Friday, September 5, 2014

High School: America v.s. Slovakia

Although high school is usually very similar almost anywhere you go, I have found a few differences between the high school that I'm use to in America verses high school here in Slovakia.

My Slovak school Jura Hronca

First off is the fact that the cafeteria is open almost all day for students to visit and get food when they have a free period that isn't filled with a class. HOWEVER! I am not 100% if this is completely true or not, it's from assumed knowledge that I've gathered through observing the hallways and the other students.

Second is that almost each student has a different schedule and many of them get out of school at different times. For example, since I have not had a schedule all week for school, each day I have gone with a different classmate from my homeroom to their classes (most of which are filled with many of our homeroom classmates) and every day I have gotten out at a different time. One day I got out at 2:15 pm but today I got out at 1:10 pm! And of course it already being Friday made today even better!

And third is that this school has combined elementary, middle, and high school classes, including the higher level courses which are called I.B. (I have no idea what it stands for). Altogether my school Jura Hronca contains approximately 1,200 students. This is a MUCH smaller amount of students than I am use to! In my hometown of Portage, Indiana, my high school alone contains about 2,600-2,700 students; more than twice the amount of the school I am currently attending in Bratislava!

That's all I've picked up on so far, but I'll be sure to update you once I find some more odd differences about my school. 

Friday: 5th Day of School

So as far as school goes, my third, forth, and fifth days completely made up for my terrible second day of school! All of my classmates are incredibly nice and are all anxious to meet me and show me around the city. Although I still don't have a schedule, I'm not stressed out anymore. I will receive my schedule some time next week and until then I'm just going to go with the flow!

Here are just two friends of mine that I met in school;

(Left - Barbora)                              (Right - Victoria)

Tonight I was out with a large group of friends from school among other friends who were invited and wanted to meet me as well. We spent all evening in Old Town, or Stare Mesto (I think that's the real name for it) which is my favorite part of Bratislava! We spent all evening and all night together and had a great time. I've met a really amazing bunch of people here and I can't wait to get to know them better as the year goes on!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Second Day of School: Second Thoughts

(More thoughts taken straight from my journal from today)

Having second thoughts.

Maybe it's not so hopeless for me.

After talking to my homeroom teacher and the teacher who met with us (the Rotary Exchange students) to decide our classes for the year, I am starting to feel less lost and distressed. They told me that they knew about my absence of a schedule and reassured me that I would have one by the end of the week (hopefully) and that it was okay that I was going with one of my homeroom classmates to her classes to meet other students and teachers to get into the flow of a normal schedule.

They probably reassured me like this mainly so I wouldn't just be sitting in the middle of the hallway crying like a lost child with my head between my legs. Nonetheless! The reassurance helped!

So hopefully this whole school situation will get better as time goes on.

Now to go buy my "elektricenka" card for the bus or train or whatever and then find out how to get home.

And I'm still hungry.

Second Day of School: First Thoughts

(My thoughts from school straight from my journal)

Okay guys, I'm not going to sugar coat this one for you.

My second day of school has been awful. Absolutely terrible. I have no schedule for classes, they gave me a huge stack of books - all in Slovak - I don't know my way around this enormous 4-story building, all of the lessons I've been to today are taught in Slovak, none of my teachers know where I need to go, and I don't have a school counselor to help me or tell me what to do. I am completely lost. The only sliver of light on this sinking ship is the cloudy and confused help of 3 very nice girls I met in my homeroom class who are trying to translate their very foreign - to me - school schedules so I can have a rough understanding of what a normal school day - for them - entails. So here I am, sitting in the corner of a German class, listening to chunks of German and Slovak dialogue sail through the air, all the while wishing that I was back at home. And my German teacher didn't look so pleased to see me; from what little Slovak I know, I heard her say "No good" when my peers told her I was the American exchange student.

All in all, bad second day at school.

But I have to keep my head up. There's always light at the end of the tunnel.

Unless, you know, it's dark out.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day 1 Journal Entry

This is a journal entry I made during the first step toward my exchange:

Day 1: First flight
Aug. 24, 2014

"This morning I woke up from a strange lucid dream and thought to myself 'I'm not really boarding a plane today, I'm not really going to Slovakia... right?' 'This is the part where the movie ends,' but this is just the beginning.

Back to the dream I mentioned; I dreamed that I was on the plane to Vienna just finding my seat. I put away my carry-ons, took my seat, held small conversation with the other passengers next to me, closed my eyes, and fell asleep. When I woke up, I was in Slovakia. I had no recollection of ever getting off the plane, of getting my luggage, or of driving the 1 hour trip to Bratislava from Vienna with my host parents. But there I was, laying on a bed in the street in the middle of town. I 'woke' to greetings from my host sister Adela and one of her friends. They showed me back to her dorm where I unpacked all of my things and got settled in. I remember leaving the room for a few minutes, coming back, and then standing in the middle of the room thinking to myself 'This isn't right... Something is off about this' I walked over to the mirror and stared at myself for a short while before saying aloud 'This is a dream. I am asleep, and I am dreaming.' It seemed like such a surreal realization because from that moment on I was completely conscious and aware of everything that was going on around me. After my epiphany, a girl walked in and I told her of my sudden realization to which she was completely understanding of and then spent the rest of my dream trying to help me wake up.
--It was one of the oddest lucid dreams I've ever had!--

Well I'm sitting here on the plane in my seat writing this. It's actually a pretty nice plane. Everything is very personalize-able. There are little screens for watching T.V. shows, movies, listen to music or audio books and even to play games... I'm pretty hungry. The past few days my stomach has been giving me some trouble and even still today it's bothering me. I'm glad I brought snacks on the plane, that's definitely a heads up for any other exchange students in the future - BRING FOOD! I'm a little anxious about this flight. I've never exactly loved flying, it's a little unnerving to me actually, plus this is going to be a long flight and I'm not use to that. Oh well, first time for everything!... Take off! Bon voyage America!"

