It’s starting to get cold in the land of the Czechs

Coming into this experience, I thought that I would be travelling around Europe as much as possible while I was here. I thought that every other weekend would mean another set of stamps in my passport. For some of the people that I live with, this is quite true. But I’ve found that I really enjoy just living in Prague. It might just be the whole idea of living in a city, or living in Europe, or it might be something special about Prague, but I’m really enjoying having my day to day life happen in this city. I have much more of a desire to feel at home in this city than to see the sights of Europe.

With that being said, I’m going to Italy.

My friend Mike has been living in Anversa degli Abruzzi, Italy since April. He works as a chef in a restaurant there and also apparently tends the flock of sheep part time. I haven’t seen him for quite a while, even before he moved over, and as soon as I told him that I was coming to Prague, he said that we definitely need to get together. We were back and forth over who would go where, but after working our schedules, it was decided that I should go down there November 16th and spend four or five days. Works out pretty well, since Charles University has that thursday off for Student’s Day, so I have a five day weekend. Also, it being the week before Thanksgiving, and both of us being away from home for it, we thought it would be good to have Thanksgiving together.

Hlavní Nadráží 2: Electric Boogaloo

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Day to Day Life

In response to Abe’s comment I thought it might be a good idea to write about my routines, now that I have them.

I usually write my posts sitting either inside or outside of Kava Kava Kava, an internet cafè right in the middle of the city. I found out about it from a post on Free wireless internet with purchase of a drink. They have a full selection of typical coffeshop beverages, as well as the usual little pasteries and such. The owner is a Canadian guy and likes to keep the atmosphere relaxed. Case in point: Otis Redding just came on over the stereo. Some cafès around here enjoy piping in music that I think just falls into the category of “American.” This can mean anything from Britney Spears to Eminem to Slipknot. One after another. Quite random. But not Kava Kava Kava. They have the official Tom Sartain Endorsement.

I find myself hitting up Bohemia Bagel quite a bit. Only place that I have found that has halfway decent bagels, not to mention bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. They also offer a Philly Cheese Steak, but not much is to be said for those. Aside from the bagels and fresh squeezed orange juice, one of their two locations has computers available for use, but no wireless, so I don’t tend to frequent that location. But the one by Ujezd is wonderful for my needs, and I can work it so that it is on my way into town.

I live in kolej Komenského, an official dormitory of Charles University. It is the official dorm for the ECES program, which means that the large majority of the residents are American college students. Which has its benefits and its detriments. Coming into the program, I was under the impression that it would be much more of an international affair. As it is, the ECES program consists of all Americans with the exception of a Finnish Girl, an Armenian guy, and a Mexican guy. Charles University also has a program called Erasmus which is for students from other universities in the European Union. I think this was closer to what I was thinking I would be enrolled in. I was hoping to be rooming with a French guy, hanging out with a Brit, studying with a Turk. But unfortunately, this is not the case.

I know that for some people, this situation is ideal. Living in a foreign country, seeing the sights, experiencing the culture, but never having to worry about speaking anything but English. There are some people in the program who have this exact mindset and it works for them. Of course, on the other side of things, you have people that are looking to learn the language, absorb the culture and make the Czech Republic their own. There are people in the program who have this mindset and it works for them too. I guess you get out of it what you want.

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The Inaugural Post in the PragueBlogue

The view from the building where my classes are held.

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.