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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.

Overcoming the Language Barrier

One major part of the study abroad program is that each student stays with a host family for the entirety of the trip. In an effort to fully emerge us into French culture, the family kind of adopts us into their daily life and most importantly, they only talk to us in French. In theory, this seems like a very good idea as it provides us with the best possible way of improving our French, as we are constantly around the language and are forced to use it to communicate. However, it also has an unintended side effect by the way that it clearly delineates the presence of a language barrier, an obstacle I had never considered until I arrived here. Now, it is true that I do speak some French, but it’s more like what I like to refer to as “baby French”. And trust me, I had no misguided beliefs that I was going to arrive here and just start spurting perfect French. It takes a lot of effort for me to speak French conversationally, especially in the beginning. I had to think about everything I wanted to say very carefully. Then there is the added struggle of comprehending what is being said to me. It’s not too bad in a one-on-one conversation, but I’ve been staying with a family of seven. So every dinner or breakfast is kind of like a marathon for me as I try to keep up with everything that is being said, as both the parents and the children talk at full speed over each other.

I think this was such a big shift for me because I’ve always been able to articulate exactly what I want to say so that it is perceived and understood in the way that I want it to come across (at least to a certain extent). But, in French, I can’t do that. Furthermore, the way I communicate is a direct illustration of my personality. I’m a little sarcastic and silly all at the same time, all of which I communicate through my choice of words and tone. But again, in French, I can’t communicate that with my words. Realizing this made me feel as though my host family would never really get to know me and that inversely, I would never fully understand them. I had never fully understood the concept of a language barrier until that moment. Language can serve as a bridge that connects people or it can serve as a wall that isolates you. However, it wasn’t the source of the isolation, but only the tool used by it to enhance something that was already present. As with most emotions, the sense of isolation I felt came from the inside, created and cultivated by me.

Looking back on the first two weeks that I was in Lyon, when I felt this sense of isolation the most intensely, I can easily see how my host family continually tried to connect with me and include me in their family. They were kind as well as attentive and during group discussions, like the ones that would occur at dinner, they would slow down to make sure that I could understand, ask me questions so that I could join the conversation, and patiently wait as I tried to articulate my idea. My obstacle wasn’t the language or even being intimidated by the rapid French of my host family, it was me. I needed to be patient with myself, allow myself to make mistakes, and most importantly, to keep trying. In the end, when I look back on my trip, my host family was probably one of the best parts. I will be forever happy that they decided to adopt me into their home and that I put out the effort to make a connection with them, instead of allowing the language barrier to form a wall in between us.


Hannah-Kaye Carter is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City double majoring in chemistry and psychology with minors in French and biology. She is spending her summer abroad with the Faculty-Led UMKC French Language Summer in Lyon, France. Hannah-Kaye was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where she lived until she immigrated to the United States at 9 years old. Currently, Hannah-Kaye is a member of the UMKC Pre-Med Society and a member of the Educate Organize and Advocate Committee. Additionally, she volunteers at the W.E.B. Dubois Learning Center as an assistant teacher in their subtraction classroom every Saturday morning. Her hope is to someday go to medical school, become a doctor, and eventually become a member of Doctors without Borders.


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.

No Worries in Café Clazic

A typical day for me looked like this:

My friends and I walk, three in a line, down the sidewalk to the café I had looked up online two hours prior to our designated meeting time. We met at the CU, “convenience store 4 you!”, outside our shared campus dorm, and started the familiar stroll down the sidewalks leading away from Dongguk towards the Chungmoro subway station.

The thing about walking after driving a car for, well, forever is that it seems like a hassle at first. But then it becomes less annoying. Then it starts to turn into a slight enjoyment. And then that small joy in the act finally culminates into a full-blown appreciation. Walking is now like second nature and I wish more of the United States was walkable.

The sky is overcast and looks like it could pour down rain any minute, but none of us had thought to bring an umbrella. On our walk to the nearby café, we make small talk concerning our university course load, the other areas in Seoul we’ve been to, and the topic that had my stomach in knots: our last days in South Korea.

They were coming fast and dwindling down into hurried goodbyes, tearful promises of meeting again, and long flights back to the countries we came from.

