The distance from the Czech Republic to Dickinson is almost 5,000 miles. When 17-year-old Anna Stankova started her exchange program at Dickinson High, that distance felt more like five million miles.
“The first four months were so hard for me,” Stankova said. “I didn’t have any friends, because I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I was scared, and the language.”
Her host Lia Bradley, the girls tennis coach for Dickinson High, knew Anna had grown up playing tennis with her family, and she invited Anna to play in Dickinson. But Anna wasn’t sure about it.
“I didn’t want to play because I didn’t like competition,” Stankova said. “I was always stressed out. When I came here, I was like, ‘I like playing tennis just for fun. I’m enjoying the game.'”
So to get Anna acquainted with an actual competition, Bradley convinced her to try a local doubles tournament.
“She was super nervous to play it, and after she played it, she enjoyed it and wanted us to take her to a few USTA tournaments,” Bradley said.
The competition that she used to avoid brought her out of her shell.
“I started to communicate more and enjoying this experience,” Stankova said.
Anna says if it wasn’t for Dickinson tennis, she would have a very different opinion on her year in the U.S. Instead, she’s not only come to love the sport of tennis even more, she’s grown as a person, too.
“I’m more mature than I was before,” she said. “I was like a little kid, a scared little girl when I came here a year ago. But now I think I’m pretty strong.”