Sadly, my time abroad is coming towards its end. The semester has gone by incredibly fast and has been absolutely amazing. These past few weeks have been a good time for some reflection and I have decided to dedicate this post to advice for prospective exchange students — especially those planning on studying in Europe.
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.
Tomorrow marks two months since I arrived in Prague, and the halfway point of my time here. I can’t make up my mind whether I feel like I’ve been here a longer or shorter time than that. Time feels like it passes differently for me while I’m over here. I think this is because I am so far out of my normal routine.
I think missing home is natural, and my occasional moments of brooding have inspired me to compile a list (in no particular order) of what I’ve been missing most from home. To keep things balanced, and to avoid this post being just a negative rant, I will follow with a list of things that I definitely do not miss.
After traveling all this way to Germany, I have just had my first trip out of the country. Along with a group of about 30 other exchange students from all over the world; I traveled to Prague (Praha) for an absolutely wonderful weekend.
Prague is absolutely stunning. The way the dark cobblestone roads wind around the Gothic buildings makes it feel like a whole different world.
Greetings from Hungary, everybody!
These past few weeks have been some of the best days out here on my journey. To start, I have been getting closer with my friends from the program.
To highlight a few of them, I will start with my friend Batu, from Turkey. He is here studying engineering in his third year of college. He never learned English in school; he is actually self taught in it. He has learned a good amount of phrases but struggles a lot speaking with those who have studied it and with me who has practiced it all throughout my life. Although we have a language barrier we have become close tight knit friends.
We have broken down the walls between us to share personal stories about who we are, where we come from and what we aspire to in life. We now call each other “best friends” which I really believe, because we have earned each other’s trust.
Many things have come to mind as I’ve considered the differences between traveling and going to school in Europe, versus back home in the United States. What I have found to be one of the best parts is the sense of community you find when you meet other international students or like-minded travelers. Something about the shared experience of being in another country brings people together in a humbling way.
At my university in Prague, I take classes with students from so many different backgrounds. I have flatmates from France. I have classmates from Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Korea, Germany, Ireland, Croatia, Turkey, India, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, to name a few. The class discussions are fascinating to me because there are so many more opinions and interpretations that come from having such a culturally diverse representation of students.
I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but some of my favorite travel memories are from embarrassing moments or mistakes. And my time in Prague so far has not failed to deliver.
Being in a foreign country constantly takes you out of your comfort zone on so many levels. This includes all the little things that I don’t even think twice about back home like going to the grocery store or eating in a restaurant, and things that are completely new to me like trying to learn the public transportation system.
I think the first time it really hit me that I am going abroad for a semester was when I received my Czech visa in the mail. The second time was when I finally sat down and actually opened my suitcase to start packing.
My last couple of days in San Diego have been a whirlwind. It’s been a lot of running errands, doing neglected loads of laundry and just making sure that everything is ready for my trip. And because I clearly have a pack-crastination problem, I seem to have left things until the last minute.
I’ve found myself sitting on my floor in a caffeine-fueled frenzy, the soothing sound of my Czech language app playing in the background, while I try to figure out what items from my Southern California wardrobe should make the trip to central Europe.
I’m sitting in the airport right now, about to board my plane and go back to the United States in less than an hour. The past 3 weeks don’t even feel real at this point. Did all of that really happen?
Whatever that was, it was the best blur I’ve ever experienced in my entire 21 years of life. I studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, in a music and culture program, mainly focusing on Czech and old Czechoslovakian music and culture. I arrived in the Czech Republic a night before my program started and was hit with different words and accents.
I was not sure what to expect on my journey, as I would be leaving the United States for the first time. I was especially anxious since I know being American is not always received well by other people in other countries. Many of my friends and family members did not even know where the Czech Republic was.
It turns out, I had nothing to worry about.
Although not as many people smile in Prague as in San Diego, I’ve learned not to take it personally. Luckily, during the time that I have been in this country, I have not experienced a culture shock — but I was not immune to the jet lag. In the time I have spent here thus far, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the dark and tragic times during and leading up to The Holocaust, explored various places of worship and admired the glorious architecture of this city.