Year — Fall 2020
Sep 1-4, 2020 → Jul 3-6, 2021
Slovakia is located right in the geographic center of Europe and is an ideal place for you to experience high school and life at home with a host family. You’ll be completely immersed in Slovakian society and have the opportunity to learn the language and make lots of new friends. Its stunning ancient castles and natural hot springs may be what bring most tourists to the area, but this is your chance to dive deep into the culture of this young country and learn the real reasons for its beauty. Turn your day-to-day routine upside down and expand your horizons!
You’ll find that Slovaks really value modesty. Don’t be surprised if people have a hard time accepting compliments. Slovakian food is similar to other Central European countries and you can expect a lot of potatoes and dumplings. Vegetarianism might not be very common but it’s possible to get by without eating meat. Slovaks pride themselves on being helpful and generous and you’ll probably find that strangers are eager to lend a helping hand.
Your program will begin in New York City, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the United States and attend an overnight orientation. You’ll learn some important details about your first few days in Slovakia and get a chance to talk to a cultural expert who recently spent some time there. Then you’ll travel to Bratislava, where you’ll be met by AFS staff and volunteers.
On your way to your host community you’ll get a chance to see some of the sights and sounds of Slovakia. Before heading out of the capital city, Bratislava, you’ll see what a true “café culture” looks like, with cobblestone streets closed off for lunch-goers to drink coffee and snack on pastries. As you make your way into the countryside, you’ll see lots of beautiful mountains, fertile plains, lush forests, and Slovakia’s famous hot springs and mud pools. In the villages and bustling cities you’re bound to hear Slovaks talking about politics, a popular conversation topic among this country that gained in independence in the mid 1990’s. You might also get to see a Slovak dance troupe performing traditional dances and singing folk songs.
You might live anywhere in Slovakia. It’s possible that you’ll be in an urban area but most host families live in smaller towns and villages. Family connections are very important in Slovakia and families usually live near by their relatives so you can expect to get together with extended family often.
On the weekends you’ll likely go on family excursions, ranging from going to the movies, hiking, camping, attending local festivals, cultural events, and art exhibits. Some families in Slovakia own cottages in the countryside, where they enjoy spending time gardening or even mushroom-hunting.
When you’re not at school or spending time with you family, you’ll probably be out and about with your friends. Teenagers in Slovakia spend a lot of time outside or playing sports, especially soccer. There’s at least one soccer team in every village and town. Ice hockey is also popular. Slovakia is very mountainous so if you like skiing, you’re in luck come wintertime!
Slovakian food tends to be pretty hearty; meat is usually the main dish and it’s often served with dumplings or potatoes. The national dish is bryndzove halusky, dumplings with cheese and bacon. You can also expect to have good, hearty bread with most meals. Cabbage and potatoes are the most common vegetables. You’ll also see lots of fresh fruit and delicious pastries and sweets, though.
You’ll likely attend a gymnasium, a highly competitive school that’s intended to prepare students for university. School in Slovakia runs 8AM to 2:30PM, Monday through Friday. You might find school in Slovakia to be more formal than you’re used to; you’ll have a set curriculum that will include Slovak language, history, physical education, and mathematics.
"Life-changing" is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad.
"Transformed" is another one. When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.
Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.