Home Away from Home

Two and a half years later and I am back in the most magical city in the world. I arrived back in Prague about four days ago and just one step off the plane and I remembered why I love this place so much.

As we stepped off the plane the first billboard I saw was one featuring the Old Town of Praha with a warning label, “When your flight takes off from Prague, your heart will remain.” All I thought was how incredibly accurate that was and in that moment I was walking proof of that.

After spending a few days settling into my new apartment in Zizkov (my favorite district of Praha) I took my boyfriend on the free walking tour of the city so he could learn a little more about what it means to be Czech. Listening to our tour guide share the stories of the Czechs and what lies behind the beautiful architecture and cobblestone streets of this city reminded me that there is much more to my love of this city than the beauty. Hearing these stories for the third, sometimes fifth time, didn’t bore me at all, it just solidified that the Czech people are one of a kind.

Over the past 80 years they have been a part of 6 different states, resulting in their national anthem “Where is my home.” When they first became an independent nation in 1918, after WWI, they have about 20 years to enjoy it before Hitler moved in, they were then under Nazi control for the remainder of WWII. When the war was over the Czechs were waiting for their cue, “when do we liberate ourselves?” A German announcement came over the city’s intercom one evening, followed by a Czech song, this meant it was time. The Nazis stormed the building where the announcements were made, but the Czechs had removed all of the German signs in this very large building, so naturally the Nazis got lost and had to send over 30 more troops. Now they have all the Nazis and the Czech Police battling in this building. Then Czech citizens storm the building and slowly, over about 3 days, the citizens are able to take hold of their city. They celebrate in the Old Town Square for one day, when the Soviets show up and say, “We are here to liberate you,” the Czechs reply “Thank you, but we did that a day ago.” But the Soviets had something more in mind and they would remain to enforce a communist state for the next 21 years.

In 1989 the Velvet Revolution occurred, which was when the communists left and Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Since then the Czechs have reinstated their beautiful culture, art, literature, and have become the people and nation they are most proud of. And it is these stories and their nationalism, their quirky art and literature, their intriguing sense of humor, all bundled into this magical city that has forced me to return.

Franz Kafka, a very renowned Czech author, once referred to Prague and as “A mother with Claws.” Every time he tried to move away from this glorious city he would be sucked right back in. I think I’m starting to understand how that can happen. ūüėČ

 

the garden in my apartment building

the garden in my apartment building

stop putin save democracy

stop putin save democracy

old town praha

old town praha

One Day More

In less than 24 hours I will be on a plane over the Atlantic Ocean en route to Prague, and it still feels like I’m in a dream and that I’ll actually wake up tomorrow and be back at New Paltz. I can’t believe how lucky I am to get to experience a semester in the Czech Republic and I’m hoping to make the most of it. Most of my last day in the US was spent packing because I’m such a procrastinator but once I got started it wasn’t too difficult. However,¬†I must say, the fact that my checked bag is under 50 lbs is probably a Christmas miracle. Along with that bag I’m bringing 1 carry on and 1 backpack with me to last 4 months. I tried to pack as logically as possible but there were some things I just couldn’t not bring. As excited as I am, I’m definitely nervous too. This is the farthest I’ve gone & the longest I’ve ever been gone for but I know it will be okay. I had a job in Colorado this summer on a ranch and when I boarded that plane I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just went with the flow of things and it turned out to be the most amazing summer of my life so if I can keep the same attitude in Prague I know it’s going to be as great as I’ve always dreamed it would be. Wish me luck!

-Paige

Backpacking the Balkans

Before I arrived in Prague on September 4, I decided to take a month long backpacking trip through the Balkans (Greece, Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia). I had never explored this part of Europe before and only had a basic idea of what it might be like from my high school mythology course and silly Hollywood movies like “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and dare I say it, “Taken.” Well over the past month I learned that there is much more to the Greek islands than donkeys and beautiful sunsets, and Albania is one of the most interesting countries in Europe with the best hidden beaches, Montenegro has the most stunning landscape, and Croatia has some very wonderful people.

