During the Fall semester I made the decision to study abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. This was one of the best decisions I ever made. Thinking back to my freshman year, I came to UK knowing that I wanted to study abroad. After discussing my options with my advisor, I landed on second semester of my sophomore year as the time to make the trip.
Stepping out of my comfort zone via travelling has not frightened me much in the past. Luckily, I had parents who shared a passion of travelling and they put those principles onto me. They started with taking me out of the country at the age of seven and following that I found a handful of opportunities, with or without my family, to explore different cities and countries. However, spending more than a few weeks in a foreign country is a drastic change from the travelling I had done before. The other times I had family or friends with me. So this trip was bigtime. Not only was I going to a country I have never been to, but I was also going by myself and staying for multiple months.
I never had real nerves until I was about to board the plane. There were moments beforehand where it would settle in: the fact that I was going to be living in Europe from the end of January to early May. But these realizations would occur randomly and often result in me grinning from ear to ear.
Amongst the buzz of commotion before my trip, my family and friends would stop and ask me if I was excited. I always answered with “yes, of course I am excited!” All they heard from me was talk of logistics and plans but I did not dwell in my bursting excitement for this new adventure. This was mostly due to the crazy commotion of my fall semester as I was taking 20 credit hours, involved in multiple organizations, working a part-time job and planning a trip abroad. Not until I was waiting at the O’Hare airport did I realize that all my plans had come together just as everyone told me they would and it was now or never.
Flying to my first destination of Vienna gave me a fulfilled feeling that I had done what I set out to do. I swear I could feel the excitement in my bones and the anticipation of what is to come kept my heart in the clouds. My thoughts were constantly buzzing with ideas of the new places I might see and the amazing things I will get to experience in just a few hours.
Now that I am a week into my study abroad experience, I have to say the excitement does not stop. That elated feeling I had on the first flight has not worn off yet. I still get a rush of thrill when I travel from one place to another using the tram or metro. I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world when I get to stare up at a building that has not changed for centuries upon centuries. I still eavesdrop on others speaking in Czech because I am amazed by this Slavic language that could not be more different from English or the tidbit of Spanish I am familiar with.
Adjusting to life in a new country can be difficult but it is one of the most rewarding things to me. The way people interact and live their lives varies in different regions, which I think is important to recognize. For example, in the United States, people often smile when they make eye contact then look away.
In the Czech Republic I have noticed that smiles are not given out with grace but people will look at others for longer than just a glance. Getting used to their currency by using Korunas instead of the U.S. Dollar was another large transition. There is a feeling of accomplishment that comes with figuring out the tram schedule even though none if it is legible to me besides the numbers. Being able to learn enough of the language to carry out basic conversations with Czechs goes a long way for me as well and it is something that will always be useful to me. There are many more examples I could give to you on adjusting to a new country but I think you get the point.
My advice to you is to consider immersing yourself in another culture for an extended period of time and if you do, be open-minded and considerate. I think this experience will make me more well-rounded and I am excited to see the result of it.
All photos taken by Paige Maffett