five months

This is probably the most bittersweet moment of my exchange so far. I am officially halfway through my time here. The days are going to go by so quickly now, and before I know it, I will be going back home.

This past month has been a time of great change and growth. I switched host families right after Christmas and before the new year. I now live with people that I do not know very well. I have two very young host brothers. It takes me nearly an hour to get to school each morning. There are added challenges to adjusting to different people and trying to continue on with the normal ebb and flow of life. I have learned a lot about being patient and finding the positives in things this month (I know I say that every month but still…)

I have done so many presentations this month it’s uncanny. I have spent multiple (possibly a dozen?) hours standing in front of people and telling them about where I’m from. The topics of presentations tend to be broad, the U.S. political system and American literature being two examples. This past Friday I spent four hours talking about myself and where I’m from in an elementary school. People seem to enjoy these which I find particularly interesting. At the elementary school, I took pictures with the kids after each presentation and one girl said “I touched an American!”

Last weekend I went to a city called Třebíč with Rotary. It was a very relaxed weekend and I had a blast with all of my exchange friends. I am fairly comfortable with my results on my language test this time around. I think I have made a lot of progress with Czech. Although I am not anywhere close to fluent I know that I have learned a ton since I have been here.

This past language test is the last one before we find out who gets to go on EuroTour. I really hope that I get to go, as I have raised nearly all of the money for the trip (actually it looks like I have raised all of it as long as the exchange rate stays in my favor!!!) I am super excited about getting this experience as long as everything works out.

One of the things that I noticed while in Třebíč is that everyone seems to be adjusting greatly to the changing of host families. It is a massive adjustment, and it can be a hard one to make for some people. I will change families again around the end of March, and it will again be a time when I will have to exercise great amounts of patience. Yet I think all exchange students will tell you that things will get better over time.

This month has really been a turning point in not feeling so obviously foreign here. I’ve been able to communicate with people in Czech at the post office and the train station and other places. All of those interactions ended with everyone getting what they needed. When I think about returning home I get really weirded out. Living with my mom instead of a Czech family seems odd. Going back to my high school is bizarre. Not seeing my friends here every day makes me very sad. I don’t look forward to leaving. I’d much rather my family move over here and hang out with me.

I missed some stuff this past month and I will miss some more things this coming one. I missed getting to see my extraordinarily talented brother play guitar with another man who is apparently very good as well. I am going to miss my brother’s twentieth birthday (when did he get so old???) I’ll miss time with everyone in my family, seeing all the horrible couples on Valentine’s Day, etc. Yet, I continue to trust that this next month will continue to be filled with amazing days and opportunities.

Month five has been a good one. It has had its ups and downs just like all the others. I’m halfway gone now. I hope I make the most of it.


Ellie and I pretending to be German.

Ellie and I pretending to be German.

My class took a picture with me to commemorate five months and they are officially the best.

My class took a picture with me to commemorate five months and they are officially the best.


I’m not a religious person. Not anymore. I was raised quite Christian while growing up. My Dad was a pastor when I was small, and I’ve spent a ton of time in churches. I was always helping and attending and singing. I used to read my Bible every night and pray afterwards. That is all in the past though.

My disconnect with religion first began with hating the church. When my father left his last job at a church is probably when my parents’ relationship began to really go downhill. From that point on I started to notice the fragility of life. I guess at this point in time I can tell that maybe I blamed church for doing these things to my life. But nonetheless, I hated the idea of going.

I continued to read my bible and pray though. I figured that not liking to go into a church each week did not mean that I did not like God. And then that started to change too.

Part of it has to do with growing up. I was becoming aware and passionate about problems around the world. Poverty, hunger, human rights, etc. began to be things that were on my radar. With that I began to think how I could believe in a god that would let these things happen to people. Then my family began to fall apart at the seams and I prayed for it to stop. I prayed and prayed and prayed. No result. Then I was done with God.

For a while I started to say that I was agnostic. I didn’t really know if there was a god or not. I certainly hoped that there wasn’t a higher being that could prevent all of these horrid things from happening and simply wasn’t. Part of me still leans towards this. Growing up religious makes it difficult to suddenly become firmly atheist overnight. Yet, I’m also starting to stray from that path as well. We’ll see what happens.

So how does this all relate to my exchange?

Throughout my current stint in Europe, I have had the opportunity to visit quite a few beautiful houses of worship. Baroque and Gothic and mammoth places where people go to find…well I don’t know what. I don’t think you have to be religious to realize that these churches and cathedrals are beautiful. Yet, for some reason these buildings still have a deep meaning to me. I feel safe in them. I wonder about what goes through people’s heads when they walk in. What makes them worship something that doesn’t seem to do anything good for anyone.

I’ve enjoyed exploring the churches and cathedrals of Europe, and I will continue to. They may be shaping my view of religion more than I know. If you ever take a trip across the pond I highly suggest you look into a few. At the very least you’ll get some pretty pictures.

in Prague

in Prague

in Prague

in Prague