By Katie Ford
It’s been just over a month since I moved to Prague, and it’s been an absolute whirlwind. Because I moved here for the specific purpose of working, that’s been my focus which is, I suppose, a blessing and a curse. I’m very fortunate to have found such an awesome job in a foreign country (especially in such a cool city like Prague), but working 40+ hours per week doesn’t give me much time to explore the city, meet new friends, or really enjoy the fact that I’m living in such an incredible place. With that being said, I’ve really made the effort to try to meet new people when I’m not working, find time for activities that are unique to Prague, and exploring a new piece of the city every once in a while. That leads me to my next bit of expat advice: make the effort to meet people, try new things, and experience the place where you’re living. I know that I’ve only been here for a month, but I also know that the next 4 months will definitely fly by, and most likely, so will the next 11 months. So, how do I do all of these things when I’m working full time, dealing with varying amounts of culture shock, and all I want to do is cuddle with my cat after work? (Oh, is that just me?)
Meet Finnegan Frolík, my new Czech love
This is what worked for me:
I joined a couple of Facebook groups meant specifically for foreigners and travel enthusiasts in Prague. My intention has always been to make Czech friends, and to learn the language and culture, but you need to start somewhere! You’ll also be surprised how many locals participate in these kinds of groups and events- they’re looking for like-minded people, too! I had great luck with the Couchsurfers group in Prague. You may notice that Couchsurfing is conspicuously absent from my website and blog, and that’s mostly because I’ve simply never tried it. The fun thing about Couchsurfing is that you don’t actually have to “surf couches” to be able to meet people through the site. If you create a profile on Couchsurfing.com you can opt to just be available to meet people instead of actually hosting them or being hosted yourself. There’s a super active Couchsurfing group in Prague, and they host meet-ups every week that are totally open to anyone who wants to stop by. They’re also held super close to my apartment which was a big motivating factor in my attendance. Anyway, I was able to meet several really cool people at the first meeting, two of whom I went out with for New Year’s Eve and have hung out with since (and they’re even Czech!). I also joined a Facebook group meant for expats living in Prague. That one has been really great to find people to grab drinks or coffee with that are also just looking to meet new people in the city.
View of the fireworks on Petrin Hill overlooking all of the Old Town in Prague on New Year’s Eve
I’ve been trying to do things. Whether I’m invited to do something or I organize it on my own, I still try to get up and do things no matter how tired I am. Culture shock, moving, and starting a new job all cause stress and tiredness, and many expats are dealing with at least one of these things… or even all of them. Getting out of your house and finding something to do will help you adjust to your new life abroad way faster than cuddling with your new cat. I took myself to see a production of Don Giovanni at the Estate’s Opera, which was a truly incredible experience. I was invited to go ice skating, so I rented skates that did NOT function at all, but was able to meet a couple new people. And probably the most seemingly innocuous but most interesting experience was going to an “Aqua Park” where there are pools, waterslides, and a sauna. European sauna etiquette is very different than American sauna etiquette. In case you were wondering.
The Estate’s Theatre, where Don Giovanni first premiered in Mozart’s lifetime
The last month in Prague has been absolutely great, but I know that it’s just the beginning. The students I’ll be working and traveling with all semester are arriving on Monday, and I could not be more excited to meet all of them, and help them experience Prague on their own. I have a feeling that I’ll be learning more about this city from them than I’d be able to learn on my own! February is a fairly calm month for me, aside from work and such, but March is when the fun really starts. My first overnight trip for work is 4 days in Krakow, Poland (love that city <3), and then I’m off to New Orleans and Miami for just under two weeks for conferences and such! I’ll be sure to keep you updated on all of the adventures as they come.
Remember to check out the Study Hard Travel Smart website for tips and tricks about travel and study abroad, including travel guides to all of the cities I’ve been to! And follow us on Facebook for all sorts of updates and posts on recent happenings in Prague and elsewhere.