Written by Briana Francois, (Vanderbilt University) Student Correspondent CET Prague, Spring 2017
When I return home, I know people will ask me “how was studying abroad in Prague?” I’m still not entirely sure how to answer. It’s difficult to sum up my past semester here with just one or two sentences. Studying abroad is more than just visiting another country for a while. It’s uprooting yourself from one (usually comfortable) place and learning to navigate a new one.
For four months, I’ve been living my life in Prague. Sometimes that means I do everyday things, like go grocery shopping and attend classes and watch Netflix in my bed. A lot of the time that means doing things I’m not used to doing, like ordering my coffee in Czech and having to divide by 25 so I know how much my purchase is in USD or visiting a totally different country over the weekend. Ultimately, there are highs and lows and in-betweens, just like anything else.
That’s not to say studying abroad is not a unique experience. I have so loved being in Prague this semester. I had the opportunity to do things that I can’t do in America. I went on two traveling seminars where I learned from professors across Central Europe . I went to Easter Markets, visited beer gardens and took trams to my hearts desire. Prague has so much to offer, and even after four months, I didn’t see it all.
If there is one thing I’d suggest to a future student, I’d say explore Prague to the fullest. I ended up making a Prague bucket list a month before I left, but I wish I made it earlier! It would have given me the opportunity to think about my experience and reflect more on what I wanted to get out of it. There are all the common places that you’ll know to visit, like the Prague castle or the John Lennon Wall, but I would venture where no tourist has gone before (ok, where most have never done) to really get to know the city. I didn’t go to Vysehrad or Letna, and I didn’t take my day trip to Plzen to see where the Czech Republic’s most popular beer is made. I hope you do.
I would also make sure to take in the history that the Czech Republic has to offer. CET offers optional trips that give you the opportunity to get outside of Prague and explore more of the Czech Republic. Go on as many as you can! I hiked around the sites where political prisoners worked in mines in Jachymov, (where it rained, hailed and the sun came out all within 3 hours) visited Kutna Hora’s famous bone church and saw the grounds where Lidice once stood. These trips enriched my experience in Prague, and I’m glad I took advantage of them.
Studying abroad in Prague has allowed me to partake in so many unique experiences, meet people from all over Europe and try foods I never thought I would like (I’m looking at you beet soup!). Before I left the United States, I was so nervous about what I was getting myself into. Who would have guessed that a country where I started off not knowing the language could, only four months later, feel like home to me. Even though I have to leave, I know I’m going to be back soon. This isn’t na shledanou; it’s Czech you later.