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Exchange student explores culture

Hana Boldisova decided long ago that she might want to live and work in the United States. To explore that dream, she decided to spend her junior year at New Richmond High School.

Boldisova, a native of Slovakia, said it was important to study abroad to improve her English and learn about American culture.

Although she had hoped to be placed in a bigger city - like New York - Boldisova said she was excited to be placed in New Richmond.

"I was really excited," she said. "I looked for New Richmond online but didn't see much.

New Richmond is much different than Velky Kliz, Boldisova's home village.

"It's much bigger," she said. "My village has about 800 people."

The 17-year-old said she wasn't nervous about leaving her family; however, it was her first time flying and the flight required a changeover in Amsterdam.

"That frightened me," she said. "That is a huge airport with lots of people. I got lost a few times, but I made it."

In general people in the United States are much nicer than Slovaks, she said.

"Here everyone is so friendly. In my country people have their own problems and don't care about the others," she said.

Because she's not very outgoing, she was worried about making new friends, but said it was much easier than she expected.

Getting involved in school sports (she's playing basketball this winter) was another way to make friends, she said.

Boldisova said she's already had a lot of fun celebrating American holidays - like Halloween and Thanksgiving.

"I totally like Halloween," she said. "You get a lot of free candy, watch a lot of horror movies and the cute children dress up."

She said she's also looking forward to Christmas.

"We celebrate Christmas, but it's very different in my home country," she said.

For example, instead of Santa Claus, Baby Jesus brings the presents to the children of Slovakia, she said.

The traditional Christmas meal in Slovakia is carp, she said.

Families usually buy live carp a few days before Christmas and keep it in the family's bathtub before it's butchered on Christmas day, she said.

Other traditions, like throwing walnuts in the corner of every room (to ensure good luck) or putting the scales of the Christmas carp under the table cloth (to bring wealth into the house), are just a few differences between an American Christmas and a Slovak Christmas.

Though she'll miss her hometown traditions, she's excited to celebrate new ones.

"That's why I'm here," she said. "To learn about your culture."

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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