Czech students looking forward to year in US – one year later than originally planned

Photo: archive of US Embassy in Prague

A group of Czech students selected for America’s Future Leaders Exchange Programme had been scheduled to leave for the United States about now to spend a whole school year with host families. However, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, their plans had to be postponed. To mitigate their disappointment, the American Embassy in Prague organised a special event for them.

Photo: archive of US Embassy in Prague

An unusual event took place at the US ambassador’s residence in Prague on Tuesday night. A group of high school students from all around the Czech Republic, who were admitted to this year’s Future Leaders Exchange Programme (FLEX), were sitting around a campfire, baking marshmallows and singing songs.

If it wasn’t for the Covid-19 outbreak, most of these students would already be with their host families in the United States, but due to the coronavirus crisis, their stay was postponed until next academic year.

The US ambassador, Stephen King, told Czech Radio it’s not usual to have a campsite in the garden of his residence:

Stephen King,  photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“Unfortunately the virus caught up with us and they were unable to travel to begin their highs school year in the United States. We know that they are disappointed, so this is just our way of saying: Thanks for involving yourself in the programme. You got a lot to look forward to and also to answer any question they have about their upcoming experience.”

To answer the student’s questions, the embassy also invited a few of the FLEX alumni who shared their stories and tried to ease their concerns about going away from home for a full year in the United States.

“The young people had a lot of questions, such as: Did you talk to your parents back home? Were you lonely? How easy was it to make friends? And what did you do in high school?

Photo: archive of US Embassy in Prague

“They all had the right answers and they all had really wonderful experience. And I could tell the new students were relaxing and feeling much better about their exciting opportunity.”

17-year-old Klára Slámová from Cheb told Czech Radio she was really excited about going to the United States.

“When I learned the programme was cancelled I was really disappointed, because it is my life-long dream to visit the Unites States and study there.

“However, a few days ago we found out that the programme has been postponed until next year. So it is really great news and I am really looking forward to it.

Photo: archive of US Embassy in Prague

“When my mom was my age, she also went for an exchange programme to the US. Now she is an English teacher and motivates other students to do the same thing.”

The Future Leaders Exchange programme was established in 1993 by the US State Department. Last year was the first time that it was made accessible to students from the Czech Republic.