Pandora-Gilboa’s foreign exchange students (from left) Anna Abelovska of Dobrá Niva, Slovakia, Samira Teymouri of Hamburg, Germany, and Maria Hroudoba of the Czech Republic, have become very good friends since arriving in the United States. The three hope to stay in touch, once they return home, through Facebook. (Putnam Sentinel/Becky Leader)
Pandora-Gilboa’s foreign exchange students (from left) Anna Abelovska of Dobrá Niva, Slovakia, Samira Teymouri of Hamburg, Germany, and Maria Hroudoba of the Czech Republic, have become very good friends since arriving in the United States. The three hope to stay in touch, once they return home, through Facebook. (Putnam Sentinel/Becky Leader)

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.

The three 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.”

Maria 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.

Maria 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.”

Samira’s 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.

School 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.

Samira 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.

Maria 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!”

The 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.

The 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.

story created on Monday 3/17/2014 at 3:30:45 pm by Anne Coburn-Griffis