Epilogue

So. My time in Prague is over, and I’ve now been back in the States for a couple weeks. It’s a strange feeling being back because although I was gone for a while, it doesn’t really feel like it now. As soon as I was in the car, driving back to my house in Rockville, it was as if no time had passed at all. It was a little depressing, actually. I spent all this time in a foreign country, trying to grow as an individual and experience new things, and now that I’m back it feels like nothing has changed. I guess when you change internally your external world doesn’t change with you… but somehow it feels like it should.

Anyway, I’ve put together a map of a lot of the places I went to in Prague– mainly restaurants, bars and clubs. If you’re planning on going to Prague I hope this will be of use to you. I’ll probably keep adding onto it as I think of things I forgot to mark.

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zsng-yIoXiH8.kAT_hfGmiVn0

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Tips and Tricks for Future Prague-ians: Part II

IMG_7912We all know travel is a huge part of the study abroad experience, especially if you study in a place like Europe. You are surrounded by so many different nations, and the possibilities for travel seem endless. However, it’s not so simple. From deciding what cities to visit to booking flights and hotels, chances are you’re going to run into some problems along the way. But don’t worry, I’m here to help! I’ve taken what I’ve learned from my semester of travel and put together some advice for you.

TRAVEL:

1. Do your research before you go to another city. Although it may seem like you can figure everything out once you’re there, it’s a lot easier to navigate a city if you do your homework beforehand. Trust me, I know from personal experience. Some things to consider are attractions you may want to see, famous restaurants or bars you may want to try and day trips you may want to take. I’ve also found myself entering a city and suddenly realizing that I had no idea how the public transportation works (how to buy a ticket, how the payment system works, the most convenient ticket to buy, etc), so I would definitely research that before going as well.

It’s also worth looking up the customs and culture of the city. How people behave on trains/buses, restaurant norms (like how much to tip), and history are all worth noting. In addition, it’s important to know how big the city you’re going to is so that you can plan accordingly. If it’s a big city, you’re going to need to either do lots of research ahead of time so that you use the short amount of time you have while there most efficiently, or perhaps save that city for a longer weekend/trip. If it’s a small city, look into day trips or specific places to go to while in the city.

2. Download the TripAdvisor City Guides app. This app allows you to download the data of many of the major cities around the world and then use the information without any internet connection. Each city has ratings of restaurants, hotels, attractions, suggested itineraries, nightlife and more. It’s a really good way to get a feel for what you need to see/do in a city. It’s led me to some pretty great places. Highly recommended.

3. Book flights well in advance. Prices for flights increase on the daily so it’s important to figure out what cities you’re going to and when well ahead of time. If you keep waiting, before you know it you’ll be spending $100 more than you should be. There are multiple sites that will allow you to compare budget airlines that are really helpful. I personally like http://www.skyskanner.net the best.

4. Research accommodation options thoroughly. There are so many options when it comes to accommodation– hostels, Airbnb, hotels, etc. It’s worth it to compare prices, ask around and decide what’s best for your situation and destination. I personally really like Airbnb because it’s relatively cheap and convenient. All of the places I’ve stayed at through AirBnb have been clean, the hosts have been friendly and the locations have been very convenient. Since you’re staying in someone’s home, you usually don’t have to worry about bringing shampoo, towels, flip flops, etc. which I find really nice. On the flip side, you are in someone’s home, which may make you uncomfortable. So think it through, talk with your friends, and figure out what’s best for you.

3. And lastly, something that is probably frequently overlooked, but deserves to be noted, is to make sure you set aside time to actually explore the city you chose to study abroad in. It can be tempting to travel every weekend, especially if you’re in a place like Prague where there are so many cool neighboring cities, but be sure to take a break some weekends and stay in the country. You can use this time to hit up the bars/restaurants you’ve been meaning to try, explore a new city within the country, or catch up on schoolwork (in a cute little cafe, I would suggest!). I wish I had stayed in Prague more weekends so that I could have avoided this anxiety I’m currently feeling that I don’t have enough time (although perhaps this is inevitable). If you want to travel all around Europe, I would suggest doing most of your traveling after your program has ended. That way, during the semester you can enjoy the time you have in your host country and then at the end you can go all out and see all the cities you wanted to see.

Bottom line: Do your homework to avoid stress, anxiety, and unexpected surprises. Planning travel is not so simple, but it can be fun and rewarding. I’ve learned to love searching what restaurants to go to, places to see, or what apartment to rent. Remember to have fun with it and it’ll make the experience all the better! You’ll learn more about yourself that way 🙂

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The Imminent End

I have one week left in Prague and a million things are running through my mind. Am I going to have enough time to do and see everything? What about all the restaurants I never got to try? Will I be able to motivate myself to study when all I want to do is take advantage of the time I have left? What regrets will I have once I leave?

