Simon Puchy ’20 (Košice, Slovakia / Lowville , NY) 

My name is Simon, and I spent my exchange year in northern New York, in the small town of Lowville. I attended an amazing high school and was placed in a very welcoming American family. Although the goal of the FLEX program is to completely immerse exchange students in American culture, and the best way to do this is to have a long-term placement in one family and in one high school, the FLEX program and my family gave me the opportunity to explore American culture outside of this small town. During my exchange year, I visited three cities in my host state: New York City, Niagara Falls, and Buffalo, as well as Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.  

With my host family, I went on a road trip in October, and visited three places in one week. We started in Columbus, where we visited the zoo. It was great, but coming from cold, northern New York, I wasn’t ready for the 30-degree heat. Still, it was a beautiful city and later we even attended an National Hockey League game. 

A few days later, we headed to Niagara Falls and the town of Buffalo. In Niagara Falls we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and in Buffalo, the famous Buffalo chicken wings. That week was really great as I had the opportunity to taste the true American cuisine and saw the famous sights of the U.S.  

In December of the same year, I went to New York City. Even though my host school was in the same state, New York City was about a five-hour drive away. I went there with other exchange students because the trip was organized by my placement organization. I had a chance to see Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and, from a distance, the Statue of Liberty.  

Similarly, I traveled to Washington, D.C., for Civic Education Week and met other exchange students there. Civic Education Week is organized by the FLEX program every year and invites selected exchange students to spend a week in Washington, D.C. During the workshop, I learned a lot about politics and history, visited many museums, and met with American lawmakers.  

All these great experiences helped me to better understand American culture and traditions. However, the traveling itself was not the goal of my exchange year. It was mostly about host families, friends, and classmates that helped exchange students, like myself, to understand American culture and, at the same time, provide the opportunity for exchange students to teach Americans about their own culture. What trips did you take during your exchange year and how did they impact your experience?