I have spent time in the UK, lived in Central Europe for quite some time, backpacked western Europe , but something about visiting where it all started seemed to be major¬†piece of the puzzle I was missing. Walking through¬†the ancient city of Delphi, where people would pilgrimage from Egypt, Persia, Athens, all over the ancient world, was mind blowing, I couldn’t even wrap my head around how incredible it was.

Delphi became the center of the universe for these people and they would walk from all corners of the ancient world to ask the Oracle of Delphi their most heart-wrenching questions. The Oracle would only answer questions once a month so you can only imagine the amount of time these people had on their walk and then waiting for the Oracle to discuss, share ideas, trade goods, learn about one another and where they came from.

After the tour of Delphi I just wandered around the ruins trying to imagine the types of conversations that happened here and the enlightenment that must have occurred. People from all over the world meeting in one place, to ask one question, and then I thought about study abroad. And here we are, people from all over the world, meet in one place, to learn from our professors and from each other. As long ago as Delphi was and as different as we are now, human beings are still curious, still want to learn, and we travelers can almost begin to feel the excitement of walking to Delphi and learning of places and people you never knew existed.

So needless to say my adventures through the Balkans were a great start to my next adventure studying in Prague.

Ancient Delphi

Albania

Albania

Sveti Stefan Island, Montenegro

Sveti Stefan Island, Montenegro

Krka National Park, Croatia

Krka National Park, Croatia

A Reverse Cultural Adjustment

It is a weird concept to be home, but feel an aching for a foreign place. I think about Prague everyday, and all the wonderful experiences I had there. In the short time I spent there, I feel that I matured a lot. I was forced to be independent, and adjust to an entirely new culture. I was able to overcome extreme homesickness. I made such great friends. I feel that I am a more well-rounded and worldly individual too. It is hard to be home now. I miss the beauty of Prague, and its culture. I miss the feeling of freedom, and the endless opportunities for adventure. I miss being on my own, and all the summer nights spent wandering around the city. I miss the Charles Bridge, hanging out by the Vltava River, and tram rides. I miss the random nights staying up late talking and laughing. I miss those things that can’t quite be put into words. The experiences, you would have had to be there with me to understand. In short I miss Prague in a way I never felt that I could miss a place that I never even truly lived in, just visited for a while. In the entirety of one’s life, a month is not long at all, and yet I feel so attached to Prague, it was as if I had been there for years. My thoughts now direct towards how quickly I can get myself back to Prague. I am ¬†even considering studying abroad there for a semester.

There is however, a part of me that is glad to be home. I missed my family and close friends. The comfort of my own culture, the security of being in a place I am so familiar with. I missed American food, and my bed. However, I would do my whole study abroad experience over again in a heartbeat. Prague will now and forever, hold a special place in my heart.

 

Wishing I was still in Prague

I arrived home in the US yesterday evening at 6pm. However, I left Prague on saturday July 19th, and traveled to Budapest, Hungary for a few days. I really really miss Prague. Last night showing my family pictures from my abroad experience, all I could think is I really want to go back. Only after a month there, I could really see myself one day living there. I hope to return one day soon, and for a much longer time. It is such a beautiful city, with always so much going on. I am so grateful that I got to spend an entire month there. I am hoping by keeping myself busy I will be able to adjust to life back in the states quickly. Below are some pictures of Prague, and the beautiful sights within it. I will post a longer entry once I have had more time to reflect. Hope everyone is enjoying there summer.

 

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Beautiful rose garden in Strahov

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On the Charles Bridge

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View of the Charles Bridge and surrounding area

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Charles University Prague

The end is near

My study abroad in Prague experience is ending in two days, and I am quite upset by it. It is funny to think back to crying my eyes out for the first four days, asking myself how I would ever make it through the month, and now I do not want to leave. I had my last final today, making the end feel even more real. I learned so much in my short time in Prague,and honestly feel that I have grown as a person. It sounds cliche, but it is the truth.

I would like to share with you what I learned:

1. Keep an open mind. A study abroad experience, while rewarding and fun, is not always easy. As I mentioned before I was extremely homesick when I initially arrived. It is hard being away from family and friends. Not having the food your accustomed to, and being surrounded by people who speak a different language. There are also minor differences that I would have never even thought about before I got here. My dorm room does not have wifi or air conditioning, but I have learned to deal with it.  I have been forced to grow up by being here. Be patient and enjoy everyday, because time will seriously fly.

