Marian Beladic has already come to appreciate life in Redwood Falls.

Despite the fact that the small, rural Minnesota community has a population that is minute compared to his hometown of Bratislava, Slovakia, Beladic is enjoying the small-town way of life.

“This is what I wanted,” said Beladic, adding he has grown up experiencing life in a bigger city.

Now he has the chance not only to experience the American culture as an exchange student he has the chance to do it in a setting far different than anything he has ever experienced in his life.

Beladic arrived in the United States Aug. 14. 

Beladic spent a few days in New York before making the trek to Minnesota and his new home with the Alan and Laura Olson family.

“Everything is so close here,” Beladic said, adding in Slovakia it takes him 40 minutes a day to get to school.

Yes, life is very different in Redwood Falls and at Redwood Valley High School where Beladic is a sophomore this year, but he is embracing and truly learning to appreciate what he has been experiencing.

“I really like the fact everybody knows everybody here,” Beladic said.

There are a number of reasons Beladic said he wanted to participate in a student exchange, adding it gives him the chance to improve his English speaking skills, to learn more about America, to play sports in the United States and to learn about education in the U.S.

Beladic admitted he was a bit anxious about coming to the United States, as he was not sure how well he would be able to communicate in English. Having studied English for the past eight years, Beladic found communicating to be easier than he thought, and in the few short weeks he has been in the United States he knows that is improving. Beladic said there will still be times when he may ask someone to repeat something or to speak a little slower just so he clearly gets the message.

For most of his life Beladic has played hockey, and he is looking forward to the chance to play that at the high-school level, but he also came to experience different sports, including football. Beladic joined the Redwood Valley football team and admitted he knew very little about it when he started.

“This is a new sport for me,” he said, adding the more he learns about it the more he likes it. “Football is a great game.”

While school in some ways is similar, Beladic said he has been impressed with the school spirit as the connection between school and sports really is a big part of life here.

In Slovakia academics and athletics are kept separate with no connection between sports and school.

Beladic said he will get credit for his time in school in the United States, and while he is here Beladic is taking advantage of being involved in classes he never would have been able to take back home. While biology and English are classes he would take in Slovakia, others, like strength and conditioning, are not.

“We don’t choose our classes,” Beladic said, adding he really likes having the chance to pick what he is studying and learning.

Beladic is also taking U.S. history this year and is currently in speech. That speech class, said Beladic, is one he wanted to take as a way to better improve his English.

While in the U.S. Beladic wants to have as many unique experiences as he can, adding he will be making a trip to Hawaii before he goes back home.

The son of Marian and Zuzana Beladic has one younger brother. Beladic admitted his mom was not all that excited about the idea of her son living so far away for so long, but as time has gone on Beladic said she seems to be getting better.

For Beladic the adjustment to a new culture has been going very well, as he is making friends and is enjoying all that is happening around him in his U.S. home.

During the next several months, Beladic will embrace what it is to be an American, and he knows his life will never be the same because of what he is doing, seeing and living in Redwood Falls.