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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.

It’s Okay to Sleep

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

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

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

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

 

Český Krumlov is even more beautiful at night.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In Awe of Prague and Beyond

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

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

St. Stephens Cathedral
Vienna Parliament

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

Sound of Music Tour

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

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


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

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

A Bizarre Pairing of Dreams and Fears

All week I have been anxiously awaiting Saturday, June 1st, the day that marks the beginning of my study abroad adventure in
Lyon with a 14 hour and 50-minute journey into another hemisphere. Although, I have spent the majority of my short life daydreaming about what it would be like to live in France, the food I would eat, the people I would meet, and all the adventures I would have, the majority of my thoughts leading up to my departure have been rooted in a mixture of fear and anxiety with a small sprinkling of excitement that easily disappears within my nervousness. My apprehensive and ever restless mind races through all the possible pitfalls I could encounter during my once excitedly anticipated adventure that my thoughts have now crafted into a somewhat unwelcome nightmare. From losing all my luggage to getting robbed in the subway and being left penniless, without any form of ID in a foreign country, my mind imagines and brings to life with a startling sense of realness all the bad things that could conceivably befall a naïve and doe-eyed girl such as myself.

This persistent state of worry that has entangled my brain is made worse by my mom’s boundless paranoia. If I’m being completely honest, I had not even considered any of the dangers that come with traveling abroad until my mom started sharing news stories of people who were kidnapped and sold into human trafficking rings with me. Extreme? Yes, but that’s my mom and deep down I know that she does it out of concern for me as she knows that I have a tendency to jump into things head first without really considering all the consequences. Like I said before, I can be a bit naïve. In spite of this self-awareness, just like every other time she’s tried to scare me into taking my head out of the clouds and bring me back to reality, I brush it off and tell her not to be so paranoid. Yet, we’re both aware that her words stick. Acting like a light switch, they turn on all my anxiety and put my brain into an anxious overdrive, forcing me to face a pessimistic reality that I had been suppressing while jolting all my nervous energy back to life.

However, as I sit on an old rickety chair in the crappy basement of the expensive, but yet dilapidated apartment building that I call home with tornado sirens blaring all around me, I’m hit with a sense of calm as I realize that this Saturday I get to escape my reality and finally live within my daydream. Despite the fact that no real harm has reached me, the calm demeanor that encompasses my mind and actions during this extremely intense situation assures me that no matter the problems that might await me while abroad, I will be able to take them on with the same calm and sound mind. The sprinkle of excitement for my upcoming trip returns and multiples, growing stronger by the minute, as I come to the realization that fear precedes every exciting and novel adventure that a person takes in life. While our fear serves a purpose of keeping us alert and prepared, it is important to not let it overwhelm us, since in the end, some of our most anticipated fears turn into our most cherished memories or at the very least funny stories that we can use to make ourselves seem more interesting than we really are.

 


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. 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.

STUDY ABROAD TIPS

Who ME?

As a first-generation college student, I never thought college was possible. I did not think I could afford to study abroad. However, I have a few tips that have helped me get to this point.

Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri

Start EARLY!

As soon as I transferred to UMKC I emailed Study Abroad and Global Engagement. Within my first meetings with SAGE, they helped me create a list of deadlines to complete and resources on campus that can help me along the way.

Choose a Program That Works for YOU

As a Health Science Major, it was hard for me to find an appropriate program that worked with my degree and would not push back my graduation. The staff at SAGE mentioned to me a Summer Faculty-Led Program would work great for me since it is in the summer and it will provide 9 college credit hours towards a Spanish Language minor and/or major.

Apply to SCHOLARSHIPS

When I saw the total cost of how much it was to study abroad, I almost gave up and said: “there is no way I can afford that”. However, there are various ways to pay for study abroad programs with scholarships. One great scholarship called The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program is open to U.S. Citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant. This scholarship has two scholarship cycles for the summer term. The summer “early” application is due in October and the summer “regular” application in March. I am grateful to have received a significant Gilman Scholarship. Study Abroad and Global Engagement provides scholarships to students as well.

