Viktoria Zifcakova’s perception of the U.S. came from teen movies like “High School Musical” and “Mean Girls,” and she still wanted to come.
The 18-year-old Douglas High School junior is a foreign exchange student from Slovakia. She arrived in Carson Valley on Aug. 14.
“I always wanted to go to America. It was the biggest dream because of watching all the American movies,” Viktoria said. “The high school is just like the movies with locker rooms and sports and how the classes look. The teachers are so nice. I love it.”
Viktoria’s biggest thrill after arriving in Carson Valley was riding a yellow school bus.
“I took a picture and sent it to my friends,” she said. “We don’t have busses there. They are so perfect.”
Viktoria grew up Vrbove, Slovakia, a small town of about 6,000 people that’s bordered by Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. It was formally part of the communist Czechoslovakia.
Her mother, Mika, owns a tea house, and her father, Ivan, works for the phone company.
She has a 15-year-old sister, Hanka and a 7-year-old brother, David.
Since Slovakia is nine hours ahead of Gardnerville, Viktoria Skypes with her family on weekends.
“They love that I’m becoming more independent and responsible,” she said. “My mom likes that I’m learning English better.”
Viktoria lives with her Gardnerville Ranchos host family Josh and Angelica Rose, and their two daughters Morgan, 4, and Brooklyn, 2.
“It’s been great,” Josh said. “We’ve really incorporated her culture into our daily lives. She calls home and gets recipes and we make them together.”
Josh’s favorite Slovakian food is a mixture of smoked sausage and potatoes, called poor potatoes.
“It almost becomes like mashed potatoes,” he said. “It’s a pretty good dish.”
The Rose’s have tried to give Viktoria the best Gardnerville experience they can by taking her shooting, introducing her to gardening and raising farm animals.
“Viktoria is just amazing. She’s the perfect fit for us,” Josh said. “She feels at home here, and we feel she meshes well with our family, like she’s our own daughter.”
In Slovakia there is McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway, but Viktoria had never had a taco before coming to the U.S.
“They are my favorite. Together, the beef, and lettuce and beans, it tastes amazing,” she said of her new favorite Mexican/American food. “I’m going to make tacos for my parents when I get home.”
The Roses will probably end up sending Viktoria home with a care package of taco seasoning.
Viktoria said she loves attending Douglas. She is involved in the choir, recently auditioning for all-state choir.
She also has made many friends, some of them other exchange students from Spain, Italy, Korea and Slovakia.
“It’s kind of strange, but nice strange how people always smile here,” she said. “You don’t smile at someone you don’t know at home. It’s really different. They look at you like you’re super weird.”
When Viktoria returns to Slovakia on June 10 she will be in 13th grade, or “Maturanti.”
She plans on graduating there and attending college and law school at U.C. Berkeley, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen.
“I’m going to miss my family. We have a better relationship than I expected,” Viktoria said. “I feel like I’ve known them forever. I love it here. I love school, my family and I’ve become more of a nature person.”
Viktoria is part of the International Student Exchange Program.
For more information, visit www.Iserockymountainregion.com.