by Anna Schmidtová from the Czech Republic
(CIEE High School USA, 2008)
As always, I didn’t want to go. I had two dogs and a horse, and who would take care of them if I would go away for a whole year? I fought with my mom about it but she finally persuaded me but under one condition – I would go away only for 6 months. I need to confess that my English was so terrible I barely passed the English test that was needed for participation in the program, and that this was probably my only chance to learn English language. But, seventeen-year-old me didn’t realize it yet.
I chose the United States as my destination and a family from Bowie, Texas picked me according to my profile papers (where animals were on every page). So, in the beginning of January, I arrived to Wichita Falls where my new family waited for me. It was love at first sight, mostly because the first thing they did was to feed me with Chinese food, which I love! They brought me home where my room was ready and two dogs and a rabbit greeted me. For the first two months, the dictionary I brought from home was almost glued to my hand (smartphones weren’t popular yet). First person I understood the most was my new mom – a teacher in kindergarten. Personally, I think it was because she knew how to talk simple language to little kids.
It has been over 10 years since I lived in Texas but the memories are still strong. Some of them stronger than others. For example, the rodeo. I got to ride horses all the time and participate in the rodeo events, some of which I won. Trail rides were the best spent weekends I could wish for. I got to ride horses all day and also go swimming with them. My family even took me to Disney World for a vacation! I loved it! School was also fun. I got to have the American high school experience with lunches in cafeteria, t-shirts in the school’s color, great teachers, and basketball games where I cheered for our school team. But most of all, the people! Everyone was always sweet, kind, and I never met anyone who would be hostile towards me. Despite not being religious, I went to church with my family and enjoyed the community there. Besides proper English, I learned a few words a true cowboy should know like howdy, big ’o, y’all, and fixin’ to with the right accent.
I prolonged my stay for another month but then I really had to go home. In that moment, I could kick myself for choosing to stay there for only 6 months and not the whole year. My family waited for me in the airport as my American family did 6 months ago, but they couldn’t recognize me at first. That’s how I changed – I grew and got more mature.
I am grateful to my mom for pushing me to do this when I know she missed me very much. I had the time of my life and formed friendships so strong that one friend from Bowie High School I meet annually every year and is also coming to my wedding. I can now truly say that I don’t have only one home but two.