Berkeley County Rotary Exchange student shares about her Czech Republic home | Journal-news

MARTINSBURG — The Rotary Club of Martinsburg heard from exchange student Josefína Magdalena Pospisilova, or “Pepi,” from the Czech Republic, on Thursday.

Pepi got to Berkeley County in August as a part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program. She will be here for a year and is currently attending Martinsburg High School. She shared information about herself and her home and also answered questions from members at Thursday’s meeting.

Home for Pepi is Jindřichův Hradec, a historical town in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. It has about 21,000 inhabitants.

She shared stories and photos of her family, including her mother, father and brother, memories of friends, pets and experiences, and she shared her interests, which are swimming, drawing, learning new languages, skiing, listening to music and reading. She also talked about her school at home, Gymnazium Vitezslava Novaka, which was founded by the Jesuit order in 1594.

Pepi plays volleyball at Martinsburg High and has enjoyed school so far. She plans to participate in swimming and will be on exchange until July of next year. She added that the seasons are very similar, but it is a bit warmer here.

“The people are very welcoming here. They go out of their way to help me with stuff. It is so nice,” she said.

She was asked what she liked the best, so far, about the United States.

“How you have a huge variety of everything. For example, if you go to the store, you don’t just have one brand of corn flakes, you have like 15 different kinds,” she responded.

She was also asked, from a cultural perspective, what she sees as the biggest difference between the U.S. and the Czech Republic.

“Everything is big here, and you can see you have lot of territory to cover. We are in a small state, so everything is hunched up and going upward, which you probably have in big cities but not here,” she explained.

She referenced schools, where here, two-story school buildings are common across a larger span of land. In the Czech Republic, they include more stories and less land.

Christopher Amores and Cathy Funk, of Berkeley County, are currently the host parents and family for Pepi, an experience that has been enjoyable for them.

“It’s great to be able to give them the experience of being here. Travel, in general, broadens your horizon, but when you are here as an exchange student, you really get to immerse yourself in a different culture,” Amores said. “Pepi, she is very malleable, she jumped right in — on the volleyball team, going to prom, doing all this stuff. She steps right in.”

Elaine Bartoldson, Martinsburg Rotary Club member and counselor for Pepi, has been a host parent in years past. She also talked about how rewarding the entire experience is and how great it has been to have Pepi here.

“I love it. I love being involved with them, because they are not only great kids, but they are good students, and they are involved in their communities back home. It is very rewarding,” she said. “They become family.”

Pepi agreed with the fact that new family ties are formed during exchanges. Her family has also been a host family overseas.

“I have one sister in Australia, one in Brazil and a brother in Canada,” Pepi said.

Peter Mulford, current Martinsburg Rotary Club president, has been a host parent several times and said that it benefits all involved.

“For the family, it is a wonderful experience having another young adult in the family,” he said. “Being a host parent, we are still in touch with four kids around the world that are now young adults, and we have been around the world to visit them.”

Students in the program learn a new language, discover another culture and truly become global citizens. Exchanges for students ages 15-19 are sponsored by Rotary clubs in more than 100 countries.

According to the Rotary International website, long-term exchanges last a full academic year, and students attend local schools and live with multiple host families. Short-term exchanges last from several days to three months and are often structured as camps, tours or homestays that take place when school is not in session.

“Rotary Youth Exchange inspires young leaders to serve as catalysts for peace and social justice in their local communities and throughout the world, long after their exchanges end. This program is possible because of the dedication, leadership and passion of the tens of thousands of volunteers — Rotary members and nonmembers alike — who make this unique program so successful,” the website added.

Doug Frye, youth exchange officer for the Martinsburg Rotary Club, talked about the importance of host families.

“We couldn’t do it without them. We learn from them, they learn from us,” he added about the students. “We are looking for students to go outbound in the 23-24 school year or even in the summer program.”

For anyone interested in learning more and applying for the Rotary Youth Exchange, contact Frye at [email protected]

For more information about Rotary, visit

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