By Katie Ford
I’ve now been living in Prague for just about 3 months, which seems insane to me. What’s even crazier to think about is that this is the point when a typical study abroad student would start to think about leaving and going back home after the semester, but that’s not going to be in the cards for me for quite a while yet! The past three months have certainly been an adjustment period for me. I think it was a bit easier for me to adjust to living in Prague since I moved here from having spent the last year in Wales, so I was already adjusted to living outside my own culture. With that being said, it certainly hasn’t been easy just because I’m used to living outside of the United States.
The biggest struggle that I’ve found so far is something that I would imagine most expats experience; it’s hard for me to accept that I just don’t know anyone here very well yet, and that I can’t expect to forge deep and lasting relationships in 3 months’ time, as much as I would like them. I miss being able to call my friend in the next town over to meet at Panera, or being able to call one of my good friends in Cardiff to meet at Pettigrew’s for tea and scones. That actually brings up the second part of this particular adjustment issue- I’m struggling to distinguish between what I miss from New York and those things that I miss from the places I’ve lived in Europe. Living in a European city brings back memories from when I lived in France 5 (!) years ago, and it really makes me miss things from Aix-en-Provence. I can feel myself missing the weather of Aix, since parts of this city actually remind me of Aix in very strange ways. I’m excited for it to get warmer and sunnier so I can sit outside and enjoy that part of living in an absolutely gorgeous city. Living in Prague feels much more similar to living in Aix than in Cardiff because of the language barrier, which at times has been significant. Even with my admittedly limited French language skills, I was generally able to communicate anything that I needed in France, and that is certainly not the case in Prague. I also find myself missing a lot of things that I really enjoyed in Cardiff, namely Cardiff Castle, relatively easy access to horses, and scones. I don’t miss the rain in Cardiff, or the UK at large, so there’s that.
My advice to those who are interested in living and working abroad is to carefully consider how isolating that can be, at least in the beginning. Living abroad sounds like this incredible adventure, and it definitely is, but on those shitty days when you just want to eat Ben and Jerry’s with a good friend and forget about what’s around you, you likely won’t have that friend around for a good while after you move. I am extremely fortunate because my co-workers are great people who have generously introduced me to their friends, and have spent a bunch of time with me outside of work. Many expats don’t have this luxury when they move abroad.
So enough of the whining, of course living abroad isn’t ALL that bad! I haven’t had the chance to do much traveling outside of Prague since I’ve gotten here because I’ve been working quite a bit to keep up with the 124 students who just arrived to Prague that are “under my wing”. I’ve taken one day trip to Plzen and one to Lidice, both in the Czech Republic, with my students as a part of their curriculum, and both of those have been great experiences.
Plzen and Pilsner Urquell Brewery, Czech Republic
This week my anti-travel streak is definitely ending! On Thursday, I leave with a small group of students to Olomouc, Czech Republic and Krakow, Poland. I’ve not been to Olomouc before, so I’m excited to spend a day there learning more about Czech history, and about Moravian culture. I spent a few days in Krakow last year and absolutely fell in love with the city, so I’m very excited to have three more days of exploration this year! We’re traveling with an incredibly knowledgeable and interesting professor, so I’m very excited to see these cities with his guidance- it should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Two days after I return from Krakow, I head off to the United States for just under two weeks. I’ll start with two days in Miami to meet my colleagues there, as a big part of my job is working specifically for the University of Miami, and then I’ll travel on to New Orleans to attend The Forum on Education Abroad. I absolutely loved going to the Forum two years ago, as I learned a TON about study abroad, and it certainly made me a better International Education professional. I’ve never been to Miami or New Orleans, so I’m excited to spend some time there. I have a free weekend in New Orleans which I’ll be spending with my family exploring the city.
Every once in a while, I get a bit down about living away from everyone that I know and love, but then I remember that I get to travel to so many incredible places, live in such a fantastic city, and work with such amazing people, that I know I can’t complain even the slightest bit.
Remember to check back next week for a blog re-cap about my weekend in Olomouc and Krakow!