Croatian exchange student reflects on her time at NWL
Not every teenager decides to leave her hometown to explore what life would be like in another part of the world.
But, Andrea Danic is not an ordinary teenager.
Danic just wrapped up a year as Northwestern Lehigh’s exchange student.
The year for her has been one of discovery.
“I love my life in Croatia but I wanted to see what I could do to challenge myself and make more friends,” Danic said. “I wanted to see how it would be to be more independent and [at the same time learn about] life in America and I wanted to improve my English.”
Danic was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Allentown West.
She has had the experience of living with two host families, the Havilands and the Blechschmidts.
.“I love [my host families] like my own,” said Danic. “They’re a real support and they’ve helped me with a bunch of things.”
In Croatia, Danic lives with her parents, both financial advisers, and her two older brothers.
Her parents were somewhat hesitant about sending their daughter across the Atlantic.
“At first, they didn’t want me to come to the United States, but finally my mom said I could go,” she said.
Originally, she selected Germany as her first choice and Finland as her second, but she now thinks she had the best possible experience in the US.
“I’ve been so happy here,” she said. “School is so easy for me. I don’t even have to study.”
“Back at home I have 16 classes [a year]. Every day I have classes for 45 minutes. But you don’t have freedom of choice,” she said.
At Northwestern, she was able to take electives such as psychology, German, food prep and journalism.
The curriculum in Croatia is also quite different.
“I’ve had physics since seventh grade. I read “Hamlet” in my freshman year and I’ve had German since fourth grade,” she said.
“We had a vocabulary test every two weeks and we have more classes.
“We have a huge final exam at the end of high school, like an SAT. You stay with the same kids until eighth grade.”
Then, students move on to an academic or vocational high school, depending on their GPA.
Danic’s image of life in America was largely influenced by media.
“At the beginning I said ‘Whoa, I’m in America!’ It [actually] felt like I was in a movie, with football games, lockers in the hallway and coming to the school in those yellow buses.”
There were many other differences that affected Danic.
“I love how pretty much everything looks, but since I couldn’t drive here, I always needed someone to take me places,” she said. “After a while, it didn’t even bother me anymore. I didn’t mind having to travel.”
Being an exchange student allowed Danic to share her country’s history with her American counterparts.
“Croatia is a Democratic country of seven million citizens, less than the population of Pennsylvania.
Zagreb is the capital and I live two hours away from there,” she said.
“We became an independent country in 1990-91,” she continued. “Before that we were part of Yugoslavia [until] it broke up [and became] Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
At Northwestern, Danic was considered a senior, but when she returns to Croatia, she will be a senior again.
“This year counts for me, but I’ll be a senior back at home because of my age,” she said.
Her time at Northwestern may be up, but Danic’s hopes for her future will be forever changed by her experience in the U.S.
“I want to be a child psychologist,” she said.
“This is kind of ambitious, but I really want to work for Make a Wish Foundation.”
“I want to make the U.S. my home. There are a lot of choices and a lot of opportunities here,” Danic stated. “I love Croatia and I have a lot of friends there, but I see a better life for myself.”