So much is different here. That is probably why I felt like I was in an adjustment period for the entirety of my first month. Where I come from: a small, liberal arts college in Southern California, with a variety of extracurricular activities, a heavily residential campus, a campus bubble, with a focus on economics and government. Coming to FAMU would only be more different if it was a huge state school.
College life here parallels real adult life more, since I now live in an apartment with roommates, have to commute to and from school four times a week, spend most of my day in one room (it’s a classroom, but still), and have to figure out all my meals for myself. That last part is tough, because it is a stark reminder that I will not always have a meal plan to rely on, and I should work on being a healthy, well-fed adult.
The biggest difference in the educational structure I am experiencing here is due to the structure of the abroad program, not the general structure of higher education in the Czech Republic. My classmates and I show up to the same classroom just about every weekday, and our instructors are the ones that rotate out. This is preferential to having to run across campus from one class to another just to make it on time, but being in the same physical space all day, day-in and day-out can get cumbersome. The length of class is also much longer than I am used to, averaging roughly 1.5hrs – 2.5hrs. Honestly, everyone just gets used to it. Much of that time may be used to discuss individual projects, so everyone does not need to be attentively engaged for the duration of the class. Plus, the instructors are fair and only human, they give out much-needed breaks.
The classes that are central to the program I am doing (Directing, Screenwriting, Camera Technologies, Storyboarding, Camera Film Language, Acting Studio, Basic Czech Language) are classes that I could not fathom taking back at my home institution, even though I am dual majoring in Film/Video Media Studies. This being considered, this has been a great trial run at what film school could be like if I chose to follow that route, though it would be more focused and oriented differently. This program has become about so much more than film, though, and I think it is connected to the living situation we have here.
I could always retreat to my single room at my home institution, but here that luxury just is not there, so different methods of self-care and obtaining “me-time” need to be pursued. It is like I am always with people, so conversations and eventual friendships are the natural result of this, but I still like to be alone. This whole experience is just that: an experience. There are so many intangibles that are impossible to plan for, but as long as you keep your sense of why you came here, who you are, and what you want to get out of the program in mind, you will always be heading in the right direction.