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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.