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Děkuji, Praha

My Intercultural Studies at Charles University program has ended and the most overwhelming feeling that I’m left with is gratitude. I’m so thankful that I got to spend a summer learning and living in Prague. I’m thankful for the new knowledge, the new experiences, the new friends, and the new sights I was able to see. Prague, and the 3 cities I visited as side trips — Berlin, Budapest, and Vienna — all taught me so many things, so I think I owe them each a brief thank you. I’ll save the main one — Prague — for last.

Danke, Berlin

Thank you for empowering me to be independent. 

I went with a group to Berlin, but on our last day, we kind of had differing opinions about what our final stops should be. So, I made a scary decision: I would go see things by myself. This ended up being amazing. I went to a local flea market, ate Berlin’s most popular street food (the Döner Kebab), stumbled upon the Karneval der Kulturen (a multicultural celebration), saw the beautiful Charlottenburg Palace, and then ended the day with a walk through the Kaiser-Wilhem-Gedächtnis-Kirche. Although I love the group I traveled with, it was so nice that I had a day where the itinerary was 100% mine. Berlin empowered me to be independent and pursue the itinerary that I wanted. It was such an empowering feeling to know that I navigated getting around a mega-city, that I’ve never been to, by myself! Berlin gave me a major confidence boost, and for that, I’m forever grateful.

Thank you for the friends. 

I met some really great people in Berlin. Some people go to Berlin just for the nightlife, and whether or not that’s your thing, try it anyway. The Berliners are so, so cool, and so fun to talk to — in German or in English!

      The reconstructed Kaiser Wilhem Kirche. Each blue             glass panel has a different stained glass picture.

Köszönöm, Budapest

Thank you for the lesson about choosing carefully.  

The first time I tried to go to Budapest, my bus ticket was denied. Check out my last blog post for the story on that… From that experience, though, I really learned an important life lesson: do your research before buying anything. Check if the product or service you’re buying is reliable and has good reviews. If it doesn’t, rethink! Just because something is cheap does not mean it should be purchased…

Thank you for your kindness. 

I was blown away by how kind the people in Budapest were. Of course, I wasn’t expecting that they’d all be evil, but I also wasn’t expecting that they’d all be so nice! Shamefully, I didn’t know much about the Magyar culture before going to Hungary, but I left wanting to know more. Each server, cashier, and local on the street made me regret that I didn’t know more about them.

             Budapest at night is so amazingly gorgeous.

Danke, Wien

Thank you for teaching me to do the tourist things.

I know it’s cliche to go on a city’s big Ferris wheel, so I almost resisted going to the Wiener Riesenrad, but I am so glad that I didn’t skip out on this. The view was beautiful. Thank you, Vienna, for teaching me that things that are tourist-heavy are usually that way for a reason.

…But thank you for also teaching me to go where the locals go. 

I also ended up at a city music festival in Vienna. The streets were flooded with people listening and dancing to live music. I had so much fun! Surrounded by Austrians, I stood and listened to live music for quite a while.

         The crowded streets for Vienna’s music fest.

Děkuji, Praha

Thank you for challenging me.

The classes I took at Charles University were not for the faint of heart. They taught me lessons in studiousness. My class about Czech history and politics — a subject I knew virtually nothing about — was so hard, but ended up being so meaningful to me. It really enriched my experience in Prague, because it helped me understand the culture I was visiting.

Thank you for the paddle boat rides.

My classroom was located on the street right in front of the Vltava River. Right across from my school building’s door was a paddle boat dock. Those after class paddle boat rides were so relaxing. I loved getting the view of Prague Castle from the water and soaking up the sun with my friends.

        Prague Castle as seen by paddle boat on the                                        Vltava River!

Thank you for teaching me how to use public transit.

I had no idea how to read anything public-transit related before I went abroad. I suppose living in the Midwest made me that way. Prague is where I first learned how to get around on my own. After I figured out how to get around and use the city’s trams, buses, subways, and trains, it felt like the city had become mine to explore.

