than in St. Marys. I am part of the Rotary Klub Zagreb Gradec which has their meeting on the 17th floor of a fancy hotel. The club mostly consists of older men and one female.
My exchange so far has been a great experience, which I am very grateful for. It is also a program which I really recommend students to try; you meet new friends, experience new things, learn and grow as a person. Also, a big thanks to Rotary, my family and friends who made this possible and who are very supportive of me.
If you would like more information on Rotary Youth Exchange or if you would like to host a Rotary Exchange student please contact Mark Oliver at email@example.com.