Czech student wins a competition to come to Miramonte

Stay delayed by pandemic, but early communication helped

It’s the first day of school, but instead of being with people she has known her entire life, Denisa Dvorakova is starting her senior year in an entirely new country, surrounded by new faces. Overwhelmed by the unfamiliar salmon walls and cooler-carrying water polo boys, not one student or staff member speaks Dvorakova’s native language. With a copy of the overly confusing block schedule in one hand, Dvorakova heads to her first class, ready to take on her semester here in the United States. 

Dvorakova is a foreign exchange student from the Czech Republic. “Every year there is a competition in my school, and the winner gets to come to Miramonte for a semester. We write essays [about ourselves and our lives] and have interviews to determine who the winner will be. I had to write an essay about myself, about my goals, about my hobbies, and in general just my life,” Dvorakova said. The second round is the interview; Dvorakova was one of 10 students to advance. Two weeks later, she received an email saying she had won the spot.

Dvorakova won the competition to come to Miramonte last spring. However, her stay had to be postponed due to the coronavirus. “I was so excited from the very beginning. It was really sad when they told me three days before my departure that it wasn’t gonna happen,” Dvorakova said. 

Despite the delay, Dvorkova still was able to come to Miramonte a year later.

Through Skype calls and email, Dvorkova was able to stay in touch with and get to know her host family, the Moshers. “We tried to become a host family last year but COVID got in the way. There is a website and you can sign up there or enter a lottery there,” junior Jon-Marc Mosher said. The Moshers and Dvorkova got to meet for the first time at the airport after nearly a year of communicating virtually.

Dvorakova is very busy with school and making friends, so she doesn’t have much time to feel homesick. However, she does miss some things from back home. “I miss my dog a lot actually. There are some moments that I’m a little bit homesick where I miss my friends or family, but mostly I am so busy here. The program doesn’t give me time to be [homesick],” Dvorakova said. 

Dvorakova is excited about many different elements of being in the United States, but she is most looking forward to going to Hawaii on vacation. “I’m so excited about Christmas in Hawaii. It’s going to be so cool. I’m also excited for everything like Halloween or Thanksgiving. I’m overall excited for everything to come,” Dvorakova said.

With the many extracurricular activity options to choose at Miramonte, Dvorakova joined the cheer team at the end of July and is now starting to play tennis for Miramonte. She has been cheering as a varsity cheerleader and will be competing with the varsity tennis team. 

There are some similarities between her school back home and Miramonte. However, she thinks students at Miramonte are much friendlier. “Everyone here is so nice and helpful. It is so much friendlier, and I have loved making new friends,” Dvokakova said. 

While Miramonte students switch from class to class during the day, at Dvokakova’s school back home, the teachers are the ones who rotate for each period. Dvorakova was with the same 30 students the whole day except for her language class. Lunch is about an hour, and students are free to do whatever they please.

“I’m so, so grateful for this amazing opportunity,” Dvorakova said. From day trips to San Francisco to learning what “yo mama” jokes are, Dvorakova cherishes her time here and embraces all the learning curves that she has encountered.

A few weeks into the school year, the block schedule hand-out is no longer needed. Dvorakova  is speeding through the halls, smiling at familiar faces. Miramonte is starting to feel like home.