Studying abroad is an expansive experience that is talked about in thin and narrow ways. When asked about it in conversation, typically trite and banal phrases are mustered: It was “life-changing” or “mind-broadening” are usual suspects. To be fair, these words are absolutely correct, but so much is packed into each pair of words. It can be difficult to speak about a period in life that can be so sensory overloading. Even for me, it is an experience that I continue to unpack from my mind months later. Still, it’s a disservice to one’s actual experience not to try to provide more substance.
I spent the fall semester in Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic — a country self-described as the heart of Europe, situated between Austria, Germany, Slovakia and Poland. The excellent program Cultural Experiences Abroad (CEA) was my middleman provider. They settled all document and visa work, lessening all my burdens save the required financial payments. The program was even kind enough to enroll me in Anglo-American University, the school CEA partners with. It was a fascinatingly diverse university, a hodgepodge of Czechs, Germans, Americans, Kazakhs, Palestinians, Syrians, Norwegians, Dutch, Russians, English, Vietnamese, etc, etc. It placed the tired adage of America as a “melting-pot” of cultures to shame. My trip was a veritable trek back to the old world, a reverse Columbus. Unlike Columbus, my interactions with the natives were amicable and ended significantly less bloody. [Read more…]