Halloween and other super/freaky/awesome differences between America and the little dot

By Alžběta Polončeková, CCI Academic Year participant from the Czech Republic living in Colorado

The other day, I gave a short speech on America in my Public Speaking class. I started with a drawing that looked somewhat like this:

The dot is where I come from; the big circle is where I’ve been for last three months.

Ever since I came to Colorado from the Czech Republic, I am constantly astonished. My favorite sentence? “That’s like the movies.” Because it is. We watch a lot of American films at home and it doesn’t seem any different until you actually come here and see it for real. It’s awesome! You start realizing it’s similar to what you’re used to seeing in the movies, AND it’s a lot different at the same time.

Let me start with the holiday we recently celebrated: Halloween! I love it and I always have. It’s way too cool. We don’t celebrate it at home. Sure, we know what it is and some people carve their own little pumpkin, but who goes trick-or-treating? When I was little, I was determined to start trick-or-treating at home, but it would have been awkward I guess. But I finally got to celebrate an American Halloween this year! I dressed up as Lisbeth Salander (the majority of people don’t know who she is, and I was called a girl from Star Wars because of my T-shirt once, yet I enjoyed it!) and I handed out candy to the little trick-or-treaters who came to our door! We had about 160 kids that came! Awesome?!

Another thing that is so well known around Europe is American fast food. Maaaan! I normally hate fast food back home and you would never make me go to McDonalds there. But McDonalds here? YUMMY! I’m loving it, seriously. Of course, I don’t get fast food too often. But all the different fast food restaurants America has is great! I love Taco Bell and Smart Cow!

As much as I like fast food here, I miss our school cafeteria and the fact that everything is homemade. Unfortunately, American lifestyle doesn’t allow many people to make homemade dishes. Oh, how much I miss our goulash, sauces and even a good Schnitzel. That said, I think that food prepared by most host family is delicious (I love steak!), but food at school? Not so much.
My friends often times ask me what the main difference is that I see. The first thought that comes to my mind is the roads. American roads are HUGE and I love it! It would be so easy to drive our big jeep here (back home, dad always complains). But, I would most definitely not want to drive it on a small, narrow, European road. A standard, small road here has two lanes and that’s the size of our biggest highway.

Czech kids like me who are not 18 yet are amazed that you can get your license and drive here at the age of 16. However, it is a necessity. Everything, the neighborhoods, the malls, school, is far apart here. “Down the street” means 5 minutes by car here. I’m not used to that, since we can just walk anywhere we want in the town.

How do I get to school without a car then? Oh yeah, school buses! I love those yellow boxes. They’re so famous everywhere. Every time I watched The Simpsons I wished to be able to sit in one of these buses. And finally, I am! The bus stop is just down the street and I have been able to meet some cool kids at the bus stop.

If you ask me if America and Europe are different, the answer is easy: Yes, they are very different! If you ask me which one I prefer, I can’t tell. I love where I come from and my stay here has made me appreciate what we have at home. I love it here and I uncover something new every day. What do I miss the most from home? Good bakeries! Particularly our fresh bread with slices of cucumber on top—that’s the first thing I’ll eat when I go back home!

What will I miss when I go home? I’ll miss my new friends, my school, which I love, I’ll miss my “other parents” (as I call my host parents), I’ll miss pretty neighborhoods and 6 lane highways. I’ll miss the bright sun and beautiful blue sky of Colorado.

But for now, there’s no time to think about what I’ll miss, rather, what I’ll be enjoying for the upcoming 7 months!

Good luck with your exchanges, my fellow students! You’ll encounter a lot of differences, but I hope you’ll love those differences just as much as I do!