For 10 months, Russell Osier left the comfort of his Charlotte home and immersed himself into the culture of the Czech Republic.
He contacted his parents only 10 times through Skype; he hung his clean laundry on a clothesline to dry; he shoveled coal into a stove for heat; and he soaked in the history of Opava, a city in the eastern part of the country, founded in 1195.
“I wanted to see the world,” said Russell, now a senior.
In that time, Russell lived with three different host families, learned to speak Czech fluently, and visited more than six countries.
It shaped his goals for the future, he said. Now he aims to attend George Washington University and study international relations. One day, he plans to work in Eastern Europe with the Foreign Service.
Russell shared stories of his study-abroad trip with about 200 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools high school students Nov. 2 at the Military and Global Leadership Academy at Marie G. Davis.
His tales of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for his host family and helping catch a carp for a traditional Czech Christmas dinner made the group laugh.
“We put the carp in the bathtub for three days before Christmas, so when you were taking a shower, there was a fish swimming around,” Russell said, jokingly.
He went on to mention dilapidated buildings that reflected communist architecture, the new friends he made, and more unusual holiday traditions.
“You read about all of these things in textbooks, but to see them in person is breathtaking,” he told students.
His presentation kicked off the fourth annual CMS Study Abroad Fair. Students received information about opportunities, scholarships and the benefits of studying overseas.
Participants also heard from Jessica Garner of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. Garner, 2009-10 N.C. teacher of the year, said she attributes her success to traveling to 10 countries on five continents. She told the group about her experiences on an alligator river tour, counting steps walking the Great Wall of China, watching elementary school students dance in Costa Rica, and viewing an active volcano.
“When you go to another country, it changes your life,” Garner said. “Studying abroad doesn’t have to be for the smartest and the richest, it should be for everybody.”
CMS does not place students abroad, but the fair exposes students to programs that do, said Stacy Sneed, CMS spokeswoman. Russell took part in Rotary International’s Youth Exchange Program.
“To study abroad is a huge benefit,” Russell said. “I’m a lot more knowledgeable and it helps foster tolerance.”
Penland: 704-358-6043; Twitter @BrittanyPenland
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