Day 1/2 of flight - Accomplished!
Day 2 of meeting host parents, getting settled in, and going to Rotary meeting - Accomplished!
Night 1 of jet lag & unending dreaming - Check & Accomplished!


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Just the Beginning

As I sit here typing on my laptop at the kitchen table, I am letting the reality sink in that I will be boarding a plane to fly half-way across the globe to a country where I've never been to before to live and go to school with people I've never met and jump into a culture that I'm not all that familiar with... in just 2 days, 10 hours, 30 minutes, and (currently) 34 seconds.
I'm not sure if it has fully hit me yet.
Am I excited? Hell yes, who wouldn't be?!
Am I nervous? More than you can imagine.
But if I wasn't nervous, then I wouldn't really be ready to embark on this next journey of my life.
I am about to open up to a fresh page in my life and start writing a story that I will be able to tell to my friends, family, one day my children, hopefully their children, and anyone else in the world who is curious enough to know about my adventures! By the time I return, I will be able to sign my name on the last page of that book, store it in my archives for the rest of my life, and pull out in those moments of nostalgia to reminisce on a rainy day.
A very wise individual once said "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." -St. Augustine
This exchange isn't just about sight seeing and taking pictures of the old buildings I'll get to walk by on the town square or learning a few tid-bits of information here and there about the history of my country; for me, this is about opening my eyes to new truths around the world; it's about touching the lives of the people I meet and humbling myself enough to let their thoughts and stories touch me; it's about truly living and getting the chance to see what's really out there on the other side of the walls I grew up behind.
This is just the beginning.
"To live would be an awfully big adventure." -Peter Pan (you're never too old for fairy tales!)
Wish me luck!
Dovidenia na Slovensku!
(See you in Slovakia!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Vacation in Michigan!

So on the 15th of July, my older sister Claire came up from Florida to spend some time with the family and give the Lichnerowicz sisters one last hoorah before I leave the country for a year! That coming Friday (the 18th) we had my graduation/going away party which I unfortunately didn't get any pictures of (sorry!). The party was a blast and I got to see some close friends and family before I leave on August 25th to begin my exchange year. The day consisted of won and lost games of bags, swimming, indulging in finger foods, and sitting around the camp fire late at night with a few friends after the party buzz had died down.

Signature board from my open house
The day after the party, my family and I packed our bags and two cars and headed up to Shelbyville, Michigan for our week long vacation at a quaint little cabin right on the lake! We had our own dock with a paddle boat, small fishing boat, speed boat, and our two paddle boards we brought along! It was a little piece of heaven for the next 7 days. 
"The Beehive"
Dining room table decoration
View from the dock at night
Lawn chairs by the water - our "backyard"
Claire sitting on the front step with our little Tibby!
Sunset view of the lake and other docks from our yard

We spent most of the week out on the water whether we were boating, tubing, or paddle boarding! Claire, Hannah and I tested our balance skills on the paddle boards as we practiced yoga and other risky moves like head-stands on the paddle boards (which resulted in some off-balanced plunges into the water once in a while... whoops!). Later on we all tried tubing, even mom! As fun as it was we definitely all took a beating! Hannah and I even came off that tube with a few battle wounds and lived to tell the tale!
Hannah and Claire tubing!
Claire and Mom tubing!
Just us girls floating around!
 Dad, Mom, and Hannah on the boat... CHEESE!
Claire up front and center!
(Left to right) Claire, Dad, Hannah, & me!
Hannah & I

On Wednesday of our vacation, we all went to this outside dinner/live music venue on the lake and enjoyed some great burgers, cover jams of Jimmy Buffet and other great summer hits, and crowded conga lines on the dance floor!
 The family enjoying dinner!

During the evenings, we spent time trolling on the water simply to view the sunset and watch the sky change colors as the setting sun slowly disappeared behind the trees.
Mom's wine glass... such beautiful colors!

We also spent some time getting a little creative! Claire and I painted and made some jewelry!
...more jewelry!
My painting (:

When vacation came to an end, we packed our bags and went on home. Although we all had so much fun out in Michigan at the lake house, it was kind of nice to return back to the comfort of Portage, Indiana. I guess there's no place like home right? However, we WERE excited for that coming Sunday because Claire, Hannah and I were all headed up to Bristol, Wisconsin for our annual trip to the Bristol Renaissance Faire! Here's where my total nerd complex kicks in. I actually take a huge amount of pride in telling my friends that my parents were the first couple to get married at the Bristol Renaissance Faire! They went together every year before any of us were even born, so technically I've been going ever since I was a fetus (kind of odd sounding huh?).
Costumes at the Renaissance Faire!
My warrior facepaint for the Renaissance Faire!

Of course the renaissance faire was a blast as always! Us three girls had so much fun together with the "thee's" and "thou's" and whatnot (not really, but kind of!). I swear, the nerd in me makes that place feel like a second home to me, but I'm not ashamed! 

The day before Claire left to go back to Florida, my family and I went to get our family picture taken by friends of ours, the same couple that did my modeling photos a while back! They are always so lively and upbeat and made it a fun experience that was captured for us to see forever.
The Family

Something I'll always remember is that no matter how tough times may get, your family will always be there for you. You may fight and bicker and get on each other's nerves, but when it comes down to what really matters, it's family that matters most. I would give anything for these people you see in this picture. They are my life and have helped shape me into the young woman I am today. Although it is my dream to wander the world and explore other lands and cultures that will take me away from home, I know that family will always be there for me when my feet get tired of wandering. 

Yours truly,