Foreign exchange student loves hockey, American food, traveling


Photo provided by Ondrej Cech

Senior Ondrej Cech in action during a hockey game for his high school team. Skating around, he waits for a pass.

Abby McMorris, Reporter

Senior Ondrej Cech wanted to try something new. He wanted to improve his English and he always wanted to see America. 

In August 2020, he traveled from the Czech Republic to begin a foreign exchange program. Chosen by a host family in Houston, Cech said he feels really lucky to be in Houston. 

“They are really nice and helpful,” Cech said. “Their names are Tim and Doug. They take us on RV trips and it’s fun with them. Also, I’m their 14th exchange student they had,” Cech said regarding his host dads.

He has also visited other parts of America with his host dads. He has traveled to Maine, Las Vegas and Washington DC. 

“I even got to go on a tour of the White House. Every other weekend I would go to Dallas to play ice hockey games there, so I also got to see a lot of Dallas.”

Cech lives a packed life as a foreign exchange student. 

“I go to school in person in the morning, I eat lunch at school and go home,” Cech said. “I have about two hours of free time and then I have soccer practice from 4 p.m. unless there’s a game,” Cech said.  Then, depending on what day it is, I go to ice hockey practice or I just go home after soccer practice,” Cech said. “Then I have dinner. On weekends I usually have ice hockey games and hang out with my friends.” 

His typical day in America is similar to his days in the Czech Republic. 

“I would wake up, go to school, from school I would drive straight to the rink for ice hockey practice and then I have free time after that to hang out with friends or do homework,” Cech said.

Despite his daily schedules being similar on both continents, Cech has noticed many societal differences between the United States and the Czech Republic.

“I feel like people here are more willing to help and overall are more friendly,” Cech said. “I see people on the streets smiling at me when I’m going to school and I don’t see that often in Czech,” Cech said. “There are exceptions of course.”

Cech said one big difference he has noticed is the traffic and the road rage. 

“In Czech we have two max three lanes somewhere and here you could have 8 lanes and still have traffic,” Cech said. 

Cech comes from a much smaller school of 350 students with up to 14 subjects at a time. 

“In my school at home I’m in class with around 29 other kids and we all have the same schedule. We have all classes together. That’s not a thing here in the US.” 

When not in school, Cech plays hockey 10 hours a week on two teams – including a travel team called Houston Wild.  He’s been playing for 12 years now. 

“With this team I went to Dallas for most of the games,” Cech said. “Our season started in August and ended in February. We finished third place in the league. It has been so much fun and I think we did a great job as a team that season,” Cech said. 

Cech said he doesn’t mind the differences in the American and Czech Republic hockey. He loves to play, regardless.

“The playing style here is a bit different in Czech or Europe overall,” Cech said. “People like to skate with a puck on their stick a lot, but here in the US it’s more about shooting the puck to their zone and then try to get to the puck before your opponent,” Cech said. “Also, in America they don’t like fighting, if you fight here you are looking for at least a one game suspension, in Czech it’s part of the game.”

Cech also plays on a high school team called Memorial West. Its season is still in progress until April.

“Memorial West has six high schools combined for one team (there’s not a lot of hockey players in Bellaire), one of them is Bellaire,” Cech said. “We’re currently in first place in the 11 teams league and I’m the second one in scoring four points behind my teammate. Cech has made some really good friends on both teams. It’s really sad knowing I probably won’t be able to play with them again after I leave the US.” 

Hockey has always been Cech’s happy place. It lets him get out of his comfort zone and try other things.

“I just love the sport,” Cech said. “Every time I’m on the ice I’m happier. I love to compete and hockey is a hard physical sport so it feels even better when you win,” Cech said. “I played soccer when I was younger before I fully committed to playing ice hockey and since my hockey season here is slowly coming to an end I thought I would give soccer a second chance and I started practicing with Bellaire soccer JV.”

Cech has stayed optimistic in spite of participating in a foreign exchange program during a pandemic.

“At first I was really disappointed that I don’t get to have the full experience, because school is not fully open, we have to wear masks and stuff, but it came with its advantages too,” Cech said. “I wish there was no COVID, but I can’t do anything about it and I’m still enjoying my exchange program here. In Czech they have been on full lockdown since September so I’m glad I’m here.” 

Cech has loved his experience in America and said he would rate it 10/10. He also loved learning the ways of living in America, and especially the food. 

“I’m for sure going to miss my friends and the food too, there’s much more and better fast food options than we have in Czech,” Cech said. “Honestly there’s nothing I hate about America. If I needed to say something it would probably be that you have to get everywhere by car. I have to give a shout out to Maya Anderson, because she helped me a lot. She drives me to our high school hockey games and she introduced me to a bunch of other cool people in Bellaire.”