The fact that I have basically no time left has definitely left me stressed. I cannot believe how fast this semester flew by and how abruptly it’s all about to end. It’s weird because there were moments when I felt like I had all the time in the world in Prague, and other times where I felt like time was passing way too quickly. I guess all I can do is breathe, take it all in, and don’t let a single moment pass me by. The fact that I have finals all week is definitely tainting the whole “appreciate your last few days” approach, though. I’m hoping maybe I can stop by a couple new cafes to study (and eat dessert…). I can’t wait for Thursday when I’m all done with finals and I can live out my last weekend. It’s probably going to be super bittersweet.

This whole semester has been filled with different emotions. I’ve felt overwhelmed, especially in the beginning when I had to navigate my way through the city and figure out how the different parts connect, what tram to take, what the signs say, etc. Then there were the little things like what the labels on products read (e.g. the first time I tried to buy laundry detergent I actually bought fabric softener) or attempting to cook for the first time. I’ve felt extreme gratitude as I traveled and had the opportunity to see so many different parts of Europe. I think this is one of the first times in my life where I’ve truly felt young, like the world is my oyster. It’s been fun researching different cities, planning out activities, getting lost, trying new things and walking until my knees felt like they were about to give out. I’ve felt lonely at times, too. It’s hard being put into an environment full of new people, forced to quickly adapt and make friends while knowing that these relationships are temporary. It’s made me appreciate my friends and family at home, and reminded me how lucky I am to have them.

I can’t say whether or not this experience has changed me as a person, but I feel like I won’t know until I’m back in America and have had time to absorb everything. For now, I’ll try not to think about the end too much and enjoy my time. I just hope the stress of finals week doesn’t get to me too much.

See you in a week, America!

Tips and Tricks for Future Prague-ians: Part I

As my time in Prague comes to a close, I thought I’d write a series of blog posts for future students who are coming to Prague and are looking for some guidance. My first post will be about classes.

CLASSES:

This only applies to those who are in the CIEE Central European Studies program, so I apologize if you’re in a different program since this will be of little help to you. I remember when I was signing up for classes for this semester and I had no idea what to take, so here’s my take on some of the classes offered:

Do:

1. Take the cinema classes. There are a variety of them (Czech Cinema, East European Cinema, Hollywood in Europe), and although I’m enrolled in just Czech Cinema, from my understanding they are all quite interesting and easy. The movies are interesting for the most part and I really like the professor.

2. Take Collective Identity in a Totalitarian Regime. I’m in this class and it’s my favorite one. The professor is the only truly good one I’ve had this semester– she really knows what she’s talking about and is super enthusiastic about the course material. She’s also the only teacher I have that doesn’t have a Czech accent, which is a major plus when you’re surrounded by Czech accents 24/7. The course is about life under the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, and the style of the class is a mix of lectures and discussions about the readings. This class actually requires some work and effort, so if you don’t want any work I wouldn’t take it. But, if you’re willing to learn about something completely new and unique, then I would.

3. Take the classes offered at Charles University and FAMU. I did not sign up for any of them, but wish I did. They seem to be relatively easy, and you get to meet people from the other programs as well as other Czech students. It’s also nice to get out of the CIEE Study Center and walk through other parts of town, too.

4. Take Art and Architecture or Czech Architecture and Design. I’m in Art and Architecture and it’s one of my better classes. There is little work, the tests are easy (if you go over the material), and every week we go out on a walking tour to see first hand the art and architecture that we are learning about. I really enjoyed it because I saw parts of the city I would not have known about otherwise, and gained new knowledge about different styles of art that will be useful for the rest of my life. Czech Architecture and Design is a good alternative if A&A is full; apparently the teacher is quite nice.

5. Take Media Impact in Central Europe: My roommate is in it and says it’s her favorite class. The professor is really knowledgeable and has a lot of real world experience (worked at a radio station that broadcasted to communist nations during the regime) that makes the class interesting.

Don’t:

1. Take Interpretation of Czech Fairytales, European Environmental Studies, or the economics classes (unless you have to for credits). I’m not enrolled in any of these, but I haven’t heard many good things about them.

2. Take the psych classes. I’m in Psychoanalysis and Society, and although the material is interesting, the professor is horrible. He doesn’t teach and literally just reads off paragraphs of articles/books and blows through presentations without any in-depth explanation. He’s not very understanding or personable either. He teaches Psychoanalysis and Art as well. Best to avoid. [there’s also Third Force Psychology which doesn’t seem to be any good either]

I don’t know much about the history, literature or religion classes but that’s probably a good thing. No news is good news, right? Good luck choosing your classes and may the odds be ever in your favor 🙂