Campus Faces

The students from Czechoslovakia (until 1989) and the Czech Republic who come to Moravian as Merrill Scholars are an adventurous group. Though for most it has been their first trip to the United States, they throw themselves fearlessly into an English-speaking environment. Many have taken the opportunity to see more of the United States than Moravian’s campus.

Blanka Kuncová and Markéta Šubrtová, Merrill Scholars for the 2004-05 academic year, may hold the record. In the fall semester, they went to a play about Edgar Allan Poe near his birthplace in Lancaster County (student trip); West Point, New York (alumni bus trip); the History Department’s scavenger hunt in New York City; and Philadelphia (on their own).

After their final exams in December, they each bought a Greyhound 10-day Ameripass. Armed only with a guidebook, they hopped on a bus December 23 for a trip to Florida and points in between.

Their first stop was Harrisburg, where they wanted to see the Capitol, only to find that it was not open for tours during the holiday recess. They were shown around, however, by a nice man who turned out to be H. William DeWeese, minority leader of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives.

Christmas closes a lot of sites in the United States, but the travelers were able to make the best of it. In Richmond, Virginia, they saw statues of Civil War generals, the Virginia War Memorial (which commemorates more than the Civil War) and the city’s Christmas lights. They arrived in Atlanta on Christmas Day and visited outdoor sites such as Olympic Park, the CNN and Coca Cola Centers, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s tomb. “We tried the cemetery of Margaret Mitchell’s grave,” Markéta said sadly, “but it was closed.” By December 26, when they stopped in Savannah, the tourist industry was back at work and they were able to go through Davenport House, one of the city’s famous old homes.

In Florida, they walked through a historic district in Tampa called Ybor City and ended up in Miami on New Year’s Eve, where they took a boat tour to look at houses of celebrities such as Madonna and Enrique Iglesias. “Everything in Miami, it seemed to me, was under construction after the hurricanes,” Blanka said.

Between Tampa and Miami, they stayed a couple of days in Deland, in central Florida, with relatives of Clarke Chapman, professor of religion. There they not only ate well and felt at home but also saw the Kennedy Space Center, Daytona Beach, and a wildlife refuge. The major tenants of the refuge are manatees, the weirdest animals they had ever seen. They also saw very large alligators sunning themselves at the side of the road.

Blanka and Markéta are both 23 and have another year of study when they return to Palacký University in the Czech Republic city of Olomouc. Blanka is majoring in English and Spanish, Markéta in English and Italian.

“I was surprised that Americans don’t really travel around [in their own country],” Markéta said.

Blanka Kuncová and Markéta Šubrtová at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in DeLeon Springs, Florida.

Photo: courtesy of Markéta Šubrtová