The Lasting Impact of Cultural Exchange

We recently shared some stories about Roger and Lee White, former extraordinary Regional Directors for Greenheart. When Roger passed in 2009, Greenheart set up a scholarship in his name–to benefit one deserving student each year.

Cultural Exchange’s Life-Changing Impact

We all know that travel and cultural exchange has the power to change lives, to shift perspectives, and to help the world better understand each other. We caught up with four Roger White Scholarship winners to tell us how their cultural exchange experiences changed their lives. You can read more about the Roger White Scholarship here.

Jan:  “Be Responsible, Work Hard, Dream Big, Help Others” 

My name is Jan and I was an Exchange student in 2013/2014 year. There are so many things that pop up in my head thinking about what the experience gave me – a second family, great friends with which I still am in contact, great memories and overall confidence of what one can achieve if you’re willing to do something extra. The last said being mostly about my host family which provided a home for us, lots of us exchange students for over 20 years which I will always hold as an inspiration and will admire my entire life wishing that one day I can do something similar on my own and help others chase their dreams.  

I’m now 26 years old and finishing my masters degree in mechanical engineering. I work as a technical designer of infrastructure. I also work for Czech TV as a sports editor. Apart from the learning English, the main benefit is the attitude that I brought back from the USA – be responsible, work hard, dream big, and help others. It’s something I try to live by every day. 

I still am in contact with my host family. Although my host mother unfortunately passed away this spring, I still talk to my host father and their kids, and the friends I made back in the USA. 

Jan with his host family on a trip to Las Vegas

Jan returned for a friend’s wedding in the summer of 2021

Jan’s first snow-Wyoming

Julie:  “Being a 16-year-old in America  taught me that nothing is impossible”

Julie writes, “Looking back, I think it’s safe to say that my American experience turned my life inside out – changing it for the better. My high school was a great educational institution that taught me to think critically and always analyze problems in terms of context, a valuable skill I am still using today. I learned so much more just by living in a foreign country that is so much different from Europe. It widened my horizons and showed me that, even though we’re all different, today’s globalized world is very connected – and that’s why it’s so important to travel, experience other cultures and be open to the unknown — because after all, we have so much to learn from each other. A special thanks goes to my amazing host family who made Colorado my second home on the other side of the world and with whom I’m still in touch. 

After returning from the US, I had two more years left to finish high school in the Czech Republic during which I travelled as much as possible. Being a 16-year-old in America taught me that nothing is impossible. Besides backpacking all over Europe, I have also worked short-term in France, Switzerland, and Scotland. Thanks to my exchange year, I understood that I preferred the Anglo-Saxon educational system, so I am currently studying Politics and French at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom. 

My exchange year formed me and my current life philosophy, and for this, I’m really thankful to everyone who made my stay in Colorado possible because it really was one of the best things that ever happened to me. 

Julie at Ben Nevis

Julie enjoying an American football game & the marching band



Kristyna: “It was the best decision I have ever made”

My American year gave me valuable experiences, amazing memories and many life lessons. I travelled through 6 different states, learned things which I have always dreamed of, and made a lot of good friends.  It also taught me how to be completely independent.  

The most beneficial skills I definitely learned from school. I had an opportunity to see education from a completely different angle and it came in really handy. I learned how to study in more entertaining ways, found the methods which suit me best and used everything that had been given to me.  

I was thrilled when I found out that I share my biggest passion, which is travelling, with my American sister. We enjoyed my 10 months as much as we could and every second was worth it.  

Currently I am studying economics at high school, working on getting a CAE certificate and tutoring children. I live on my own and I am really happy. Every time I mention my scholarship to someone, especially during job interviews, I get asked many questions about it. It is a great thing to add to your resume as well. I tutor children only because most of the parents look for someone who is experienced, responsible and able to pass on the more useful knowledge. I have learned all those things mostly because of my year in the USA.  

I try to be in touch with my host family at least 3 or 4 times a month, but I FaceTime with my American host sister a few times a week. We have an awesome relationship and I can actually say that I have a second home across the ocean. I became a member of her family after about 6 months and luckily it hasn’t changed.  

My year in the USA will forever be an experience that cannot be taken away from me. It was the best decision I have ever made and all of my hard work paid off. I highly recommend trying this terrific opportunity and advise those who do it to be strong and patient. It’s worth it! 


Kristyna with her host family


Matej:  “It’s not just another year in our lives, it’s a life in a year.”

Matej and other cultural exchange students said that many times during their year in the USA.

“And now, two years later, this saying still resonates with me and I think it describes my time in the USA very well. I met countless new interesting people, found friends across the whole world, with whom I am still in contact, and learned so much about other cultures, especially the American one. I saw the country from a perspective that I had not been able to see previously. It also helped me grow as a person, I learned how to adapt to new environments, how to be more independent, versatile, and assertive. Last but not least–it made me look at my own country from a different angle.

Currently, I’m in my freshman year of college with a major in cybersecurity and informatics. My life after the program influenced my life very much. I feel like I make friends more easily and generally have a better understanding of myself and of what I actually want in my life. I even met a friend, whom I know from the States, that is now studying at the same university.

I am still in contact with my host family. We send Christmas gifts to each other, call via video, play online games together– it’s really fun. They are planning on visiting me and my family in the spring if the situation with the pandemic isn’t too bad.”

Matej now

Matej in the USA


THANK YOU to JANA RULE our Partner at CCI in the Czech Republic for rounding up these follow-ups with Roger White Scholarship winners.

And from Jana, “I would like to express a huge THANK YOU to Mrs. Lee White who has been supporting our students for so many years. She and Greenheart are making students’ dreams come true!”  


If you believe in Cultural Exchange and want to support Greenheart Exchange’s non-profit work (scholarships and Global Impact Grants), please consider a donation.

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