I recently had the chance to sit down with Mallory Howe and talk to her a bit about her semester abroad in Prague! Check out below why she chose Prague, the things she loved about the city, and how whats she learned while abroad is still relevant even now that she’s back at Amherst!
HC: Why did you decide to go to Prague?
MH: I knew I wanted to go off the beaten path, and I knew this would be the best time to do that kind of exploring. But the main reason was because my family is Czech. My Grandfather is from Prague directly, and we have a really long, tangled past with the Czech nation. My family was basically exiled in World War II, and no one had been back since then because we had the double whammy of Jewish origins and being part of the intelligentsia. So I kind of wanted to be the one to reconcile that past and understand things, and be the first person in my family in a while to go back and live there for an extended period of time.
So I went back to a lot of old family sites, I went back to some old houses and grave sites, and I actually kept a blog while I was there, and I ended up publishing that into a book. It’s a self-published book. I really wanted my time abroad to be meaningful.
HC: So you enjoyed your time there.
MC: I mean, I had some rough times. I think my parents thought I was going to come home at one point, because I was crying because I didn’t really like some of the people in my program. But I loved the city. Eventually–it took a little while–I found a close group of friends.
HC: Were you in a dorm?
MH: At first I petitioned for the dorm, having never at that point lived anywhere else outside of home, so that was my comfort zone. But I remember the first day on the packet it said apartment and I nearly flipped out, and I was like, “Change it! Change it!” But then I was like, “You know what, let me give this a shot. There’s a reason this happened.” I ended up loving that and I’m so glad I got that, because it was much more immersive. I got to live in an area I don’t think I would’ve gone to otherwise, and I got to live with a local student. She’s Slovakian, so that really helped with my questions about the language, or bureaucracy problems. And there were two other Americans, so, definitely the right pick.
HC: So you took Czech, what other classes did you take?
MH: Funny connection, one of my friends did the program a year or two before me, and she told me to take this class, Collective Identity in a Totalitarian Regime. The professor, she comes up to me after class, and she says, “You’re Mallory Howe, you go to Amherst don’t you? My husband went to Amherst!” She’s Czech, and they met in Budapest while studying. I actually had dinner with her and her husband and some other Amherst alums. That was definitely the best class. We went on a lot of field trips and it was basically learning about Czechoslovakia during communism, and everyday life, because that’s what textbooks don’t cover.
I also did some EU studying and some transatlantic IR kind of stuff, and I use a lot of the stuff that I learned there, here still.
HC: How was the beer?
MH: Oh God, don’t make me cry. Let me just say, never ever try to outdrink a Czech man, because you will lose. They drink the most beer per capita in the world. It’s a staggering amount too. Number two is way behind.
HC: Who’s number two?
MH: I think Ireland. I really liked the respectful drinking culture there. I would go to a café, get a half-liter of beer, and just write a paper.
HC: Did you eat a lot of goulash?
MH: Oh, goulash is so good! And svickova, it’s like a sweeter version, with whipped cream, and cranberry.
HC: So a lot of times European men catcall women and are disrespectful in the streets and stuff like that. Was that the case in Prague?
MC: Actually, the native Czech men are very reserved, but then when they’re drunk then they’ll try hitting on you. But people who were not native Czechs would be more aggressive.
Oh, and you should go to Prague for the Christmas markets! The main square looks beautiful. I have a Slavic art collection, and I wanted to buy a Santa, and I found one at a stall in Prague. It was actually really big, and I got a good deal on it.
As a Christmas market enthusiast, I’ll be sure to check out the markets in Prague next year when I’m in Europe! If you’re interested in studying abroad somewhere a little different or you don’t have a specific language you want to study, consider spending a semester in Prague!