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Religion, Government, and the Czech Republic: It’s complicated.

***First I want to say that I am not here to tell anyone what to think or what to believe.  I am also not attempting to critique any particular religion.  My goal is to inform those who read this of the complicated relationship between religion, government, and the people within the Czech Republic.***

Last Friday we went to a little town outside of Prague called Kutna Hora to see a bone chapel.  The size of the chapel was underwhelming, but the amount of bones in the chapel was astounding!  I took pictures of the story behind the chapel’s creation.

Page one! Long story short, the ground here will not break down the bones, so someone decided to make a chapel out of them.
Page two!

Now some pictures of the hauntingly beautiful bones: 

The creepy and awesome bone chandelier. It’s the first thing you see when you enter.

The Czech Republic has a long and difficult history with the Catholic Church.  The churches, cathedrals, and other christian symbols remain; however, the current population of the Czech Republic is overwhelmingly atheist or agnostic.  My professor Dr. Robbins, an American, told us that they also prefer to not discuss their religious leanings in public.  Czechs do have opinions and beliefs, but because of the strict censorship laws and brutal enforcement of such laws under communism there is still a hesitancy for expression.  Similarly, we were informed, that Czechs do not like to be a part of any conformist organization.  The history of the Catholic Church in this area includes methods of control over Czech peoples lives and livelihood, much like what they experienced under communism.  Czechs learn their history like the back of their hand from the time they are 6 years old, so most Czechs come to the same conclusions.

The Czech perspective is helping me redefine what I think it means to be an American.  (I will not share my new opinions regarding that.)  I will say that immersing myself in another culture has given me a newly calibrated lens with which to view myself and others.  I highly recommend study abroad.  It will change your life!!


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.

Travel is fun but rest, food, and homesick cures are important!

Last weekend my classmates and I went to Český Krumlov, Czech Republic.  At that point I’d been in Prague for a little over a week and had been busy every day since (including an 8 mile hike the weekend before).  I was excited for our trip and optimistic about my energy level for the adventure.  Oh how naive I was. Now, don’t get me wrong.  The trip was beautiful.  Some examples of the beauty.

We hiked up to these castle ruins directly from the train station.
Then we hiked from the ruins to Český Krumlov. Beautiful, right?! (SO tired by this point.)

My classmate Val and I had a mission.  Must find fried cheese.  Fried cheese is a Czech thing.  You HAVE to get fried cheese if and or when you visit.  We HAD to find it.  Our mission began around 8.  We left our beautiful bed and breakfast and headed toward the many restaurants we passed on our way to the hotel.

Our bed and breakfast is the adorable yellow building between the two adorable blue buildings.
The view from outside our hotel.  Love!

We made our way back over the bridge into the middle of the town.  I thought to myself,”This is the Europe I signed up for.”  I was overcome with excitement that I was exactly where I wanted to be! (forgetting that all I had to eat that day was two almond bars, yogurt, and a bag of chips…)

The town center. Complete with a phone booth!!

 

Phone booth! (I was way too excited about this.)

Eventually we remembered how hungry we were and how far we’d wandered from the hotel not finding fried cheese!

I’m so hungry-excited!

So, my classmate Val, messages our professor who recommended a place.  Where was this place, you ask?  Here…

Recognize these view?

Yes.  There was fried cheese in the restaurant below our room.  At this point it was about 9:30 and I was feeling the lack of food setting in.  I hoped that my experience with slow service in Prague did not translate to Český Krumlov.  I was wrong.  Just after the sunset Val and I got our fried cheese!

Victory is ours!!

We ate, laughed, shared stories about our lives, and awkwardly interacted with our server.

After dinner, around 10:30, I was fading fast and needed to sleep.  I didn’t quite feel like my usual self, but I thought all I needed was a good night’s sleep.  I happily made it through the first part of the day, seeing art and old telescopes at an old monastery. (I am an astrophysics major.)

Telescope used to look at the sun!

Fun, right?  For a while on this early 7AM day I enjoyed the art, the history, and the physics relics.  After another hike back down to Český Krumlov and up to another castle (twice) I hit an emotional wall.  I needed a break.  I needed to be alone.  I needed to do nothing.  So, I broke from the group, quietly sobbed, and found a calm little cafe.  Through my tears I timidly ordered an espresso and a tiramisu from a barista with an extremely uncomfortable look on her face.