2. Make time for work and fun. The classes at Charles University were very rigorous. I had a much more demanding workload then I am used to at New Paltz. I believe that this is due to the fact that I took six credits in only three and a half weeks, therefore the classes were very much accelerated. However, I often stressed myself out worrying, rather then doing my work. It is important to stay organized, and get things done whenever you can. That way there is still time to go out and enjoy yourself, without having unfinished assignments on your mind.

3. Take time out to explore the surrounding areas. I had the privilege of getting outside the city of Prague this past weekend, and exploring the beautiful Czech countryside. We went on a Saturday hike, and the following day I went to a castle 40 miles outside of Prague. Being away from the place you are studying at, even for just a short time, makes you appreciate it that much more when you return.

I have mixed feelings about returning to the United States. I wish all my family and friends could be transported to Prague that way I would never have to leave. On the other hand, I do miss certain things about the United States, and am excited to go back to a comfortable and familiar place. I really want to come back to Prague for an entire semester, and I hope to make that happen. Hope everyone is enjoying there summer. Until next time.

My Life In Prague

Shortly after my first post from Prague, I went to Berlin for the weekend. Going to Berlin, made me appreciate Prague so much more. Berlin was much more expensive, and not as pretty. Berlin, like much of Europe is on the Euro, and the majority of the city was under construction. For anyone considering study abroad, I highly recommend Prague. At the risk of sounding biased, allow me to state my numerous reasons. First of all Prague is a beautiful city. It is full of rich culture, and amazing architecture. Also the dollar is around twice as strong as the Czech koruna. I spend only between 10-20 dollars on a typical day, which includes food, and activities such as museums. An average meal costs under five dollars. My money goes a lot farther then it would someplace. I was in Berlin for only two days, and spent as much in that time, I would in Prague for over a week. The best thing about Prague is that no day is ever the same. Tomorrow will be different then today, and today was different then yesterday. I am really enjoying my two courses. They are rigorous, but also a lot of fun. My professors are intelligent, kind, yet challenging individuals. I feel that I am learning a lot.

One of my favorite memories of this entire trip is from yesterday. A group of my friends got together and had an American style fourth of July celebration in Prague. My friend Chelsea has a grill, and we barbecued in the park. We made hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, and grilled vegetables. Chelsea has been here ten months, so she has a lot of local friends as well. It was nice to meet Czech locals for the first time. It is hard being in an American program, and only speaking English to meet locals, so I was very excited. We spent hours in the park. They also had music, and one point Chelsea and I got up to dance. The park was absolutely beautiful, and I really want to go back.

I still have my fair share of struggles in Prague, even though I am enjoying my time here overall. I had a mini freak out last week, worrying about my classes. I underestimated how much effort would go in to taking six credits in less then a month. Charles University is also a highly ranked university. I do not think I have put forth this much effort in my entire college career thus far, since the summer program is very much accelerated. I calmed down a lot though. Midterms are on Monday and Tuesday, and once they are done, things will be a lot easier. I also worry that people do not like me, and often times find myself getting overly sensitive, and anxious. It is hard being with the same people day after day at times. It is also easy to get on each other’s nerves being in such close corridors. I have good days and bad days here, but I try very hard to just focus on the good. That seems to work for the most part. A part of me never wants to leave Prague, but a part of me is excited to go home. I miss my family and friends. I crave whats comfortable and familiar. As corny as this may sound, studying abroad really makes you grow as a person. It forces a person to step outside of their comfort zone, and navigate new situations. If you are always comfortable you are not growing, and this is not a good thing. I want home now, but once I leave I am going to want to go back to Prague. I constantly need to remind myself to relax, I do have friends, and a good time here. I tend to stress myself out over every little thing, which is something I am trying to work on. The rest of my weekend is going to be spent preparing for midterms, but hopefully I will have lots of adventures to share with you next week. Hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Until next time.

