Describe your favorite class abroad. My favorite class I took abroad was a 'Survival Czech' language class. Although nearly everyone in Prague speaks English, I wanted to attempt to learn their national language and speak with the locals. By the end of the term we were able to order at restaurants in Czech!
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? In Paris, I lived with one other American student in a studio apartment. It was on a bustling street, filled with markets and shops. We had a small kitchen, a small bathroom, and a bedroom with two beds, a desk, and a closet. Although it was much smaller than what I'm used to in the US, it was a very typical living arrangement for the French. In Prague, I lived with two other American students and a Czech college student. The apartment was much bigger than the one in Paris, with two large bedrooms, a spacious kitchen, a bathroom, and a washing machine in our unit. Both apartments were about 30 minutes from where I had class, but there were metro/bus stops very close to both.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Try to embrace everything in the host country that you can! Even though it will initially seem very overwhelming and different, keep an open mind to this new place and culture. Your time abroad will go by so fast, so don't spend all your days on your laptop, talking to your friends from home, or missing the comfort of your American lifestyle. You will be back home soon enough, wishing you could go back abroad! If you have the right attitude, studying abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? My best memory from my time abroad is when my friend and I rented a paddle boat on the Vltava River in Prague one night at sunset. The sky was a mix of pink and orange, and we were able to see the city from a different perspective by being directly on the water.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. Although I expected to experience culture shock upon my arrival in Europe, I was not prepared to experience reverse culture shock upon arriving back home in America. For about the first week being home, I wanted so badly to return to Europe. The architecture, food, landscapes, and people are all so different in Europe than they are in the US, and I had grown so accustomed to them that it felt strange being back home. Eventually the culture shock wore off and I was able to readjust to my normal life at home, but be prepared to experience both culture shock and reverse culture shock. It's normal!
“If I could do it over, I would…” If I could do it over, I would not be so quick to judge the people and cultures of my host countries. When I first arrived, I was extremely nervous and felt very out of my comfort zone. To try to compensate for this feeling of uneasiness, I judged the new culture just because it was different from American culture. I soon realized that just because something is different from what I am used to, that doesn't automatically make it bad or wrong. I wish I would have learned to embrace the new experience sooner, because once I did, it was so eye-opening.
What do you wish someone had told you before you left? I wish someone would have told me to pack extremely comfortable shoes! Europe is full of cobble-stoned roads, and people walk nearly everywhere. So, if you're going to Europe, pack comfy shoes (even if they aren't the most fashionable). I promise you won't regret it :)
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” Before I went abroad, I was a nervous wreck. I'm originally from Minnesota, but I go to school in Indiana, so I'd at least had the experience of being away from home before. But I'd never traveled halfway across the world by myself! For the entire 9 hour flight to Paris, I kept telling myself that I was making a mistake and that I wouldn't last the full two months abroad. Although I knew it was good for me to be challenging myself and going out of my comfort zone, my emotions were such a roller coaster and I did not want to have to go through the discomfort. However, at the end of my program, I didn't want to leave Europe! Going abroad is such an incredible learning experience, and truly forces you to be independent and significantly grow as an individual. There are plenty of opportunities to learn and grow by staying on your home college campus, but going abroad offers so many more opportunities for growth. The experience of being abroad is so fulfilling and enriches your life in a way that just cannot happen by staying on your home campus.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? I think people would be surprised to learn that it is very abnormal for Czech citizens to get engaged before they get married! The societal norm in Prague is for a couple to simply decide that they are going to get married, and then have their wedding. The concept of having an engagement before getting married is very strange to them.