Thank you for the confidence.

Before I left for my study abroad trip, I worried that 6 weeks in a new country, whose language I didn’t speak, and with people I didn’t know, would be too hard. I second-guessed myself a lot. But everything ended up being okay. In fact, it was more than okay; it was amazing. Prague showed me that I can conquer my fears. Prague reminded me that I’m young, strong, and deserve to see the world and meet its people.

Thank you for the friends.

My program was small. There were only 6 students. I feared that we wouldn’t get along or that things would be awkward. My fears, it turned out, were unfounded. Now, I have a bond with 5 other people, and we will always be able to share our memories of Prague.

Thank you for the food. 

Oh man. The food. Both the traditional Czech food and other types of foreign cuisine in Prague were so good. I might end up coming back someday just for Svíčková (a traditional Czech beef dish) and Burrito Loco (a Mexican food chain in Prague).

Thank you for your beauty.

From the sights in Prague to the views on the Bohemian Paradise trail, Czech Republic has so much beauty to offer. I’m so glad I was able to see it.

Thank you for everything.

   Vrtba Garden is one of the most beautiful places in                                               Prague.

There’s so much more to thank Prague for, but it’d end up being a book if I tried to write all of it down. I am so grateful for my study abroad experience. If you’re reading this and haven’t made any study abroad plans yet, it’s time to make the leap. You, too, will end up with so much to be grateful about.

So with, that, a final thank you: thank you UMKC for inspiring students like me to study abroad.


Helene Slinker is a rising senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Helene is spending her summer studying in Prague, Czech Republic through the Charles University Intercultural Studies program, taking classes that contribute to her political science major and women’s and gender studies minor. Helene is eager to learn more about Central and Eastern European politics through this program and explore the Czech Republic.


Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Home and Dreaming of Travel

I’ve been home for a few weeks now and I am still thinking about Prague. They warned me before I left about reverse culture shock I may feel upon coming home. I figured this was something that only happened to some people and I would be fine (because I was afraid of being homesick and having bad culture shock when arriving in Prague). I did, however, get reverse culture shock.

When studying abroad, be aware of this. You have so much fun and it goes by so quickly when you are traveling. Then, when it’s time to go home, you are usually excited because you finally get to go home and see your family, friends, and everything else you have been missing at home. When you get home, you will probably be exhausted from travel, but excited to share your experiences with everyone. It gets hard after you have been home for a while though. You start to miss the routine you had while you were abroad, the different life you were living, and for me especially, my new friends.

I recommend making the most of the final days in your country of study. Whether that be going to the final places you haven’t been, going to some of your favorite spots, or just hanging out with the people you had the most fun with. For myself, this meant all three of these things. On our last day, some people had left, others had gone in their own direction, but it ended up just being a group of around 8 of us left. We had a farewell lunch with our program leader and professor, then it was off to enjoy the day.

Me and my group of friends at the Lennon Wall.

We wrote on the Lennon Wall, each with our own quote that would stay on the wall as a happy sentiment. We made sure to all take a lot of pictures that day as well.

Then, we all decided to go to the Vlatava River in the center of Prague to go for a paddle boat ride. This was the most relaxing time I had in Prague and I got to just soak up my surrounding and the time I was having, which was really nice.

After dinner, we ended our time in Prague by walking around the city and retracing the steps we had taken on the very first night. Passing the old town square, the pub where we introduced ourselves, and finally making our way back home for the last time to our apartments. The goodbyes were hard. A lot harder than I thought they would be. We all agreed we would keep in touch, and although we don’t all live in the same place, we would come visit each other and maybe one day, make it back to Prague. The hardest goodbye for me was my new friend I had made, Emma. Throughout that month we had been with each other non-stop and it is weird not to have that anymore.

Me and Emma.

