A pre-departure post
My choice to study abroad in Prague was akin to throwing a dart at a giant map of Europe with the intention of traveling to the spot where it lands. I knew nothing of Prague except that the class credits would transfer back to IU. I had never studied Czech, let alone heard the language spoken. Even so, I was always excited to go abroad. In fact, it’s why I chose my major – International Studies. The more I learned about Prague, the more I realized that this city seemed perfect for me. A friend came back from visiting Prague and described the city as having a love of the arts, and a passion for hockey combined in a historical masterpiece. The first half of that statement also describes me perfectly. The opportunities to visit the theatre and opera, as well as just the immediate art of architecture surrounding me the moment I step out the door in Prague filled my dreams. I want to experience my heritage through touring the historical synagogues and museums in the Jewish Quarter, practically untouched from World War II. And of course the chance to see multiple cheap and incredible hockey games solidified the fact that I am meant to experience Prague.
I was also drawn to Prague because of the Czech Republic's travel friendly geographical location. I already have a list of about twenty different places to visit, including the Salvador Dali museum in Barcelona, Istanbul, Turkey, and the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. While I would never travel alone no matter how safe a country may be, I have no fear of taking the train and hosteling around Europe with a friend or two. My only fear is that the ease and low cost of travel will drag me away from Prague too many weekends. The pure excitement of having many countries so close at hand will overshadow my experience living in Prague. I decided that I would stay for at least a month in Prague so I can learn to appreciate the city and what it has to offer before gallivanting off to another country. However, I suppose that the weather will also have a say in how much I travel. I do enjoy the cold weather and I love the snow, so perhaps I will fare better during the colder months than my summer-loving friends.
One thing I’ve been warned about during the study abroad process is culture shock. It is always described in the negative: lonely, depressing, confusing, scary. I know I’ll miss my friends, boyfriend, and family terribly. However, I have had some unforgettable positive culture shock, from going through a ritual blessing with a tribal shaman in the middle of the Amazon, to traveling through Israel with local, battle experienced soldiers who are younger than me.
While I don’t doubt that living in a foreign country for an entire semester will be much different, I find myself most excited for that culture shock. I want to try to eat the part of an animal that I didn’t know is edible. I want to get lost in the city with some friends and have to play charades with a local to find my way back. I want to adapt to a new educational system different than IU. I can’t wait to plunge into that knowledge and experience in the fall. Though I’ll have to plunge into a new kind of culture shock first – that of packing for a semester in just two suitcases!