Planes, Trains and New Terrains

As I write this, I am on a plane flying from Prague to Barcelona. A gaze out the window shows an epic view of what I am assuming must be the Swiss Alps among a fringe of clouds. In this moment I feel so much gratitude for the experiences I have had this semester —  and for the fact that I somehow scored an entire row of seats to myself.

The last few weeks have been quite busy with traveling for me. Last weekend was Bologna and Rome in Italy, and the week before was London. The back-to-back traveling has left me a little weary, but my brain usually finds everything funnier when I’m tired, so it’s a fair trade off.

“There will also be times that you will be unable to avoid looking like a silly tourist. I say embrace those moments!”

Traveling is actually feeling pretty routine now. I’ve memorized the tram to metro to bus route that gets me to the airport. I know which terminals fly to which areas, and there has been a significant decrease in the number of times my bag has been flagged at airport security for not following the liquid rules. When I’m not writing blog posts on the plane, I might be watching Netflix episodes that I actually remembered to download to my phone. Thank goodness I got the iPhone with the bigger screen that almost never fits in my pockets.

Trying to keep track of languages has been a reoccurring theme. I must actually be using some of my Czech vocab, because anytime I leave the country, I have to constantly remind myself that děkuju for “thank you” will not make sense anywhere else. London was funny because anytime I was in line somewhere, I felt myself gearing up to try to figure out how best to order something before I remembered that English is indeed spoken in England.

I’ve also learned not to take things too seriously. Sometimes life won’t go perfectly: Your flight might be delayed, the restaurant you wanted to go to doesn’t have availability or you think you left your gloves behind so you buy a new pair, lose them a day later, only to find out that you had in fact packed the original pair in the first place.

There will also be times that you will be unable to avoid looking like a silly tourist. I say embrace those moments! Take the ridiculous picture in front of the famous landmark, the people with the disapproving looks are probably just jealous.

And how do I have time to do all of this traveling as a full-time student you ask?

The secret to all the free time — aside from not having a job — is that my classes in Prague are a combination of study blocks and weekly lectures with seminars. This has turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Although its mostly a blessing now because the curse part is already over. The best thing about study blocks is that I clear an entire class in one week. However, this means that for each block you are in class for 5 hours each day, Monday through Friday.

I was fortunate enough to not only have back-to-back block weeks, but to have 2 blocks scheduled for the second week. This means that I had 10 hours of class per day for five days, which included a group project and presentation due the last day in each, as well as an exam the same day.

Group projects with all exchange students are also extra time consuming. Everyone seemed to have different standards of how much effort they should put in, which is my nice way of saying that a lot of exchange students don’t care about classwork at all. There’s also a lot of editing and translating that comes with being “the native English speaker.” Needless to say, it was a little stressful and I am so glad that part is behind me.

The best part? I finished three classes in a two-week time span which leaves a lot more time open for traveling.

Time has been going by so quickly with all the trips and the approach of the end of the semester. Someone recently asked me what my favorite trip has been so far, and I honestly couldn’t choose. Maybe it’ll come to me, but they have all been such unique adventures that I have a hard time picking just one. There have definitely been highlights, the most recent being the food in Italy. It was so good I’m actually glad that I’m not there for the whole semester, because I might have never stopped eating.

I’ll just have to see how Barcelona stacks up this weekend. ¡Salud!

Hayley Chase is a senior majoring in hospitality and tourism management. She is spending a semester abroad at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic.

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