Why did you choose to leave to the US?
Simply because it is hard to combine excellent athletics with excellent academics in the Czech Republic. The system is not set up that way. I missed tens of hours of school a year before I was even 14 years old because of my hockey practices and games. It was getting ridiculous. My parents would not let me quit school, so I would have had to quit hockey. So we looked for an alternative.
When did you leave your home country for the US?
In 2008, when I was 15 years old.
What situation did you leave behind?
I left a system where the athletics and academics were divided, for a system where they were integrated on a high level.
What was the biggest challenge in the transition process?
Getting admitted to the high school that I went to was very hard. I didn’t really think I had a shot at getting in. It was a process that I was unfamiliar with. But I kept conversing with coaches and the admissions officers and in the end, it all worked out. However, knowing the process now, getting in is definitely the biggest hurdle.
Once I got to the US, the biggest challenge for me was writing essays. The most I’ve ever written in Czech was a two-page handwritten essay in a two-hour class, once a semester. Now I had to write something for almost every class and had long essays due every couple of weeks. That was something I was not prepared for. My essays lacked structure etc. It took a long time getting used to.
The social life I stepped into was way different from what I was used to, but it wasn’t much of a challenge. More of a “look around and adjust” kind of a thing. My clothes were different than everybody else’s. I wasn’t used to asking how everybody was doing all the time and I didn’t get some movie references. But when you are submerged into a new environment like this, where you are always busy and don’t have time for interactions with anyone from home, you adjust very quickly.
What were your expectations and what was the reality?
I think that my expectations were fully met with reality. I knew it was going to be tough and that I had to work hard. I would say that I didn’t fully expect how nice Americans would be.
What did you learn from your journey?
I learned how to be more independent and resourceful. That’s really what you have to become when you come to a place where you don’t know anyone. I think that people can learn the most about themselves when they are put into new challenging situations and have to figure it out on their own. That’s when they grow.
In what aspects did the move to the US change your life?
I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin. It changed my life completely.
What direction did you go after graduating?
I lived and worked in NYC for a little bit, where I was a project manager on a new skyscraper that’s going to be overlooking Central Park. And now I am starting a company that will help college students with their studies (think time and workload management).
Would you like to add anything else that you see as relevant?
If you are a parent and if you are thinking about sending your kid to the US to play sports and study at a university, my advice would be this:
If you are a student-athlete who wants to get a good education while continuing with their sport, go study in the US. Steps to start the process are:
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