-Emily

 

 

 

First Week in Prague

Today I officially have been in Prague for eight days. I honestly did not think I was going to make it through the first week. I was hit by such an overwhelming amount of homesickness. I spent hours talking to my parents on Skype and cried for four days straight. I was worried that people did not like me, and repeatedly told my parents that I wanted to come home. I got angry with them for pushing me to study abroad, telling them I was not ready for such an experience. I am extremely close to my family, and I believe this is the main reason I was having such a hard time. I kept telling myself over and over again that there was no way I could make it through this trip, and enviously watched the other students in my group enjoy themselves.

Then a funny thing happened. Eventually I got better. I confided in my suite mate and her boyfriend about the tough time I was having, and they provided support, and listened to me vent. Classes started Monday, allowing me to settle into a routine. I made fun plans with friends throughout the week such as meeting up for dinner, and going to the John Lennon Wall. Before I knew it, I went a full four days without crying. I started to realize that right now I am more fortunate then a majority of people just by having the opportunity to study abroad, and tried not to stress out about the little things. Sure it is annoying when the laundry does not want to work properly or the fact that my internet barely works. Of course it is hard being away from family and friends. Yes it is rough trying to adjust to a new country, especially when the jet lag is lingering. However, I am in the Prague, Czech Republic, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I am fortunate enough to be able to go to school here for a month and experience an entirely new culture. Tomorrow I travel to Berlin, Germany with some friends from my program. Not everyone has the opportunity to have such amazing experiences. However, I do and I am learning to make the most of them.

Prague Here I Come

It is officially nine minutes past midnight, so technically I am leaving for Prague today. I am wide awake, and wired on way too much caffeinated tea, courtesy of my best friend Kyle, who wanted to take me out for one last goodbye before my trip. ¬†Even now I still do not believe that I will actually be arriving in Prague in about a day and a half. My flight leaves tomorrow evening, and I arrive in the Czech Republic on the afternoon of the 18th. I feel an overwhelming combination of nerves and excitement, coupled with mounting disbelief that this is actually happening. I have been telling people so often about my impending trip, that the words feel like second nature, somewhat rehearsed. I have gone through goodbyes to my family and friends. Did some last minute shopping, packed up my suitcase, and downloaded the latest version of Skype. I have my perfected my patient smile, listening to my family’s last minute concerns, and worries, and fears, trying to be empathetic, but beginning to lose my patience. ¬†Never before have I traveled so far away for such a long amount of time, especially not by myself. It is such an amazing and empowering feeling taking on this sense of independence. I have been thinking about in a continuous loop about how excited I am to be able to learn in such a different environment and culture, and how much value there is attached to it. About the experiences I will have that I will keep with me forever. College is a rare time in a person’s life. Never again will I have this much time for self-exploration and reflection. I am grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to study abroad, and I cannot wait to make the most of my experience. Studying abroad, I believe,gives a person the type of learning experience, beyond the classroom, so unique in nature, and valuable beyond measure. I look forward to continuing my blogging while abroad, and sharing my experiences with all of you.

Two Weeks Until Prague!

Today officially marks two weeks until I leave for Prague, Czech Republic. It is finally starting to sink in, that this trip is actually happening. I believe my transition in thinking is fueled by the research I have been doing as of late, to make the most of my Prague experience. My dad purchased a copy of Rick Steves’ Prague and the Czech Republic Guide Book for me. I highly recommend this book for anyone planning on traveling to Prague; it is chock full of useful information. I have the 2013 version seventh edition, but he is publishing an updated version in 2015. However, the information is still for the most part accurate, and any minor changes/updates can be found on Rick Steve’s website.¬†https://www.ricksteves.com/. A helpful hint that I found from perusing the guidebook: if you learn even a few Czech words/phrases you will get treated way better, and get way better service. At a restaurant if you speak only in English the server will expect a 15 percent tip instead of a 5 percent tip. Knowing basic words/ phrases such as hello, thank you, you’re welcome, goodbye, etc., will really help. Type in Czech phrases audio into google, and it will return a common list of phrases with audio pronunciation. One morning of practice, and I am already feeling more confident, and better prepared for my trip.