In ending my travels, as well as this blog, I would just like to give one final piece of advice:

Wherever you go, and whatever you do in your travels, make sure you take it all in, do things you have never done before, and just simply enjoy yourself because you never know when you’ll be able to do something like this again.

Isabelle Pekarsky is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying political science. Her hometown is KCMO. Isabelle is spending the summer abroad with the Developing Dynamics of Democracy Program in Prague, Czech Republic. Isabelle’s goals are to attend law school after graduating in May 2020 and possibly pursue work in international relations. She believes her experiences studying abroad will help her learn more about democracies in other countries.


Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

A Failed Weekend Trip is Not a Failed Weekend

As I’m writing this, I’m on a regional train from Prague to Budapest. I’m looking forward to a weekend trip to Budapest, where I plan to visit the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, make my way to Buda Castle, and even take a night-time cruise on the Danube. An exciting part about studying abroad in Central Europe is that it’s relatively easy to find trains or buses that connect you with other major cities in different countries in the area.

I shouldn’t overstate how easy it is to get from place to place, though. Last weekend was when I was originally going to board a regional bus from Prague to Budapest. I arrived at Prague’s central station almost an hour early for my bus. The transit company that I booked with had offered ticket-holders the opportunity to get text updates about delays. I kept getting various updates that my bus was delayed in arriving. Finally, I got a text that my bus was here, so I presented my ticket and passport to the ticket checker… who promptly denied my entry. As it turned out, there was a glitch in the company’s text updates, and it had been sending me updates for the wrong bus. Devastated and confused, I went to the ticket-counter to see if there were any other opportunities to get to Budapest for the weekend. Everything was booked.

I was heartbroken. Because of the last-minute missed bus, I had to cancel my lodging in Budapest on a whim and didn’t get a refund. It wasn’t just the lost money that I was upset about, though; it was the lost opportunity. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Budapest and worried that I was going to have a boring weekend in Prague, since I hadn’t planned out what I wanted to do.

My weekend in Prague, though, was anything but boring. In fact, it was amazing. On Saturday, I got brunch with friends, visited an amazing pop-up photography exhibition, took a boat ride on the Vltava river (where I could see Prague Castle from the water!), wandered around the Lesser Town, and got to visit a street festival. The street festival was incredible, and honestly, if it weren’t for the missed bus, I wouldn’t have been able to go.

The view of St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle from the boat ride on the Vltava River.
We had to take a ferry to cross the Vltava River to get to the street festival on the other side. We didn’t even realize that our student public transit cards covered this!

On Sunday, I enjoyed a relaxing morning and then bought tickets to see a ballet at the Národní Divadlo (National Theater) on a whim. The student-discounted tickets to see an original Kafka-inspired ballet at a world-class theater were only SIX DOLLARS! The ballet was beautiful and was such a unique Prague-exclusive experience.

The beautiful theater where I saw a ballet rendition of Franz Kafka’s “The Trial.”

I guess the lesson here is this: a failed weekend-trip isn’t a failed weekend. I had an expectation that if I wasn’t constantly traveling to different places on the weekends, I was “wasting” my opportunity to go and visit more of Europe. There’s nothing wrong, though, with “staying home” in Prague (or wherever you may be). There just might be a one-time street festival or an original ballet waiting for you. Budapest, or wherever your desired weekend trip is, will always be there. Your time as a study abroad student in Prague won’t, so don’t be afraid to spend your free time in your “home” city, soaking up as much as you can.


Helene Slinker is a rising senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Helene is spending her summer studying in Prague, Czech Republic through the Charles University Intercultural Studies program, taking classes that contribute to her political science major and women’s and gender studies minor. Helene is eager to learn more about Central and Eastern European politics through this program and explore the Czech Republic.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Sad to Say Goodbye

As I pack my bags to leave tomorrow, I am thinking about everything I have done during my month in Prague. At first it seemed like time went on forever. I would wake up for class super early every day and not go to sleep for what seemed like forever.

