I have officially been in Prague for one week! It is crazy to think that it has only been a week because it feels way longer. Jet lag truly disorients the brain’s sense of time. Even though it has felt longer than a week, everything is still very new. It is almost as though I am starting college again because there are heavy adjustments to be made and change is happening. This feeling of apprehension is simultaneously daunting and exciting. I already can feel myself striving to be more independent and going outside my comfort zone. I feel that I usually take the easy way out or avoid things that may be scary or difficult. I fear that sense of disappointment or failure and I hope that the new setting and challenges of this semester will push me to believe in myself and do things I may not normally do.

One thing I realized after moving into my apartment was that I have never lived in a city before. Of course I knew this but it is interesting that the first time I am experiencing the city life, a big difference than what I am used to, is in a foreign place. It is so cool to be able to walk outside and have so many accessible shops, museums, and restaurants. There is just neverending exploring to be done. That brings me to my next fear. Side note: I understand I should have more hopes than fears and I do, but it’s early on and it’s all I can think of right now okay. Anyways, I worry that I won’t fully take advantage of this city and all it has to offer. I don’t want to feel guilty about sitting in my apartment for a few hours but I also don’t want to miss out on something I very well may never get to do again. I think I am still in that worry phase and feeling overwhelmed but I also think it is important to acknowledge these fears so I can overcome them and look back on them. Self-reflection and self-listening is extremely important and I always feel self conscious about writing my thoughts down but I am going to try and write more than ever during this time.

My goals for this semester are to become more independent, listen to myself, acknowledge perspective and the unbelievable opportunity I have to travel, and to have fun. Forget about the problems at home. Forget about the normal stress of Michigan classes. NEVER forget about my precious Zuzu bean. Take advantage of the time with my best friends in such a unique environment. Worry less. Do more. Learn a shit ton. It is simply time to just do something I have always wanted to do. I know it’ll be great regardless of how everything goes down. I’m lucky to be here and I can’t wait for what is to come.

4/15/18: Halfway Point

We are officially past the halfway point of this semester abroad. It is crazy to even write that sentence. Time is usually a weird thing to conceptualize but it becomes even more difficult during an experience like this. I have had some of the best adventures of my entire life and I still have the opportunity for more. The weather has finally shifted to spring. Sunshine just makes everything infinitely better. In the past month and a half I have gone to Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Spain, and Italy. Each place was incredible and beautiful in its own way.

One of my friends asked me recently what the biggest culture shock was that I had felt. I think the hardest adjustment for me is the feeling of being a visitor. For my whole life I have lived in the same place and being from the touristy area of Cape Cod, MA I have experienced what it is like to have people visit me. I have never felt like a foreigner and that sensation is an interesting one, especially when it is the case for a long period of time. Also, even though I am taking Czech classes, the language barrier has contributed to this idea of being a visitor. I am getting more used to it and am able to communicate small things but I still feel bad or anxious when I mess up or can’t understand someone. I have also hit the point where I have felt a little homesick. I miss the sense of normalcy and belonging and of course, American comfort foods. However, whenever I find myself complaining or worrying too much, I constantly try to remind myself of the fact that I am so lucky to be here.

This lucky feeling has been the one constant throughout my time here. I make a video every time I’m having one of these “how is this my life?” moments because it is truly crazy that 21 year old me is traveling Europe. I lost one of my closest friends to cancer about a year ago now and while I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully articulate the effect it has had on me, I do know that I think about where I was a year ago and where I am now. The two times could not be more different. I have learned that so much can change in such a short amount of time. I have also learned that because things can change so fast, it is incredibly important to value the time you have with people and to appreciate the experiences you have. It all sounds a bit cliche but it isn’t until something like that happens to you that you realize why those cliches exist in the first place. Like I said, I’m lucky. My two best friends from home visited me here in Prague and we spent the week adventuring together and celebrating my 21st birthday. Lucky. I traveled to Barcelona with another one of my best friends from home and we sat on the beach wondering how we got to this place. Lucky. I went to Rome for my spring break and ate the best Italian food in the world and got to see the ancient Roman ruins I learned about for years in Latin class. Lucky. I hope that in another month and a half I feel as lucky, or even more so, as I do now. I hope to do every last thing I set out to do in Prague and I hope that this experience just continues to be as fulfilling as it has already been.

5/18/18: The End

I'm on my plane about to take off from the incredibly wonderful Prague, Czech Republic. What a place and what a semester. I didn't intend to write this right now but it's just beginning to hit me that I'm leaving for good (or at least for a while). This entire experience and semester has exceeded my highest expectations in the very best way. I learned things about myself, became more independent, more open to trying something new, more comfortable in my own skin, and more tolerant of everyone around me. Not to mention I learned some cool history and made some unbelievable friends too. I can't believe the time has come for me to say goodbye to this beautiful city. The experience is one I will absolutely never forget and one that I'll be eternally grateful for.

As I continue to look back at some of the greatest lessons I learned over the course of the semester the first that comes to mind is tolerance. I would consider myself a very tolerant person in general, as I think we all hope to be, but this experience teaches you so much about so many different cultures and types of people that it almost forces you to be even more accepting. I believe that notion of tolerance and acceptance can only make you a better human being because by learning about our differences, we begin to realize how truly similar we all are. There are a few intrinsic things, like love and
relationships, that all humans experience and you learn that when traveling to new places and meeting new people. It causes you to question the nature of society that aims to tear us apart and point out what makes us different. It is perhaps unfortunate that it took this grand experience for that lesson to become so visible but it is a valuable one nonetheless.

Another thing I am going to take away from my time abroad is the value of personal challenge and personal reflection. In the craziness of the Michigan lifestyle it often becomes hard to take time to step back and listen to yourself. While I was abroad, the stress level was far lower and I was able to use that time to challenge myself in different ways. I had to become more independent and confident in my decisions while traveling and I also was able to think about my life and where I was and what I wanted to get out of it. I think that kind of reflection is vitally important to self-growth and I am so glad I was able to have that experience. Thank you Prague for the incredible memories, friends, sights, and an experience I’ll always hold close to my heart.