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April 16, 2024

Rotary exchange student returns from Europe

WORLD TRAVELER — Amaryna Chapman, of Stony Point, spent a year as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in the Czech Republic, just completing the journey in July 2023. Chapman is shown in her Rotary blazer, which is adorned with pins from other Rotary exchange youths she met abroad.

 

By MICAH HENRY

It isn’t every day that one of Alexander Central High School’s bright young minds goes on a trip out of the country. And it’s even less often when one goes abroad to study for an entire year, but that’s the amazing experience Amaryna Chapman, 18, of Stony Point, just completed in July.

Amaryna (prounounced “AM-ah-ree-nah”) is the daughter of Stephanie Presnell and Andrew Chapman. She has one sister, Illyann. Her grandparents are Nadine and Gene Chapman.

Amaryna was a Rotary Youth Exchange student for the 2022-2023 school year. She was able to visit the Czech Republic for the past year while attending school there and learning about their culture, while sharing that of America with her peers and host families.

The teen indicated that she was interested in learning a foreign language in an immersive experience and heard about the Rotary program. She contacted Rotary District 7680 and soon learned the details on how to apply. Requiring a local Rotary to sponsor her, Amaryna was sponsored by Taylorsville Rotary Club.

She had to write an essay, complete certain paperwork and forms, and was able to select from a list of possible destination countries. She was accepted by the Czech Republic in February 2022 and began to make preparations to travel there.

The Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone software helped her to learn basic Czech words and phrases.

Amaryna noted that really the only stressful part of the whole process was the airline flights she had to endure. She had never flown before. A few challenging situations with weather, delays, and layovers were sorted out with the help of family and national Rotary members.

Amaryna was placed with four different host families during her year in the Czech Republic, which can be typical, depending on the host families’ abilities. The first “host mother” taught English in a local school in the town of České Budějovice.

According to c-budejovice.cz, the city was is a capital of the South Bohemian Region. Almost 95,000 inhabitants live there. The city was founded by the Czech king Premysl Otakar II in 1265. The city is famous for its well-known companies such as the brewery Budweiser Budvar, N.C. (the original Budweiser) and the manufacturer of writing and art supplies, Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth.

She noted that much of the ancient city survived both the German occupation and later Soviet years.

Meeting people and making friends was high on the list of priorities. Amaryna made several close friends in school.

“I was a lot more socially shy last August,” Amaryna noted. She feels the exchange year helped her become more independent and outgoing.

“I can do a lot more things than I could do before I went abroad,” she explained. “It gives you a lot of life skills and helps self-growth. It has students be more prepared for life, for work, or for going into the military.”

It was interesting to learn that Czech people call a hot dog a picador. Amaryna noted that the Czech diet doesn’t have an equivalent of that local staple, livermush.

She was able to try (and liked) the Czech dish vinná klobása, or wine sausage. According to cookbook author Jana Florentýna Pišová, “wine sausage is pork and bread soaked in wine, with a little salt and spices, mainly white pepper, nutmeg and lemon peel. All this is ground, processed, and pressed into a thin pork casing in the form of one almost infinitely long sausage.”
Amaryna also tried Knedlíky, or Czech bread dumplings, but didn’t especially care for their sponge-like consistency.

GOOD TIMES — Amaryna is shown above (center) at a café with friends on her youth exchange year abroad.

Amaryna was able to experience many aspects of life in the Czech Republic and other parts of Europe, including visiting Prague, Rome, Stuttgart, Brussels, London, and Oxford. She liked visiting castles, of which the Czech Republic has many, as well as the Black Tower and the Samson Fountain, both in České Budějovice.

Amaryna said it is rather easy to travel across Europe with buses and train service.

Now, she has been able to experience the Czech Republic from both the perspective of an outsider and an insider.

Her future plans include applying to universities both in the United States and Europe. She hopes to study medical field, perhaps in pharmacy and psychiatry.

She highly recommends that other high school students try a youth exchange program.

The world traveling teen noted that some students prefer to do a youth exchange for their sophomore or junior year or even in a “gap” year, following high school.

“It was the best year of my life,” Amaryna firmly stated. “I want to encourage other students from different high schools in this area about the possibility of going abroad, and to take that opportunity, to take that next step to both become more confident, to explore the world.”

For more information on the Rotary Youth Exchange, look up the Rotary District website, Rotary7680.org, or any Rotary Club member.

AN OLD WORLD CHRISTMAS — This photo shows České Budějovice during a Christmas market in the Czech Republic. (Photo courtesy of Amaryna Chapman.)

 

A DOMINANT STRUCTURE — Among many landmarks, Amaryna was able to visit the Hluboká Castle, which is close to České Budějovice. (Photo courtesy of Amaryna Chapman.)

 

The astronomical clock in Prague. (Photo courtesy of Amaryna Chapman.)

 

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy. (Photo courtesy of Amaryna Chapman.)

 

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