The remains of my sorrowful but delicious snack.

We eventually got on a bus to return to Prague.  I cried half of the way there, missing home, and messaging my friends and my boyfriend.  After words of love and support from the people I love the most I felt a bit better.  New mission: Rest when I need rest!  Now, 4 days later, I feel back to normal.  Plans for this weekend?  I will take it easy and stay in Prague.

Also, when you’re home sick, find a Starbucks.

Homesickness cure.

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.

My first week in Prague I got lost…and so should you!

Oh my how time flies.  I’ve been in Prague for one week to the day!  It feels like I’ve been here just a moment and a month at the same time.  I’m exhausted, excited, and humbled.  I’ve seen the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and so much more!  So far my favorite outing was getting lost looking for Charles Bridge after venturing out into the city on my own.  I was nervous to go out alone but I did it anyway and reaped the benefits of getting lost in a new city.  I thought I knew exactly where I was headed.  I rode the underground public transportation enough to know my way around, or so I thought.  Now, a few pictures for a frame of reference for you all.  Here is Charles Bridge:

The REAL Charles Bridge.

Apparently more than one building as a roof like this….

The Not Charles Bridge.

If you look closely at the photo below you can see the Not Charles Bridge off in the distance.

Just over the rooftops on the left is where I was headed.

After reading signs in Czech that I barely understood I realized that the sun was in the wrong part of the sky for where I thought I should be.  Fortunately I was in an area filled with tourist information stands.  A very nice Czech man drew lines on my map so that I could find my way to Charles Bridge.  “Hooray!” I thought.  “I’ll surely find it now.”  Not quite.

The streets in Prague are not on a grid and many of the streets in the tourist areas do not have street signs like I’m used to seeing in the states.  Their streets look like this.

Confusing, right?!

It just looks like big mess to me.  So, I got lost again but this time I paid attention to the sun and I looked for the tram lines that run through the city on tracks of which I was familiar.  Within a few minutes I found a land mark I knew and eventually found my way to the REAL Charles Bridge!  I spent the rest of the day with my friends and with a new sense of self accomplishment that I wouldn’t have found if I didn’t get lost. (Mental note: Pay attention to the placement of the sun in the sky.) I wonder what lessons week two will have in store for me!


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.

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

Get Involved!

So, this fall I will be attending Masaryk University in Czech Republic for a semester. I am quite excited. I have not even left yet but I am beginning my journey already. I have met some interesting people who have helped me and already learned some things.

I wanna tell you about my friends!!! So I was on facebook and I was looking at student groups. I found a group, ERASMUS Brno. I have already met a ton of students who will be working or studying in Brno. They are so nice. Not everyone is going to Masaryk, some are going to the shoool of technology. But either way, it has been great. These people are from everywhere all over Europe. They have helped me so much. It is so nice to talk to other students who are going through the same thing that I am and they are able to give me advise. They have been there to answer my questions and they have been so great with calming down my fears about my first abroad experience. They have been an experience and doors to the world outside of the U.S. I have gotten to practice my spanish, and learn words in Czech.

And they inform me on shopping- less expensive and a great selection… this may be a problem. I dont think I have enough suitcase space for the shopping I will be doing. Oh the agony!!!!

I got to meet with Kate last week, she was so extremely helpful. I needed that. She sat down with me and helped me plan out my visa process. We went over everything, then she explained some details to me about the trip. I told her I will be landing in Vienna. She told me I should probably stay in Vienna over night and try to enjoy the city while fighting jet lag. I think that it is brilliant, so yes I am now looking for hotels in Vienna. But still have yet to figure out how to get the train from Vienna to Brno.

At this point, I have been so happy to be able to get things accomplished. I am still trying to wrap myself around the fact that I am leaving in a few months. I plan to travel while I am there. Making these plans take so much time and energy. But it is worth it.

My current advice, get involved. Put yourself out there. It will pay off. I would love to hear from the rest of you and get to know how everything is going for you! So please, respond. And who knows, maybe we can meet in your or my host country!