My last two weeks in Seoul made me realize something. Nothing big or dramatic, but still relevant to the person I was growing into. That something then slowly crystalized into a myriad of feelings and emotions that eventually snowballed into a seemingly all-encompassing pressure on the person I thought I was.

Our trio passes the familiar GS 25, their signs a signature blue and red and white – inviting and welcoming to all searching for the nearest convenience store, then the Two-Two fried chicken restaurant which was always busy, and finally the ever-faithful Tteokbokki Party. The chain store acts as a marker for me, either traveling to campus or to the station, that I am on the right path and close to where I want to be. Instead of taking the left to cross the street and find the stairs that lead underground to Chungmoro station, we keep walking across the pedestrian crosswalk spanning six lanes hoping the drivers, who weren’t known for their “pedestrian first” mentality, wouldn’t do anything reckless.

After safely making it across, we continue straight on our path watching the darkening sky hoping it wouldn’t decide to rain. This part of town seems darker and gloomier than the other side of the street – the streets we knew well and came to love. It seems like a “wrong side of town” kind of feel. Much less tourist-y and full with hole-in-the-wall mom and pop type of shops. Finding the café I chose is much harder and more difficult than I anticipated. We wandered the streets crisscrossing and backtracking multiple times, all three of us too stubborn to give up.

Finally, I pull out my Naver maps, the Google maps of Korea, and type in Café Clazic. According to my maps, we were standing right in front of the coffee shop. Frantically we look around hoping the map app is trustworthy and we were closer to getting some caffeine. My friend spots the sign advertising the café and pointing to the building on our left with the letters “2F” indicating it is on the second floor.

Relieved, we make the climb to the second level and pause at the unassuming door double-checking within the group we are entering the right place. Reassured, we slide the door to the side and are greeted with the rustic interior of Café Clazic. The inside is dark, an old attic type of ambiance, with wooden chairs and desks scattered around. The ordering bar and expresso machines are located on the far right side. At least one mirror adorns every wall, giving you a glimpse of not only yourself but the other customers in the single room. Off to the side, another small room is connected but with a drastically different theme. This room is bright and light and filled with plants and flowers. In the middle, for decoration and the main point (according to the multiple Instagram posts tagging the location) is the claw-foot bathtub artfully filled to the top with leaves and petals. Small stools and crates surround the tub indicating the tub itself is usable as a table. This is further supported by the clear covering laying over half the tub on the end allowing drinks to be placed on top of that side.

Cafés like this, themed and artistically decorated, dot the landscape and seem to be deeply embedded into the culture of Seoul. From a complete pink environment, to plants and flowers bringing nature to the concrete city center, to animal-inspired themed cafes – Seoul has it all. This is the place to come and be surrounded by environments you see in magazines, movies, Instagram discover page, and what you imagine how you would decorate your future apartment when you have the money and the freedom of adulthood. These are places to meet friends, do business, study, or just enjoy what the city of Seoul has to offer.

Within the cafes of Seoul, for me, there are no worries. There are only good coffee and good company in a city I have come to love and feel comfortable in. Here in the center of one of busiest cities in the world, there’s peace and quiet in whatever café you choose or happen to chance by. Sitting in the chairs, nestled in the atmosphere that is quintessentially and unmistakably Seoul, enjoying either your own singular presence in the bustle of the country capital or that of a like-minded friend there is a quiet inner understanding and feeling of being settled for that small moment of the forever that seems to be your life.

Seoul is cafés and friends and traveling and endless opportunities to do and be whatever you want. At least as an exchange student. These past two weeks, I have learned I am stronger than I give myself credit for and I can endure much more than I think.


Emily Stahl is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Marketing at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. Emily will spend the semester abroad in South Korea participating in the Dongguk University exchange program. She is a member of the Delta Zeta sorority, Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, and Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society. Being from a small town north of KC, Emily is excited to live and study in the city of Seoul for 4 months. She looks forward to gaining a better perspective and understanding of the culture and society within South Korea. Emily is also eagerly anticipating expanding her knowledge of business interactions on an international scale and to meet people and make new connections while abroad.


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.

