Written by Brett Richey, (Vanderbilt University) Student Correspondent for CET Prague – Business & Economics Concentration, Spring 2017
In my first two weeks in Prague I’ve consumed more beer than I had in my entire life before studying abroad. Beer is ingrained into the culture of the Czech Republic, and after tasting several varieties of Czech beer, I must say that I am more than happy to partake.
Okay, okay, I will resume waxing poetic about the beer later, and let you in on just a few of the many highlights of my time in Prague so far.
First, my apartment and roommates are fantastic! My apartment is located right in the center of New Town, which is a fast-paced neighborhood filled to the brim with trendy bars, cafés, shops, and even a few museums. My apartment has 4 American students (two boys and two girls) and one Czech student, who the rest of us are slightly (or maybe not so slightly) obsessed with. My roommates (myself included) all have exuberant personalities, which makes seemingly normal occurrences like doing laundry or going to the post office into adventures. Having a Czech roommate is very exciting as well, because he teaches us useful life skills like how to turn on the heater in our apartment and we teach him useful skills such as how to mispronounce Czech words (In our defense, you try pronouncing čtvrtek, which means Thursday). Luckily for me, our Czech roommate is very patient and has only left me in the grocery store once, which was right after I asked him where the ready-made guacamole was so I probably deserved it.
Second, our week of intensive Czech classes was tough but very valuable. Though I still cannot seem to make the “ř” sound that native speakers seem to find so easy, I am already becoming comfortable ordering food and introducing myself in Czech. My Czech teacher also brought his guitar to class one day and taught us a soulful folk song about white wine, which was not only a fun experience but also very helpful when the adjective ‘white’ appeared on my first Czech quiz the following day.
Third, the city has an incredible centuries-long history that further enriches the experience of living here in Prague. As part of our orientation, we took a walking tour of the highlights of the city to introduce us to the layout of the city and some of the most famous historical buildings. While our whole group was winded after climbing the hill (mountain?) up to the Prague Castle, the incredible view of the whole city that followed was well worth the hike. Also on the tour, our guide recounted her personal account of what it was like to live through the Czech transition from communism to democracy in the 1980s. Her testimony was fascinating and also helped us to better understand the importance of Vaclav Havel, who was the first president of the Czech Republic and who many portions of Prague are named after and many statues are dedicated to.
Finally, the Czech people are so patient and understanding. The waitress at my favorite café allows me to practice my Czech conversation skills even though she speaks fluent English, and many helpful Prague-ians have helped me figure out the difference between fabric softener and laundry detergent or fresh versus fermented milk (which is not a fun mistake to make when eating cereal). I can hardly wait until my Czech skills improve and I am able to ask the same painfully obvious questions in Czech instead of in English.
All in all, I could not ask for a better place to spend the next four months, and I look forward to having even more adventures in Prague (not to mention seeing the final two spires)!