I am Isaiah, a junior at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, with CET’s Film Production at FAMU program. It is almost cyclical that I ended up pursuing this program through CMC, for some of the formal beginnings of my film production career occurred when I was on another CMC-sponsored expedition with the Appel Fellowship. I will be updating this blog about bi-weekly throughout the semester, cluing you in to the various aspects of my experience during my time here. Hope you enjoy the read!
I have been here for 12 days, so I have seen and done a decent amount that is specific to this place. I do not know what it is about the city, but it all felt very familiar very quick. Part of it is the touristic familiarity of traveling along the same thoroughfare in and out of the city more than once, but the same applied for the people I live with and work with in the program. It certainly does not feel like I have been here less than two weeks, which could be good and bad given the length of this program (four months).
I would definitely say I was under-prepared for this trip mentally. I had not even really looked up photos of what the city looked like to get a general feel of its landscape, but it ended up being beneficial because I really did not have any expectations – all the photos on Google Images when you type in “Prague” are beautiful aerial shots that are heavily saturated; nothing like one’s day to day experience. Even though the weather is dramatically different from my native Southern California, the difference in place truly hit me when I started looking down at the sidewalk. These two photos I took tell a bit of the story.
Beyond that, though, getting used to the culture and people has been somewhat of a challenge. The Czech food is heavy and while it is very good winter comfort food, it is not something that I have a taste for every day. The people are majority ethnically homogeneous, so I stick out as a Black man (I see about one to two other Black people, that are not in the program, a day when I am out and about in the city). People stare here, not just at me, but at everyone and everything, I think I am taking in that habit as well.
Something that I have found interesting is how Czech people that are not from Prague distinguish themselves from those that are. There are little things– like whether they call the subway lines by their color or their letter – but it is not like they view being from Prague as a bad thing; more like hometown pride. For me, coming from a huge city like Los Angeles and hearing people who reside miles and miles out of the formal city (and county) claim it when they introduce themselves, this is strange. But I guess the diversity and amount of transplants in the city leads to no particularly unique characteristics of the people that are truly from there.
I think the novelty of being here wore off kinda of fast, too. I did a lot of the touristy stuff during my first couple of days, and being from a place that is also a big tourist spot turns me off to those attractions.
All things considered, I am looking forward to what these next months have to offer, and I am thankful to both CMC and CET for this wonderful opportunity!