Czech foreign exchange student joins Staples community


Justine Seligson, Photo Coordinator

When Martin Dolezal boarded his plane in the Czech Republic heading for a year-long stay in the United States, he had no sincere expectations for what would be on the other side. Basing his previous knowledge on America off of media, friends’ stories and overall stereotypes, his preconceptions would be proven quite wrong once he got here.

“I thought that America was just skyscrapers,” Dolezal said. “But Westport is a beautiful city with green everywhere.”

Dolezal is an exchange student through the local chapter ofRotary International. He will reside with three different Westport families over the course of this school year and is currently living with the Chapman family.

Fides Østbye, Director of Study Abroad for Westport Rotary, explained how the local student exchange program has hosted many students in the past, with their origin countries varying from Poland to Argentina.

Dolezal himself hails fromPisek, a town of about 32,000 inhabitants 66 miles from Prague. The area is known for its medieval buildings and bridges.

“It’s kind of the same here [as Pisek],” Dolezal said. “But everything like the cars are smaller in the Czech Republic.”

Dolezal’s school back home is quite different than Staples. His grade has approximately 150 students, a third of a typical grade at Staples. Also, unlike in American high schools where students move around to different classes, the teachers change for each subject while the students stay put.

Dolezal said a class at Staples he likes so far is digital darkroom. In comparison, his most challenging course is English because of the analysis of literature in his non-native language.

“Before coming I thought I would not be able to understand, but I am getting better,” he said.

Dolezal’s explained that he has very much enjoyed his stay in the United States so far. “My teachers and classmates are just so nice,” he said.

According to Østbye, Dolezal’s positive reaction is an intended part of the study abroad program. “When these students return to their native countries, they can be positive ambassadors for America,” she said.

Dolezal will certainly have a lot to say about his experience based upon his many amazements of this society.

“Americans love their culture, which is very fascinating,” he said with a laugh. “Back home we don’t.”