Written by Hadley McCollester (Bowdoin College) Student Correspondent CET Film in Prague, Spring 2018
In general, I would say that I like to have complete control over most aspects of my life. I use a planner, religiously, and prefer to plan out my life, maybe not to the hour, but at least to a very precise list. Even in my first few weeks of college, I had trips to local coffee shops, the grocery store, and bookshops planned out before I even arrived on campus. When I decided to study abroad in Prague, I knew it was going to be a different story. Even putting aside the fact that my new school was already planning on being so unorganized that they were buying us Czech cell phones so that they would be able to contact us regularly to notify us of class changes, I knew living in the city was going to be an immense challenge.
I have never lived in a city, let alone a bustling, multi-cultural hotspot like Prague. I was going to have to deal with regularly being lost, navigating public transport, avoiding tourist traps, and living off my summer wages from a position at a Ropes Course. Instead of stressing over these undeniable facts, this summer I concentrated on learning as little as possible about the city that I was going to be living in for the next four months, and instead tried to teach myself ukulele.
I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t yet know if this aspect of my preparation was a mistake, but I do know that I couldn’t have studied up enough about Prague in a million years to make this transition from structure to chaos any easier. When I first arrived in Prague, honestly, all I wanted to do was sit in my room and cry. And, from what I have spoken about with other people here, this is a common feeling. Due to a delay in preparing our apartments, I didn’t even have Wifi to Skype my parents or binge Netflix. I didn’t cry though, mainly because I didn’t want my roommate to see my ugly cry face, but also because I knew that if I could just establish some normality, go grocery shopping, walk around my building and get familiarized, I might be okay.
The morning after I arrived in Prague, I went walking, debit card and shopping bags in tow. I found a coffee shop with Wifi, caffeinated and fed my jet-lagged body, and finally communicated with everyone back home. The light on the streets was beautiful and only the early morning commuters were out with me. I felt the knot between my shoulders begin to loosen. I headed to a Tesco down my street and stocked up on delicious bread, milk, fruit, cheese, and, of course, the Czech classic, cinnamon toast crunch. On my way home that first morning, I realized that the need to cry had wafted away, replaced by a desire to explore further and find my place in the city.
Each morning since then I have ventured out to different parts of the city, always on foot, and always on the lookout for an Instagrammable coffee shop, of which there are many. I have stumbled across a farmers market on the river that seems to occur every Saturday; a beautiful park overlooking Prague; a café with a secret garden; and the best cappuccino you have ever had in your entire life. I feel simultaneously more at home and more excited to explore Prague as each day goes on. Although this experience is overwhelming, overstimulating, and dreadfully disorganized, I can’t help but be glad that I am taking part in it. Prague is helping me to learn that letting go and getting lost can be good for an old soul like mine.