I remember being so nervous about meeting people I didn’t know, and if I would make friends, thinking back to that as a sit next to now some of my closest friends is amazing.

I was so terrified of the culture shock that I was going to experience coming to a whole new place. Instead, I experienced something amazing, that although I was shocked by things, I tried to take everything in and be thankful that I was here.

Although I am sad to leave, I am trying to think about my time here and not about leaving, so here are a few tips about studying abroad in Prague.

  1. Smile less

I am half kidding. I am a VERY smiley person and was told that when I get to central Europe people do not smile at you on the streets like we do in the Mid-West. This is true. I got a lot of weird looks from people on the streets for smiling. So if you come here, don’t be offended no one is smiling at you, it’s just not their thing.

  1. Talk softly in public

More than a few times I stopped and realized that my group of friends and I were the loudest people in the restaurant/café/tram/etc. This can pretty embarrassing. I am loud anyway, so this was a hard one for me. Just be aware of your surroundings and be respectful.

  1. Splitting your bill

This is not common here. We always had a large group with us. So be aware that you may have to figure the bill out on the fly. Venmo was our best friend throughout this trip.

  1. BE OPEN TO NEW EXPERIENCES

Although these first three tips are important, this is my biggest point to make. I was not used to going out of my comfort zone and was unsure of a lot of things I was doing. However, being with a group of people that became my close friends made it way easier. I experienced so many new things that I would have never done without this program.

Prague will always have a special place in my heart. I plan to come back one day and see everything again. This has been an experience of a lifetime, I have made wonderful friends, experienced some amazing things and learned so much. I recommend Prague to anyone who wants to study abroad, but also encourage you to study abroad regardless of where you go. This has been life changing and I believe everyone should experience this!

Until next time Praha, Ahoj!


Isabelle Pekarsky is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying political science. Her hometown is KCMO. Isabelle is spending the summer abroad with the Developing Dynamics of Democracy Program in Prague, Czech Republic. Isabelle’s goals are to attend law school after graduating in May 2020 and possibly pursue work in international relations. She believes her experiences studying abroad will help her learn more about democracies in other countries.

Disclaimer:

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

It’s Okay to Sleep

If you know someone who studied abroad, and they only told you about the good parts of their experience, they’ve told you a half-truth. The truth is that study abroad, while amazing in so many aspects, can be really hard – and sometimes exhausting.

When I first got to Prague, I was quite the opposite of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, since I hadn’t slept at all on my incoming flight. In my taxi from the airport to my dorm building, I kept looking outside the windows at the scenery. After trying to decipher Czech billboards, the realization came that I was going to be functionally illiterate here for the next 7 weeks. Then, I got to the dorm, had a strange check-in experience, and then got to see my room, which was… not entirely what I was expecting. I was unsure of how my time here would go.

I soon snapped out of that initial panic once I settled in and thought: I AM IN PRAGUE! An overwhelming excitement took over me. Who cares what my dorm looked like?! There were things to see! There were things to do! I then spent my first 3 weeks going to place after place after place, trying desperately to soak up the time that I had here. I explored Prague, the town of Český Krumlov, and even Berlin, Germany on a weekend trip. A busy class schedule combined with my own Type-A desire to not waste any time and see as much as possible meant that I was always on the go.

Stopped to take a photo when leaving the castle at Český Krumlov!

 

Český Krumlov is even more beautiful at night.

Everything I saw was wonderful. There was only one problem: I was exhausted. My excitement to see new places began to wear off simply because I was tired. Despite my exhaustion, I continued to push forward and jam-pack my schedule. I was doing this out of fear; I felt like allowing myself to rest was allowing myself to miss out on an opportunity. I had some serious FOMO (fear of missing out).

The reality, though, is this: it’s okay to sleep. Really.