Use Campus RESOURCES

There are resources on campus that can help you with the scholarship process. At the beginning of my career at UMKC, I did not know we had the Writing Studio who can proofread your paper for organization, content, and grammar. This is a great resource to use if you are applying to the Gilman Scholarship or a SAGE scholarship. Another set of eyes is always good to make sure your paper is well written.

Start Saving MONEY

Setting a small reasonable amount can be helpful when things you didn’t even think of can come up. For example, an outlet converter/adaptor, travel size hygiene products and even a checked bag fee. Things can come up and having some spare money to be able to make purchases like this can really come in handy.

As the days count down, it just goes to show how fast time goes by. My first year at UMKC went by so quickly! There were many obstacles along the way. I stuck through them and everything worked out. In just a few weeks I will be leaving my hometown, Kansas City to immerse myself into a different environment for 6 weeks in Malaga, Spain to continue finding my passion and learning more about myself.


Brian Ramirez is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City and a Kansas City native. He is studying health science and Spanish. Brian is spending the summer abroad as a Gilman Scholar with the Faculty-Led UMKC Spanish Language Summer in Malaga, Spain.

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 Abroad

The time is finally here. The time to pack up my bags, say goodbye to family and friends, and say hello to a new country and a new adventure. I have wanted to study abroad ever since my freshman year at UMKC, but now that the time is finally here, I am not sure what to think. See, up until this moment it has been a dream, a journey that always seemed far into the future. But now it is here, waiting for me to get on a plane, abandon my routine and comfortability, and open myself up to countless new adventures, new friends, and the opportunity to experience the world through a different lens; and for that, I couldn’t be more excited.

My name is Madison Keller, I am on the Pre-Medicine track at UMKC triple majoring in Chemistry, Psychology, and Spanish, and will be studying abroad for 6 weeks in Valencia, Spain to continue learning about the language and culture. I discovered Spanish in eighth grade during a world languages course and was hooked from the get go. I am now a senior at UMKC and have taken a Spanish course every year, for the last eight years. I know what you’re thinking, “wow, she must be fluent by now!” No… I am definitely not, but I am hoping that living in the country and being fully immersed in all aspects of the way of life in Spain will help push me toward my goal of fluency and increase my confidence in speaking the language with natives.

Image result for valencia spain map
I will be studying in Valencia, Spain!

On top of taking two courses in Valencia, one in grammar, and another in culture, I also have the opportunity to complete what is called an Independent Study on a topic of my choice for additional course credits at UMKC. Because I want to go into the medical field, I thought what better way to incorporate the two things I am passionate about; Medicine and Spanish! So, I will be researching the differences in the health care systems of the United States vs. Spain and narrowing in on mental health and emergency medicine. I will be conducting interviews with physicians and pharmacists, do a LOT of research and then compile it all into a minimum, 30 page paper! Seems like a lot, right?! Maybe so, but I can’t wait to get started learning. So, on top of hearing about my courses, the city, and all my adventures, you will also probably be hearing about my independent study and the progression of my research! So exciting!

This is my pup, Mowgli.. as you can see, he did not want me to pack for Spain.

Now, getting ready for this trip seems like it has taken me forever. Everyone says to “pack light”, but when you are leaving for 6 weeks, what does that even mean?! I have packed, re-packed, and re-re-packed like 4 times all in an effort in trying to “pack light” and I still don’t think I have done it as “light” as maybe it should be; but oh well. The hardest part in getting ready to leave the country though is not packing. It is saying goodbye to my pup, Mowgli. You see, he is VERY attached to me. Not seeing his dorky, hilarious, lovable personality and squeezing his face for six weeks is definitely the hardest part about leaving. He’s my rock and my best little friend so it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t dedicate part of this post to him. But I have to take this once in a lifetime opportunity and I know he will be safe and happy while I am gone and get LOTS of love; even though all of that is WAY easier said than done and I am going to be crying like a baby when it’s time to leave.

While I am excited and a little uneasy about leaving, I know once I get there and settle in, I probably won’t want to come home. I think I am ready for this incredible journey in T-minus 2 days, and I am excited for you to follow along with me and my adventures! Let’s do this!

 


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.