Kira McDonald

Golem: Where were you born?

Miss K.: I was born in Princeton, NJ, but I grew up in a small town nearby called Cranbury.

G.: What is your family like? Do you have any siblings?

Miss K.: My family is the best and we love each other very much!! I have a mom and a dad, and a younger brother who just turned 21. My parents are very smart, talented and hard working, and have very good taste. My brother is currently at school studying film, he will be a director one day!

1377581_1926383162775_329960773_nG.: Do you have any hobbies? What do you like?

Miss K.: I guess music would be my main hobby, but I love all things creative.

I grew up playing classical piano, and I played saxophone and guitar in school. I also played in a band in college. I have way too many favourite bands to list, but at the moment I’m very interested in experimental electronic music. My favourite past time is to explore new genres and artists; Youtube really is the world’s best archive. I also love reading of course, my favourite poet is E.E. Cummings, and I recently enjoyed the graphic novel Persepolis. I also love art, contemporary and from throughout history, and illustration I’m especially fond of.

G.: Did you learn something about Slovakia at school?

Miss K.: Do you mean from the schools that I went to? Yes, of course I learned about it history and geography. But, I learned about it more specifically when I took a class in university on Post-war Czechoslovak film and literature. It was one of my favourite classes, we learned about the culture and history of the Czech and Slovak republics through many books and films. I would love re-read/watch them now that I’ve been in the places where they took place.

G.: Have you ever heard about Slovakia before?

Miss K.: Yes I have! My mom’s side of the family is ethnically Slovak, but my grandparents were the last ones to be able to speak the language, I believe. I’ve always known and thought about it, so for me it is really special to be here.

G.: What are the main differences between American and Slovak schools?

Miss K.: Well, the two systems are really different. We don’t have the whole Gymnazium system, and we don’t really have much tracking- like deciding what you will be before you go to high school, and staying in that track. Everyone, no matter what they want to do goes to the same four-year public high school,


(unless you choose private or specialized) and after that is when those big decisions are made. Also the system of standardized testing is different, I think here everyone has to take the Maturita to graduate, but we have the SAT which is only required if you want to go to college. I went to a high school with about 1500 students, we had a lot of classes so we had control to choose which subjects we wanted and were placed due to individual achievement levels, but of course adhering to some requirements to take math, science, etc. At our gymnazium here, every class has a different schedule every day, but ours was generally exactly the same Monday through Friday; 8 periods with a 20-minute lunch break, and a 15 minute ‘homeroom’ period where we met with sort of an equivalent of what our class-teachers are here. Some classes would change every half a year or quarter, so for example one quarter a year instead of gym class we would have health class or driver’s education. School was always from 7:51 am-2:51 pm, (strange times I know) and if you left school grounds at any time without permission you could get in trouble. Extra-curricular activities and especially sports were very heavily intertwined with school, we had many sports teams that would practice every day after school and compete against teams from other high schools in the region. Football and soccer were a really big deal, and there was a lot of school spirit. We also had a strong arts program, which I think is unusual for a public school, and many clubs and other organizations. People have asked me if high school was like what it looks like in the movies, and I’d say they have most facts about it right, but in a lot of cases of course it is dramatized- they are the movies after all!! One of the first differences I noticed was having students stand up for me and other teachers when we walk in the room, which was interesting and strange, and says something about the tradition of respect from students to teachers. And the last thing I want to add is that I’ve noticed how people here really value their quality of life, which is kind of a new and refreshing thing for me. Being here made me realise that there truly is an American mind-set of always rushing and stressing out about things, always feeling like you are in some competition. There, the small things that make life enjoyable are the first to be cut out, your quality of life is definitely not regarded as a priority. I can see this cultural contrast reflected in our school by the events and programs that are put on here, and at least from my perspective, by how students treat each other, which I think is extremely positive and makes for a better learning environment. J

G.: Have you ever been to Slovakia before?

Miss K.: It was my first time when I arrived in August.

G.: How long are you staying in Slovakia?

Miss K.: Until mid July definitely, but I plan on coming back before I leave in August.

G.: Have you visited other towns in Slovakia? If yes, say where have you been?

Miss K.: Yes I have! I’ve been to very many towns’ bus and train stations while in transit, but the ones I’ve actually walked around and visited include Banska Bystrica, Zvolen, Bratislava, Žiar nad Hronom, Martin, Poprad, Tatranska Lomnica, and Stary Smokovec. I would like and have plans to visit more!

G.: Do you like travelling? If yes, say where you have been?

Miss K.: Yes very much so! This year I’ve been lucky to have the chance to travel to many places I hadn’t been to before. Before coming here, in North America I’ve been to California, Hawaii, many places on the east coast, and Quebec Canada. In Europe, I’ve been to all the countries surrounding Slovakia except Ukraine, Spain, France, Monaco, London, Germany, Denmark, and Malmo Sweden for a day.

G.: Do you like bryndzové halušky?

Miss K.: Haha, yes I do!! I love dairy products, and I think Bryndza is delicious. The dish is quite tasty too, perfect for when you are hungry.

G.: If you were not born in the USA, where would you like to be born and spend your childhood?

Miss K.: Hm, that’s a tough question. I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to grow up in Japan; their culture is fascinating. There are always reports on Scandinavian countries being the best to live in, but I guess I would pick a place where I would have had the chance to learn and use multiple languages. In the USA you only really need to know one language, which is a big disadvantage in my opinion.

 G.: Where is your accommodation and how does your ordinary day look like?

Miss K.: I live in a flat right near Kalvaria, in fact I can see it from my window which is really cool. My ordinary day during the week? I wake up, and get to school between 7 and 7:30. It’s an adjustment this year, since I’m usually a night person. I go to school, do some work, and when I leave I usually stop at the Sama pink store to pick up some groceries. I come home and prepare some food, and recently during this time I watched the entirety of Sherlock, haha. Then ill do some combination of doing work and preparing for school plus playing guitar, skyping, internet stuff, going on walks, cooking, reading, or watching films. I listen to music or radio shows the whole time I’m home, usually. On weekends I usually stay here and spend time with friends, or else I will travel somewhere.

Petra Krňanová, 3.B

Dominika Kubalová, 3.B

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