While studying abroad gives you a unique opportunity to experience new cultures at an exciting time of life, the regular parts of life still are there. That means that sleeping, eating, and breathing are all still necessary. Not only is it not possible for you to allow yourself to skip out on these things, but it also makes your sightseeing less enjoyable when you skimp on them. For example, you might enjoy seeing a museum a lot more if you work in some time to relax before jumping from site to site. If you’re at the point where you’re not enjoying the museum at all because you’re so tired, there’s a chance you’re overbooking yourself and you need to back away for a little bit.

Speaking of museums… The East Side Gallery in Berlin (while not literally a museum) is fantastic. I loved this painting of the car breaking through the Berlin Wall.

Your physical and mental wellbeing still matters while you are abroad. Health is still important. Study abroad is a beautiful time to see the world and get lost and find yourself. You can’t do that, though, without taking care of yourself along the ride. So in case you need to hear it again: it’s okay to sleep.


Helene Slinker is a rising senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Helene is spending her summer studying in Prague, Czech Republic through the Charles University Intercultural Studies program, taking classes that contribute to her political science major and women’s and gender studies minor. Helene is eager to learn more about Central and Eastern European politics through this program and explore the Czech Republic.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

In Awe of Prague and Beyond

When I first got to Prague a few weeks ago I was in awe; taking everything in and seeing what seemed like a whole new world. Thinking back to then, it is hard to believe I only have a week and a half left. I have become so familiar with this place, the people I have met, and my new routine. It is going to be hard to leave this, but I am so thankful for the experiences I have already had and the people I have met!

The first week of class was mainly introductions and getting to know the other people on the program as well as the area. I was surprised that jet-lag didn’t have much of an effect on me, although it did to my roommate and a lot of other people on the trip. Our first weekend was a “free” weekend that we were allowed to go where we wanted. A group of about six of us decided to all go to Austria (Vienna and Salzburg) together. Although I would do this all over again, it was a very interesting adjustment to stay and travel with people I had really just met. In Vienna, we went to the St. Stephens Cathedral, Parliament and Belvedere Castle (that has the original Napoleon painting)!

St. Stephens Cathedral
Vienna Parliament

The next day we got on a train and went to Salzburg, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. A group of three girls and I went on a Sound of Music Tour and got to see a lot of the scenes from the movie. When we finally came home we were exhausted and probably pretty tired of each other already, but through this weekend trip I became close with a few people, and those relationships are so important in situations like this.

Sound of Music Tour

In looking back at the first part of my trip I am surprised at how well I have actually adjusted to life in Prague. I was really nervous about the cultural and language barriers, but it has been a relatively easy transition overall.

My favorite thing in Prague so far has been the ease of getting around. Public transportation has been so nice and is everywhere. Even easier, walking from one side of the city to the other is easy and the view isn’t too bad either. I am looking forward to the next week and a half of studying abroad and can’t believe it is coming to an end so soon!


Isabelle Pekarsky is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying political science. Her hometown is KCMO. Isabelle is spending the summer abroad with the Developing Dynamics of Democracy Program in Prague, Czech Republic. Isabelle’s goals are to attend law school after graduating in May 2020 and possibly pursue work in international relations. She believes her experiences studying abroad will help her learn more about democracies in other countries.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

5 Tips for Midwesterners in Prague

As I’m writing this, I’m closing in on my first week in Prague, Czech Republic. So far, I’ve hiked the Bohemian Paradise trail, explored Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral, and wandered the streets of Old Town. I’m blown away by how gorgeous this city and country is, and I can’t wait to explore more of it.

View of Hrubá Skála from the Bohemian Paradise trails.
The Astronomical Clock in Prague’s Old Town.

Although I’ve already seen some beautiful sights and learned a lot in my class (titled “Imperial Nations and Subject Peoples: Czechs in the Austrian Empire”), the most interesting thing to me has been how different the Czech culture is as opposed to American culture — specifically American Midwestern culture.

