In 2017 I studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic thanks to the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship. The Gilman Scholarship is a federal grant program that helps lower-income students study abroad. https://www.iie.org/gilman/
I live in the neighborhood of Žižkov in Prague 3. I love all the things that are near us, but in regard to school the location is a bit of a hassle. There are three buildings used for housing through our program. Two of them are located a 30 second walk from the metro we take to school, the grocery store, busses, trams, you name it. The last building, where I live, is located on the top of a hill a 15 minute walk from the metro and grocery store. While this does ensure I get a little bit of cardio, it is frustrating when others from our program can hop off the metro after a long day and already be home, and the rest of us have to go for a hike. To get a bit more off my chest about the living situation, we are also right next door to some very noisy neighbors who play the strangest music. It’s so loud and clear it’s almost as if they are in our bedroom. On the other side of us, they have been doing construction starting around 6:45am almost everyday, ensuring we do not have the chance to be lazy and sleep in.
Now that my rant is over, there is so much I love about our neighborhood. We are right up the hill from a park that’s great for running and also has a really spectacular view of city. Also at the bottom of the hill is my absolute favorite place in Prague. It’s a little bike shop called “Bike Jesus.” They’ve got a really great alternative vibe going on in there, the decorations are fun to decipher, and there are usually dogs playing around the shop. Now that the weather has been getting nicer, I’m also really excited to check out the outdoor patio that hasn’t gotten much use yet. When I’m not having a coffee at Bike Jesus I am usually at school or exploring Prague with my friends. A typical day would start out with me snoozing my alarm 10 times, then finally scrambling up to get to school. I have class for a few hours a day, then I’ll usually grab some lunch with classmates. The food in Prague, especially near all the housing and the school, is very cheap, so we eat out very often. Depending on the day and the weather, we will either wander around finding new places to try out, or we will revisit places we know are well suited for whatever we are doing that day. There really is no set schedule or “typical” day I suppose; we really just take what the day gives us and make it work to our advantage.
There have not really been any surprises that I wasn’t ready for other than how quickly this trip has gone. We have done so much nearly everyday and seen so many amazing places. As for my goals, I don’t think I have talked to as many locals as I would have liked. It’s very intimidating to know hardly any of the language and try to make conversation. Czechs also do not always have the most friendly exterior, but as I mentioned in my previous posts, it is just a cultural difference I don’t think I will ever get used to. I have been doing a lot of really fun and adventurous activities though, and, so far, do not have any regrets or anything I haven’t done and wished I had or anything of the sort.
The community engagement aspect is really just about putting yourself out there. This goes for anywhere you are. A lot of people do appreciate when you at least know how to say a few words in Czech, such as please, thank you, hello, and are much more receptive to you than if you just came up and only used English. While I don’t have any regrets, I do think if I did this over again I would try to learn more Czech before my arrival. This is also my advice to others studying abroad. Try to learn a few words or phrases in your host country’s language, and don’t be afraid to ask someone how to say something. They are almost always more than happy to help you learn. Other than that the only advice I can offer is to be ready to anything and always try to see the fun side of every situation (I could stand to get a little better at this).
I am so happy with everything I have seen and accomplished on this trip and can’t wait to see what the last of it holds!