Petra happy to find a home in Minnesota
Petra Uhlíková has known for some time that she wanted to come to America as an exchange student.
And, as of this past April 18, she knew not only that she was coming to Minnesota, but also was going to be living with the Travis and Tami Armstrong family in Blue Earth.
“My parents were a little nervous about my being an exchange student at first,” the 17-year old from Slovakia says. “But they realized it would be a great experience for my future, and for improving my English. They wanted me to do what I wanted to do.”
Uhlíková applied to the EF Exchange program and was accepted. Her first choice for a place to go was California. Her second choice was Chicago.
“I was at home in Slovakia last April when I got an e-mail from the Armstrongs telling me they were going to be my host family, and that I was coming to Blue Earth, Minnesota,” she recalls.
Uhlíková admits she immediately went to ‘Google Earth’ on her computer to find out where Blue Earth and Minnesota were located in the United States.
“I am very happy they chose me to stay with them this year,” Uhlikova says. “They are a wonderful family.”
The Armstrongs have two young daughters, Teá and Addison.
Back home in Drnava, Slovakia, a city of 80,000, Uhlikova’s family consists of her father, Branislav, mother, Dagmar, and 12-year-old brother, Robert.
“My father is a businessman and my mother is a housewife,” Uhlíková says. Her father owns half of a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Drnava.
“I do miss them,” Uhlíková admits. “I miss all of my friends there, as well.”
She quickly adds that she has made many friends here since her arrival on August 13, and they have helped her to not be so homesick.
Back home she was attending a school called Academia of Commerce. She says she chose the school, as students there can decide what school to attend.
Uhlíková has been a very active tennis player in Slovakia.
“Sports are not included in the schools,” she explains. “They are all separate club teams. I started playing tennis when I was seven and was on the team when I was 13.”
She quit the team recently to concentrate on her studies, and because she was going to the United States for a year. She still likes to play tennis for two to three hours a week.
Uhlíková also enjoys skiing, swimming, roller blading and going out with her friends when she is back home in Slovakia.
She describes her home country as a democratic state.
“We have a president, but we also have a prime minister and a legislature,” she says.
Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia until Jan. 1, 1993 when the two split into the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovakia.
The country is bordered by Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Ukraine, and the Czech Republic. Uhlíková says she has been to all of the countries except the Ukraine.
“It is a beautiful country. We have mountains and valleys, and we have snow in the winter,” she says. “But we do not have real cold weather like you do here,” she adds.
Uhlíková is a senior at Blue Earth Area High School, and is taking subjects such as government, world cultures, economics and Spanish.
“I really like languages so Spanish is fun for me,” she says. In Slovakia she has taken both English and German for many years in school.
While here in the U.S., Uhlíková would like to travel some, and see the country. So far she has been to the Twin Cities and the Mall of America, and to Decorah, Iowa, for a weekend trip.“I really liked Decorah,” she says. “It is a very nice town.”
Travis Armstrong says the family is planning a trip to Washington, D.C. while Uhlikova is here. He has a brother living there, and they feel it would a great place for their exchange student to visit.
Uhlikova also is planning a trip to visit a friend who is in Las Vegas. And just this coming Thursday, she will be going to Chicago with a large group of exchange students for a long weekend.
Since Chicago was her second choice as a place to stay, Uhlikova is looking forward to the trip. But she also has no regrets about coming to Minnesota.
“I was so excited to be coming here, and now I am so satisfied with everything,” she says. “I am glad how I was picked for this family.”
Uhlikova is here for the full school year, and will be returning home sometime after school lets out next June.
“I think it will get cold, but it will also be a fun year,” she says. “I am so happy to be here.”