I’ve lived in the middle of America for my entire life. As it turns out, the things that I thought were common are not common at all here! The Czechs are very reserved in a way that Midwesterners in the United States are not. So, from what I’ve learned about Czech culture in my first week here, I thought I’d make a very brief Midwestern Guide to Czech Culture.

  • Smiling at strangers is a common Midwestern phenomenon, but it is not so common in the Czech Republic. People will think you are strange!
  • You shouldn’t just make small talk with strangers in lines, on trams or trains, etc. They will wonder why you are talking to them.
  • You shouldn’t expect that your cashier or server will engage in friendly conversation with you. Most often, they will simply do their intended job and cut out all the unnecessary bits. They’re not being rude – the culture here is just that people don’t feel a need to be overly interactive with strangers.
  • If you’re a ranch lover, you’ll need to find a way to wean out your ranch addiction before you get to Prague.
  • You don’t need to be so excessively polite. You of course should not be rude – but you don’t need to keep the “Midwestern nice” label on you for your entire trip.

So, there you have it! There’s 5 tips for the Midwesterner who wants to travel to Prague. The culture change has been a shock, but I’m learning more about how to fit in with each day that goes by. I can’t wait to find out more about this beautiful country and its reserved culture.

 

The sun setting over the Czech countryside as I rode on the train from the Bohemian Paradise back to Prague. The view reminded me of the Midwest. 

Helene Slinker is a rising senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Helene is spending her summer studying in Prague, Czech Republic through the Charles University Intercultural Studies program, taking classes that contribute to her political science major and women’s and gender studies minor. Helene is eager to learn more about Central and Eastern European politics through this program and explore the Czech Republic.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

All Packed for Prague

It’s the day before I leave for Prague, Czech Republic for my study abroad program. It has been a busy day and it has gone by quickly. I have packed a lot into the day (literally and figuratively).

I pretty much put everything off until today, from packing, to gathering documentation and of course, goodbyes. I got up today with ambition, ready to get everything ready, but this was hard to say the least. Fitting a month’s worth of my life into one suitcase was one of the hardest. This is only my second time leaving the country, and my first time in Europe, and I was not sure what to pack or what I would need. Finally, I got everything packed (Vacuum bags are a lifesaver when it comes to saving space in your luggage).

Halfway through the day my family came over for a farewell lunch. It was a lot of fun to tell them my plans and have them be so excited for me! My aunt brought me a shirt from “Planet Hollywood Praha”, from when she went to Prague around 20 years ago. I got to hear stories about where I am going from someone who has been there first hand, which was a good experience.

Each one of my family members wrote me a letter to take with me to Prague. This is going to be something that I think will really help me when I am feeling homesick. Instead of writing that they will miss me, they decided to write me words of encouragement, which is something I appreciate when I’m feeling down.

Overall, I am so excited to leave tomorrow. I’m excited for the experiences and learning opportunities, the people I am going to meet, and all the places I am going to see. All of this being said, I am anxious. I have never been away from my family and friends for this long, so this is going to be hard. I know I am going to have hard days where I am sad and miss home, but I look forward to the days that I am exploring and am able to remember that I will be home soon, so I have to enjoy the moments I have in Prague!

Even-though today has been a long, crazy day, at least I’m packed!

I look forward to sharing my study abroad journey with all of you and can’t wait to write again when I get to Prague. Until then, Ahoj (Goodbye)!

Isabelle Pekarsky is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying political science. Her hometown is KCMO. Isabelle is spending the summer abroad with the Developing Dynamics of Democracy Program in Prague, Czech Republic. Isabelle’s goals are to attend law school after graduating in May 2020 and possibly pursue work in international relations. She believes her experiences studying abroad will help her learn more about democracies in other countries.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Preparing for Prague with Anthony Bourdain

I’ve always loved watching Anthony Bourdain’s travel and food show, “Parts Unknown.” Through my TV screen, I’ve joined in on Bourdain’s travels across the world. From a distance, I accompanied Bourdain on his $6 meal with President Obama in Hanoi, Vietnam; his pub meals in London briefly after the Brexit decision; and in Senegal, when he sat outside in a circle around a communal dish eating Thiéboudienne, the country’s national dish. From my screen, I’ve seen the world and its meals.

