Struggles, Surprises, and Growth in a Year Abroad

By Alžběta Polončeková, an Academic Year Program participant and Greenheart Club member. Alžběta is from the Czech Republic and is spending her year abroad in Colorado.


156 days behind me, 156 days before me. That, I guess, means I’m in the middle. In the middle of my best year of my life… so far. These 156 days gave me a lot. They showed me that living abroad both meets my expectations and doesn’t. And it made me realise a lot.

I had the chance to meet all different types of people. People whom I would probably never have the chance to meet otherwise. It forced me to make up my mind about a lot of things. And think a little further about who I want to become. It made me realise that everybody’s different and we need to deal with it. It showed me how important patience was.

I thought it would be a lot easier. I expected I would come to school and make a lot of friends instantly, because I’m an exchange student and everybody’s interested in meeting exchange students, right? It proved not to be correct; everybody has their own life or they think you have already made a bunch of friends. What I was forced to do was to overcome my fears and start talking to all new people. And it was fun and engaging and nice. And I have met some really nice people. I found great friends in people I thought I would never come along with.

Now, I understand that staying calm is important and deep breath and smile can fix a lot. I understand, how much I care for my friends and my family. Every little message from them makes me happy. Small things make me happy. And I appreciate small things. Finally, I was able to find what I wish to study and do in future. I learned a lot about different cultures – not just American, but some of my friends’–exchange students–too.

It made me realise that life isn’t an easy thing, but how we deal with it is up to us. I met a wonderful girl, who a couple years ago wanted to commit suicide. She told me she was really happy she fought her depression off, because she would miss out on a lot. She told me she would have never met me and that would not be cool at all. I would have never met her, if i didn’t come here and I am so happy I am here!

I won’t lie, it’s not always easy to be here. But I have my two songs to make me feel happier, when I want to be home. “Welcome, to wherever you are, this is your life, you’ve made it this far” is what Bon Jovi sing in their song “Welcome to Wherever You Are”. Green Day in “Good Riddance” sing “So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why… It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time… It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right… I hope you had the time of your life.” And that’s what I’m having, time of my life. Do you have some songs to bring you up, when you’re feeling a little down?

To 156 beautiful tomorrows!