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My Little Travel Extravaganza

Well it has been quite a while since I’ve posted up here, but I swear it’s because I’ve been traveling all over Central Europe and loving every second of it! These past 10 days I traveled to Berlin, Amsterdam, and Brussels.

My program in the Czech Republic is designed so we arrive early and are introduced to Prague, Czech culture, and the Czech Language for about three weeks, then we were given a full week off to do whatever we wanted before our real classes started up. In a surprisingly quick decision and little discussion, 3 other members of my program and I decided on this extravaganza. The only stipulations were somewhere in Germany, and Amsterdam.

To say this was hastily planned would be an understatement. We didn’t even know what we wanted to do in each place until we got there. This little vacation has taught me a lot about my position as a traveler. I was in no way the navigator, but I would like to think I helped in making the trip fun and something worth looking forward to. If there was any way to describe it, I was the Yes Man.
-“Should we go to the Anne Frank House and wait in line for and hour and a half in the cold?”
-“Why not? We’ll only be here once!” (Yes, we waited for and hour and a half, and yes, it was worth it.)

Of course after awhile, this gets exhausting. We were running nonstop for probably 7 days before we really decided to stop, stay in, and get some sleep. But I can happily say I do not regret seeing as much as we did. I only regret not seeing more and having more time in each city. That being said, I probably wouldn’t be very functional if we had had a longer vacation.

Three cities in 10 days was exhausting. My first night in Brussels was hard. I felt so homesick, and all I wanted was to be back in Prague and finally on a normal schedule. This all changed in the morning when I finally saw the whole city, and suddenly my desire to explore and experience all I could was back.

This experience was amazing. Each city had its own personality and its pros and cons. The mere fact that I can say I was in three other countries just a week ago is so exhilarating! I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever be able to say that. Not to mention I’ve now seen the Berlin Wall, the Ishtar Gate, and some of the largest collections of the works of Van Gogh and Magritte! The last week was certainly a week of slashing items off my bucket list.

Naturally, now that I’m back in Prague, it’s time to get to work. This is my first week of University classes. It will be quite a change, but I’m looking forward to a regular schedule, and being a little more productive. Not to mention I still have affairs to deal with at home in Kansas City that I have happily ignored until this point. I suppose it’s time to be a student again, but I certainly enjoyed being a world traveler while I could!

Here are some of the best pictures of this trip. If you are still curious, I have more pictures posted on my Facebook from this trip!

Until next time!

-Emma

At the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany. It also happened to be the coldest day of the entire trip and the one day we spent outside the entire time.
On the ferry to our hostel in Amsterdam. This was such a cool experience for me because I’ve lived in land locked places all my life. People would get on the ferry with their bicycles and their motorcycles, filling the ferry every time. I’m pretty sure pedestrians are a minority in Amsterdam with how many people ride their bikes.
Brussels was a seriously beautiful city. I was endlessly impressed by its quirks, probably because I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I went. It was also the best weather I’ve had in Europe thus far.

There’s Always a Learning Curve

Two weeks into this adventure and I can honestly say I’ve learned so much more about myself and challenged myself with things I never imagined I could master. I can now confidently (kind of) use the public transportation system and know the general set up of the city. Navigation isn’t hard when there are so many beautiful landmarks scattered across the city. I am also pretty proficient at converting the exchange rate in my head. The language is something I haven’t managed to tackle, but I’m hoping that will come with time. But all of those are the measurable things to tackle.

I still haven’t seen all the sights. I still don’t understand the culture completely (not for a lack of my program director trying), and at this point, I’m convinced I will never be able to see every painting in the National Gallery no matter how hard I try. No worries though, I will try my hardest.

A picture of 3 of us from the Intercultural studies program on Charles Bridge.

