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Czech exchange student has traveled the world

By Staff | Nov 3, 2008

When one has traveled the world, riding in a combine down dusty bean rows in Faribault County leaves something to be desired.

Harold Cadilek, a foreign exchange student from the Czech Republic says the experience “was kind of boring.”

Cadilek is comfortable with being in a foreign country, since he has traveled with his parents to Portugal, Spain, France, England, Wales, Iceland, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt.

“I would like to visit Japan and Greece,” he adds. But of the countries that he has visited, he has enjoyed France and England the best.

“My dad likes to travel,” he explains, “and I enjoy the history about these places.”

Born in Svitavy, a city of 17,000 people in the Czech Republic, Cadilek explains that it is southeast of Prague about two hours if one were to travel by car.

His parents, Harold and Radmila, are gynecologists who work in an area clinic and hospital. Harold’s siblings are Ronald and Claudia-Laura.

“I expected the U.S. education to be easy,” says Cadilek. “The only thing I was worried about was the language. But it is okay,” he says.

“There are a lot of differences in the educational systems,” adds Cadilek.

“In the Czech Republic, nine years are spent in the elementary and four in high school. Each week I study 13 different subjects, but all 13 years we must study mathematics and the Czech language,” he says.

“In the U.S. you can choose your subjects and you also have quarters,” he explains. “Every day we have the same schedule which might include having chemistry two times weekly, English three to four times weekly, history, geography, physics, civics, biology and the Czech language.”

Other differences he notes are the Czech schools don’t use textbooks and students there must write at least two pages of notes for their 45 minute class periods.

“We have to study at home,” he says. “The teacher has the power of speech and asks us what we have learned.”

“There are four high schools in my city of 17,000. But there are 30 to 40 in Prague,” he states.

“After grade school we must select what kind of education we want. Some of the choices we have are grammar, sports, economics, medical and vocational schools,” he explains. “Some of the schools are three hours away from a student’s home, so they must live in a dormitory.”

“I attend a grammar school,” says Cadilek. “My classes might include history, geography, civics, economics, English, the Czech language, German, French or Russian (must choose two), chemistry, computers, physical education, biology music or art history and physics,” he says.

“Grammar schools are not specialized like the economics, medical or vocational schools are,” he says. “So we should go to college or we don’t have a chance,” says a matter-of-fact Cadilek.

His grammar school consists of about 200-300 students with generally 30 people in one class. His school has 30-40 teachers, many of whom teach more than one subject. He has the same schoolmates throughout his grammar school years. In contrast, there are about 130-150 students in the specialty schools.

Spanish is Cadilek’s favorite class at Blue Earth Area High School.

“I have about 15 minutes of homework here,” he says, “but if I were home it would take me one to two hours to do homework.”

Tests in the Blue Earth school tend to be more multiple choice or true or false in content. In his grammar school tests are short answers or essays.

As for other observations Cadilek says that the weather is about the same here as it is in his homeland and our food is more unhealthy.

“We have hardly any fast food places,” he says. “Cities with 40,000 or more have these. What we do have are Asian fast foods.”

This probably explains why he had never seen a hamburger bun before.

Cadilek’s favorite home cooked food in Svitavy is pork sirloin with cream sauce and dumplings.

“Cars, clothing and electronics are cheaper here,” says Cadilek. “The price for food is about the same. But gas is more expensive. It is about $7 per gallon,” he says.

A basketball player, Cadilek says he was surprised to see how cheap basketball shoes were in the U.S.

Besides playing basketball, his other hobbies include volleyball, squash and soccer. He sings in a choir and also plays the saxophone in a Jazz Band, outside of the normal school hours.

“We can vote, drive, drink, smoke and go to jail after age 18,” he says about his culture.

This fall his host family, the Steele’s, journeyed to Shakopee to show him the Renaissance Festival. For Southern Minnesotans this is an exciting event. Unfortunately, for someone who lives in a country with a lot of historical castles, our festival was not as impressive as his hosts had hoped. Says Cadilek, ‘it was no big deal.

“After my year here, I will have to take an exam on what my classmates studied while I was gone,” he says.

Once he has completed the exam, he can pursue his future plan of becoming either a teacher or a travel guide.

“First I would like to take a little time off and just do some traveling,” the adventurous Cadilek summarizes.

Host Nathan Steele has some traveling on his mind as well, but it isn’t to foreign countries. It’s to a different kind of Minnesota farm field. With a twinkle in his eyes, Steele explains his newest travel adventures he has in mind for Cadilek.

“Wait until we get into the corn!” says a grinning Steele to Cadilek.