Helpful Challenges Abroad

Not getting too comfortable is important to me; as soon as my life has become stagnant, that means it’s time for something else.  I have never found progress in the same place.  Because of this, and many other reasons, studying abroad was very important to me. It was time for something new; I couldn’t keep going in the same direction.  There was no particular reason why, but I knew something needed to change.  Looking at the different cities was overwhelming but also exhilarating; neither my grandparents, parents, or older sister had ever been to Europe, so I had figured it wasn’t written in the stars for me.  So there was pressure to pick the right place, whatever that could mean, because there were many reasons to go to each one.  While researching, I realized there were places I would undoubtedly visit at some point in life, and assuming I wouldn’t because my family hadn’t was limiting myself.  So I thought, what place would you be unlikely to visit, let alone live?  I wanted a challenge, to go in absolutely blind and try something totally new. I looked for which places I knew almost nothing about.  It was time to start fresh and discover ways of life I hadn’t seen romanticized by the media in the states.  Prague came up, and I’m sitting there thinking well I have definitely never heard of this.  And that was it, I signed off…

 

 I would like to mention that my dad suddenly died two weeks before I flew to Prague.  It was horrific and shocking, and I will leave it at that.  Making the move was not easy, and there were moments the first few weeks that I questioned if I should have gone back to Denison, but the challenges I faced abroad helped me in ways I did not imagine they would.  I am going to name just a few that have impacted me!

 

No drying machine.  Most people in the Czech Republic hang their laundry to dry.  At first I was a bit annoyed by this; all our towels would dry hard no matter what we did.  A good thing that did come from it, though, was when my roommate’s clothes were on the drying rack, I would fold them for her and put mine up, and vice versa.  Because of little things like that, there was always this unquestionable level of love and support.  I learned that the states focus so much on efficiency that they lose some of the simple and good things in life during the constant rush.

 

 Prague is notorious for its lack of smiling.  It’s an unspoken rule to not make eye contact, let alone smile, at others in public.  They all seemed cautious of each other, which is very different than in the states.  Some Czechs think it is because they got out of communism in 1990.  Nobody knew who to trust.  It took me time to grow comfortable with this, because so many people go out of their way to smile in the states.  Because of living in a more closed-off culture, I have become a much better traveler.  Growing accustomed to this alternative way of behaving in public, I have stopped consistently sticking out as a blatant tourist, and therefore never struggled with any pitpocketers or trouble.  Some Czechs even came up and asked me questions by the end.

 

One weekend I flew into London to meet friends.  Once I landed, my phone would not get service.  I had to draw maps on napkins and use strangers’ phones.  I met an Irish woman along the way who helped me.  We talked for almost two hours, and had a lot of fun.  In the end I was glad I got lost; I got to meet new people and realized I needed to believe in myself more.  Now I trust my ability to handle situations I don’t have much control over more, and that I don’t need a phone!  Most people in the states rely heavily on their phones for maps and countless other things.  I was scared when I realized I lost that access, but quickly reminded myself that somehow all humans throughout history, until very recently, traveled without phones for directions.  I would be fine!

Those were a few lessons I learned while abroad.  They made their way back to the states with me and have been very helpful, and I think my dad would be proud of me.  Countless amazing memories were made that I will always treasure.