The time has come for me to turn off the TV and begin my own exploring. This summer, I’ll be in the beautiful Czech Republic (also sometimes called Czechia). The Czech Republic is a landlocked country located smack-dab in the middle of Europe. Its capital, Prague, is where I’ll be staying. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Since Prague was never damaged by World War II, its original architectural beauty has been maintained throughout history.

The Czech Republic sits in the heart of Europe.
The Church of Our Lady Before Týn, a beautiful Gothic-style church in Prague. Photo via Prague’s official tourism site, prague.eu.

In Prague, I’ll be studying at Charles University. Charles University is known as one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Central Europe. I have the incredible opportunity to take classes there as part of their Intercultural Studies Program, where I’ll be spending nearly seven weeks this summer.

This Baroque library hall originally belonged to Charles University in Prague. Now, it is maintained by the Czech National Library.  Photo from Klementium Guided Tours.

Anthony Bourdain never had a “Parts Unknown” episode in Prague, so Prague truly is relatively unknown to me. However, as I gear up for my trip, I’ve learned a few lessons from other episodes that I think I’m going to pack up to bring with me. These are to remind myself of what’s important about travel. While the summaries of my lessons from Bourdain are nowhere near as eloquent as his original thoughts and words, I hope that they, too, find a way to inspire someone.

  1. Never turn down a meal. Meals are an invitation into someone else’s culture. Always be mindful that a rejection of a dish could translate into a rejection of someone’s pride in their home country. That being said, I can’t wait to try Czech food.
  2. Let your plans and your time be flexible. The best travel doesn’t follow a perfect itinerary. The best travel allows for time to stop and smell the roses.. or to stop and buy the street food.
  3. Be open to new things. If you’re only doing things you’ve always done, you’ll miss out on most of what the world has to offer.
  4. Spend time with the locals. No one knows a city or its culture better than the people who live there.
  5. Embrace the uncertainty. This is what travel is about — letting our guards down and allowing the world to let us know that we don’t know as much as we think we do.

With Bordain’s lessons in my back pocket, I expect to honor his memory by soaking in every moment of my time living abroad. When you hear from me next, I’ll be in Prague!


Helene Slinker is a senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Helene is spending her summer studying in Prague, Czech Republic through the Charles University Intercultural Studies program, taking classes that contribute to her political science major and women’s and gender studies minor. Helene is eager to learn more about Central and Eastern European politics through this program and explore the Czech Republic.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

When it’s over.

I had a life changing experience while abroad.  It was fun, stressful, exciting, exhausting, and everything in between.  Once I was finished with my 6 week program at Charles University two of my closest and oldest friends met up with me.  I took my first night train!

Sleeper cars are really cramped…

We spent three weeks traveling through Southeastern Europe and ended up in Italy.

Life at home isn’t this exciting.

The last few days of my three week adventure I spent alone in Rome and in Naples.  I definitely recommend solo travel.  I was able to go see the sights at my own pace and I was forced to speak up in situations where I’d usually let my travel buddies step in.

I found the Trevi Fountain all by myself!

Even though I went through bouts of homesickness while abroad, I’m sad to be home.  I wasn’t prepared to feel like this, but I hear it’s normal.  To fight by coming home blues I am keeping myself busy by meeting with all of the friends who missed me while I was gone.  Every so often I look at pictures from my trip and dream of returning to Italy and Croatia.  Aside from the sadness I feel a new sense of who I am and what I want out of life.  Something I want is more travel!  Next on my list is Japan 2018!  Thank you UMKC for letting me have this experience!


Lauren Higgins is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, studying Physics with emphasis in Astronomy.  Lauren is spending the summer abroad at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.