5 airports, 6 days: Traveling to Amman, Jordan

Hello from Amman, Jordan! I begin my 4-week Arabic language immersion program on Monday, and I am so excited to learn, explore, and experience what this amazing city has to offer. My study abroad destination and my choice of study is not common, so I’ll answer the question that everyone has asked me since I signed my commitment form to the program: <em>”Why Arabic?”</em>

My favorite thing to do is learn, whether it’s a corny joke, a philosopher’s world view, or a way to clean the kitchen more efficiently. I truly believe that the acquisition of knowledge not only makes smarter people, but more worldly and understanding of people. With this perspective, I addressed my UMKC foreign language requirement differently than my classmates. Rather than continuing what little Spanish I learned in high school, I decided to take Arabic, a language spoken by over 300 million people, mostly in the Middle East and North Africa. In my first semester, I was initially overwhelmed by the difficulty, but then fell in love with the vocabulary, new alphabet, and cultural knowledge that came with the language classes. After four semesters, I decided to study abroad with AMIDEAST, a new third-party provider with UMKC in Amman, Jordan. I hope that the immersion experience will solidify my current knowledge and be a foundation for further growth. However, I didn’t travel to Jordan first; instead, I traveled to Cairo, Egypt for a week to see the sights. To get to Cairo, and eventually Amman, I took 5 flights in 6 days— see my adventure below.

I cannot wait to share my experiences with you- stay tuned!

-Caroline

Caroline Moriarty is a sophomore at the University of Missouri- Kansas City double majoring in political science and music. Caroline is spending the summer semester abroad with the AMIDEAST Intensive Arabic Program in Amman, Jordan. At UMKC, Caroline is a Trustees’ Scholar, member of the Honors College and Mortar Board, and the Vice President of the UMKC College Democrats. She hopes to attend graduate or law school in order to pursue a career in international relations, diplomacy, or public policy.


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.

Exploration

As of today, I’ve been in Lyon for exactly three weeks. In spite of this fact, I still haven’t been able to shake the excitement that I feel when I think about the fact that I’ve been living in Europe. It’s kind of silly, I know, but that feeling of excitement still hasn’t worn off. Even though, I’ve been able to explore a lot of the city by now, there is still so much I haven’t seen as there is so much to do and see here. I love everything about Lyon, the people, the food, but especially the architecture. To me it is the most beautiful part of the city and it is so full of history.

For example, there is a section of the city called Vieux Lyon, which literally means old Lyon. That part of the city holds all of the oldest buildings and is one of Europe’s largest Renaissance neighborhoods. Vieux Lyon is divided into three sections, each of which has its own specific style of architecture. There is the Saint Jean quarter, which was constructed in the Middle ages, where all the buildings in that region exemplify gothic architecture. The best example of this is definitely St. Jean’s cathedral, which is pictured on the right. Walking around in that cathedral was completely surreal and it left me wondering how they could have possibly managed to build something like this at a time when flashlights where not even an idea that had been imagined yet. However, it is nothing compared to the Basilique de Fouvrière (on the left), which has ceilings so beautiful that most people who enter the cathedral spend half of their time there, just gawking at the ceiling.

Then there is also the Saint Paul section, where many Italian bankers/merchants had settled in the 15th and 16th century. As a result of this, all the buildings in this region resemble those that you would find in Italy. Finally, and probably the most interesting section, at least according to me, is the Saint Georges quarter, where there are actually secret passageways throughout the buildings known as les traboules. It might have my inner child or just the fact that I love adventure movies, but even though they were created for very practical reasons, to help silk weavers transport their products, walking through les traboules was probably one the most exciting part of exploring the city for me.

With that said, I feel like it’s only fair that I share the downsides to living in Lyon, all two of them. Firstly, almost everyone smokes and they smoke everywhere: in the house, in the university, on the metro, and at the bus stop. Just everywhere! You can’t escape it. No matter where you go, you will always be choking on someone’s cigarette smoke. However, I’m pretty sure that this habit isn’t just specific to Lyon. Secondly, the bathroom situation is a source of continual annoyance. Either, the bathroom is incredibly disgusting or you have to pay to go to the bathroom. Yes, you read that correctly, pay to use the bathroom! I’m sure they have a semi-logical reason for doing this, which at this point I don’t know and can’t think of, but I will never understand paying to use the bathroom. If you need to use the bathroom, you just have to use the bathroom. This isn’t something you can control. And I know you must be thinking, “Oh you could probably just sneak in”, but no, you really can’t, as there is a worker who stays in the bathroom at all times, monitoring who comes and goes to the bathroom. A riveting job, I’m sure! In spite of these two things, I wouldn’t trade my summer in Lyon for anything.