When I got here two weeks ago, I arrived a day earlier than everyone else. I was standing in a tiny dorm room, looking around me and realizing that my entire life was changing and that I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. That same night, I accidentally blew out the electricity in my dorm room due to a faulty hot plate. So you could say that my adventure didn’t start out exactly the way I was expecting. I was pretty upset that first night because I had no one to talk to, and felt as though I was completely alone, with no electricity, and no clue how to navigate the huge change my life was taking. The next day, 3 other members of the program, and suddenly I had friends to talk to, electricity, and an entire city to explore!

After a long day of exploring, we stumbled upon this revolving sculpture that we later realized was just around the corner from where we started.

Past that point my experience has been significantly better. My navigational skills are still mediocre, so it helps that I have 3 other people with me on most of my travels who confirm my suspicions of which direction we’re supposed to go. However, some of our best adventures have been amidst getting lost.

We found this church while trying to find a bar. We never found the bar, but I like to think we found something even better.

Of course, in the middle of all this exploration, getting the stomach flu put a major stopper to my adventures. There is nothing like feeling completely alone in a foreign country, absolutely miserable, and nothing you can do about it. And still after thinking about it, I was only out for two days. I’m back up on my feet, and still managed to see Old Town, Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle afterwards.

Ultimately, I really have learned about the process of living alone. I have to make a conscience effort to go out and explore, even if the cold seems like a big deterrent. No one else can push me to want adventure, I have to be the one who wants it. I am pushing myself to leave the dorm and find something amazing everyday. I wanted independence, and my experience in Prague will be the ultimate test of independence. I’m not alone because I have so many people pushing for me and supporting me, but I am the one that has to make it happen, and for that I have to be willing to leave my comfort zone, get lost, and find my way out again.

You can see the building I have a class in everyday from here!

Until next time!

-Emma

Ready. Set. Go!

In only a couple days, I will leave for Prague in the Czech Republic. While I have been abroad before, I have never gone on my own to an unfamiliar place, with no idea what to expect. This entire break has been me preparing in some way to leave the country. In doing so, I’ve already experienced different kinds of independence I’ve never had to deal with before. Between dealings at the bank to conversations with insurance companies, it has been a trying month of problem solving and compromise. After practically months of preparation to leave, it’s happening.

I wish I could say I am as excited as I was in the last semester. Studying abroad has been a dream of mine for a long time. Between the historic nature of Prague as the capital of the Holy Roman Empire for a time, to each of its occupations, the Czech Republic is endlessly fascinating and endlessly beautiful (from what I hear, don’t worry, I plan to confirm that soon). So when I applied to study in a place with such historic relevance that also happens to be the homeland for my mother’s side of the family, I was beyond excited! I’m still so excited to be in a new place, surrounded by beautiful architecture, but I’m just so nervous and stressed.

It’s been hard knowing that what I should be feeling is overwhelming excitement but what I’m actually feeling is stress to pack and leave. I imagine the moment I’m on the plane that excitement I felt leading up to this last month will come back in full force, but until then, I suppose I’ll just have to keep my nose to the grindstone trying to get ready to leave. The anxiety of leaving my friends, my home, and even my school have really caught up with me. But I think that is the reason I wanted to study abroad. I want to experience true independence and to learn about culture as I travel. This is sure to be the experience of a lifetime! If only my brain could calm down and let my excitement shine through!

While in Prague, I will be with the Intercultural Studies Program which encourages students to interact more fully with Czech people and students. The program itself helps its students understand Czech culture and the influence of Central Europe in the world. I will be taking two courses with the Intercultural Studies Program and then two art history courses, which are sure to be amazing! I fully believe this program will push me out of my comfort zone, and manage to expose me to so many new cultures. We won’t just be talking about it, I’ll be experiencing it.

Between all the anxiety, nerves, and excitement, I’ll dream of all the Czech kolache I’ll be able to eat while I’m there. I’ll be sure to report on if there’s poppy seed inside and how my family’s recipe holds up!

My family making Kolache, a traditional Czech pastry, for Thanksgiving this year.

Prague, here I come!

-Emma