I’ve been in Prague nearly a month now and it is beginning to feel like home. I have my psuedo-routines, my usual places to go for coffee, beer, lunch and dinner, my working understanding of the puplic transportation system and a barely passing knowledge of the Czech language. I don’t feel like a native yet, but I don’t feel like a tourist any more either.
As a bit of background, I finished my fourth year at New Paltz this past May, but unfortunately I was 7 credits short of graduation requirements. My father had studied in Germany his senior year of high school and spent several months travelling around Europe following his service in the Navy. He has always told my sister and I of the virtues of life abroad, if for nothing more than to gain a better perspective on life in the States. So when I told my father the news that I wouldn’t be graduating in May as planned, instead of getting angry, he got excited and suggested that I find a way to study abroad.
After a visit to the International Programs Office at New Paltz, I chose Prague for three reasons.
First, and most important: The classes are in English. While I do hope to learn as much Czech as possible while I am here, I didn’t want to stake my academic success on my understanding of the language.
Second, the reason I chose Prague, as opposed to any of the numerous programs offered in native English countries: If I was going to study abroad, I would want to try to make my life as different as possible from life in the States. While life in the UK or Down Under is different for any number of reasons, in my mind, we are all very similar culturally. So by studying in the Czech Republic, I would be able to see what life is like in a culture that is not so similar to American culture.
My third reason, the most personal: For the past five years I have worked at a summer camp that employs nearly 50% foreign staff. For several years, I worked closely with a couple of Czech guys that were incredibly proud of their homeland. They showed me pictures and told me stories of how amazing the Czech Republic is. From the first summer that I worked with them, I knew that I wanted to some day end up in the Czech Republic and see why they were so proud of it.
As soon as I saw that Prague was an option, I was set. I knew I would go to Prague in the Fall of 2005.