 


Hannah-Kaye Carter is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City double majoring in chemistry and psychology with minors in French and biology. She is spending her summer abroad with the Faculty-Led UMKC French Language Summer in Lyon, France. Hannah-Kaye was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where she lived until she immigrated to the United States at 9 years old. Currently, Hannah-Kaye is a member of the UMKC Pre-Med Society and a member of the Educate Organize and Advocate Committee. Additionally, she volunteers at the W.E.B. Dubois Learning Center as an assistant teacher in their subtraction classroom every Saturday morning. Her hope is to someday go to medical school, become a doctor, and eventually become a member of Doctors without Borders. 

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.

Tranquilidad, a Costa Rican way of life

Tranquila.

If you don’t speak Spanish, it’s a word that describes calm, a general free from worry, and most importantly, the laid back attitude of Costa Rica.

It’s also one of the most common phrases or expressions you’ll hear, especially if you’re an American with an anxiety disorder who worries about literally everything. Typically, this word is used as an adjective in Spanish, but in Costa Rican Spanish, they’ve adapted this word into a command, and a way of life.

Before I left, I had read about this, and noted that it was best to remain calm in all situations here, because Costa Ricans value peace over everything.

My first real experience with this expression was during an Uber ride home…after dark. It gets dark around 6:00 P.M. here, so even if you´re not out super late, it feels like you are.

Also a fun side note, in Costa Rica, addresses are a bit…different, to say the least. The way they navigate through a city is by using a focal point (we use the local mall), then describing how far you have to walk in a direction from that focal point…then describing what the house looks like.

There are street signs, people have tried to modernize the address system, but the old ways have stuck. Which means if you’re not a local, you could be stuck scratching your head while you’re trying to ask for help from strangers.

Back to the Uber ride.

Because addresses are different here, Uber only let me put in the beginning of the address, which luckily was the name of the area. It won’t exactly take the driver to your home stay, but it’ll land you somewhat near there. I also have a picture of the front of the house so that I remember what it looks like.

Nuestra Casa Costarricense, Our Costa Rican House

So the Uber driver stops where we’re apparently supposed to get out, but my roommate and I aren’t quite familiar with the area yet and its also dark…so my anxiety starts to set in.

I nervously tell the driver in Spanish that we don’t know where we are, and that we are new here. He genuinely tries to help us, but it’s hard because Spanish isn’t our first language, and we don’t exactly know what to do in this situation.

I remembered that our host mom had written down the ‘address’ on a piece of paper and gave it to us, so I gave this to the driver and also pulled open Google Maps so that I could try to get a sense of where we were in the area. I vaguely remember a bit more and tell the driver, but he completely passes the area and gets back on the main road.

And then, the anxiety started to creep in even more.

While my roommate and I have gotten a bit more of a sense as to where we were, my nerves got the best of me and I tell him too excitedly that he passed it, and that we have to go back.

“Tranquila.”

This was the word he uttered to me as he turned around and attempted to get back to where we needed to be.

My roommate described this to me later because I didn’t see it, but I guess he gave me a look, like he was genuinely concerned for me and also not sure why I was so on edge.

Of course, we made it home, and we thanked him a million times. One of my Costa Rican friends told me that people here will genuinely try to help you, and he technically did not have to go so out of his way to make sure we made it just to the house, because the Uber application told us we had reached our destination that we put in. I made sure to tip him well.

So with one week down, I’m remembering to keep my head together and stay calm in a foreign country. And remember my friends,

“Tranquila.”

Everything will be all right.


Sarah Schleicher is a senior at the University of Missouri – Kansas City majoring in Spanish and minoring in Latinx Studies. She will be taking the last two required classes for her B.A. this summer in Heredia, Costa Rica. She is currently a Pre-K teacher and Enrichment Coordinator, and she would eventually like to work supporting Spanish speaking children.

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.

Spain, you have stolen my heart

Part of the city of Arts and Sciences. I live 5 minutes on bike from here and it is breathtaking.

Wow, it has been 2 weeks since I embarked on a journey of a lifetime. You guys want to know a secret??? Spain is AMAZING!!! I know… it is hard to believe. I am walking/biking about 6-10 miles a day in Spain, yes…most of the time I feel disgusting and sweaty, but so does everyone else so who cares?! The driving here is horrible, gas is $8 per gallon or more, traffic is a nightmare, and there is not a lot of available parking so most people walk, bike, bus, or scooter. My roommate and I chose biking to get some exercise and burn off the calories from all the delicious foods we are eating! Plus, there is a bike system built into the roadways called Valenbici so you’re never too far away from transportation.

Café and a delicious pastry = always a great day!

Want to know another secret?? Coffee in the United States sucks. Did I think that 2 weeks ago? Lol, no. But, Spain is known for having amazing coffee along with the rest of Europe, and that is no lie. It’s pretty funny because everyone in Spain, including my host family laughs at how Americans make coffee; (lots of water and very little café so they say). Here it’s about 3-5oz, super concentrated, and VERY strong. While it is a very different taste than what I am used to, it is a very delicious one.

I am loving my new host mom and dad (we had to get re-homed after our first 4 days in Valencia because we were being “neglected”… yikes, I know, but that’s a story for a later date). My current host family is a very sweet couple without any kids of their own, and my roommate and I are the first adults they have ever hosted and for the longest amount of time. They usually host 13-14 year old French students for 4-5 days at a time, but made an exception for us due to our previous situation and we couldn’t be happier that they did. I have been to Madrid, Toledo, Valencia, and Barcelona so far in Spain and I have to say… my host mom makes food better than anything I have had in a restaurant in any of those places thus far. My host mom is also Colombian so we get a mix of Spanish and Colombian foods and it’s always fresh and made from scratch. Did I tell you she is an amazing???

I will never get tired of the views here.

Even though I may be eating a lot here (is it really that much when you’re burning them all? I think not). I feel healthier because a lot of “things” in foods at home are not legal here. The fruit is the sweetest and freshest I’ve ever tasted (pineapple here is out of this world), the meat is very different and always fresh, and I will never look at a “tortilla” the same again. I put the word tortilla in quotes because the tortillas here are made with eggs and potatoes (and other things depending on the type) and are about an inch thick. No, you can’t wrap it like a burrito or make it into a quesadilla, it’s like a side dish. When we told our professor what a tortilla was back home she said it sounded disgusting. After having these I think so too!

A view from “El Castillo” a castle in Peñiscola, Spain. Fun fact, Game of Thrones used this castle to film the city of Meereen!

There are some things I’m missing from home…like water. Calm down, I am staying hydrated, but it is nowhere near as accessible in Valencia as it is at home. There are no water fountains (except a few in the park for runners), and everyone buys giant things of plastic water bottles for their homes because there is no faucet connected to the fridge. Ice is also almost non-existent, but, with all that being said, it’s only one pitfall of being here and I’ve found some pretty creative ways to stay hydrated and get water, so, I’ll survive.

With everything I have experienced in Valencia so far, I think my favorite is going to the beach. There are so many cool things about the city and places to explore, but living in the Midwest, where beaches don’t exist, I love being able to just go put my toes in the sand and hang out. It is usually peaceful and empty during the week and I love going in-between my classes to lay in the sun, listen to the waves, journal, and just fully enjoy and soak up my life right now. The ocean is still pretty chilly though (June is the start of their hotter months) but after laying out or playing sand volleyball for a while it is nice and refreshing to get in.

One view from the top of the castle in Peñiscola. Absolutely gorgeous.

I have met so many amazing friends in my program and they are all wonderful people. This country/program has brought together 28 students from all over the United States and after a short 24 hours together, most of us felt like we had been friends for years. Everyone in our group is at different levels in their Spanish journeys which I think kind of makes this trip more fun; learning from those above you and then teaching those who are aren’t as strong yet in their Spanish abilities. Nevertheless, we all mess up and struggle with things and that is just part of learning.

I still have so much I want to share with you about my journey thus far. I am not trying to write a novel for you to read so you will just have to stay tuned for another update and probably some crazy stories.

¡Hasta luego, mis amigos!

¡One happy chica!

 


Madison Keller is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. She is on the pre-medicine track, triple majoring in Spanish, chemistry, and psychology. Madison will spend the summer abroad with the ISA Valencia, Spain Hispanic Studies Program. Madison’s career goals are to attend medical school and incorporate Spanish into all aspects of her life and career.

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.