Interest in Prague
September 2016, I received an email from my SSS counselor encouraging me to apply for a summer study abroad program through the SSS program.
*Want to know what SSS is, click on I Found My Niche
I ignored the email because I had my heart set on studying abroad for a year. I wanted wholesome experience and one summer just wasn’t enough.
Early October, I received another email.
This time the email indicated the deadline for the program was quickly approaching. I decided to give it a glance.
A new country (Prague, Czech Republic) was added to the list.
I took some time to do a little research about the Czech Republic. I was drawn to the beautiful architecture, the culture, as well as it’s rich history. From there I decided to apply for the program and I got in!
While in Prague, the demographic and cultural differences of the country were very obvious. Although Europe is full of different cultures and people, It is no secret that the Czech Republic is primarily white. The only time I encountered people with varying skin tones was when I went to Prague 1 (Praha 1) because Prague 1 is known for its tourism.
There weren’t many people like me around so everywhere I went everyone looked/stared harder than need be. I thought it was because of my unusual hair and skin color. I wasn’t in the country for long and I already wanted to go home because I wasn’t exactly prepared for this kind of attention.
Being dark-skinned, I assumed the looks and stares were critical and unfriendly.
I later found out, midway into my trip, that in the Czech culture, people don’t smile when walking past others. One day, a girl stopped me to ask what I did to get my hair that bright purple color and complimented my beautiful skin. Before stopping me she gave me a weird look. Based on the other looks I’ve received, I felt self-conscious. I did all I could to avoid eye contact with her but it happened. That’s when she said what she said.
After that, I couldn’t help but smile because I finally got an explanation for the looks I kept getting. I became more aware that the looks were out of curiosity than judgment.
Took a while to get comfortable in this new culture but I got comfortable with people asking me things I wouldn’t normally hear walking in the U.S streets. This made me feel significantly better because it removed the way minorities are viewed in the U.S. from my mind and I started to embrace this cultural norm.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some things I just couldn’t adapt to.
My friends and I visited the Prague zoo. On the bus ride back to our dorms, a lady reaches past a couple of people to touch my hair. I looked back and scolded her because not only did she invade my privacy but she didn’t ask before doing so. She just casually smiled at me like that was something normal to do.
Note: lack of personal space is very real in Europe. People are friendly about it but it is VASTLY different to the bubble Americans tend to keep around themselves.
I moved away from her to hint that I didn’t want to be touched. Her social cues were obviously off because she moved closer to touch my hair some more! I eventually moved to the other side of the bus to avoid her completely. I was aggravated through that whole ride until I got back to the dorms.
The second time was when my friends and I went out to dinner. I kind of understood the curiosity behind this, but it was still uncalled for. During dinner, a lady stops my friends and I to ask where we were from. We explained to her, we are American students studying in Prague. She took a long pause and asked if we were all friends because we were so different. And what happened next after I couldn’t make up even if I tried. She continued to stand by our table and as we looked away from her towards the other side of our table, her husband had a professional camera set up on a tripod taking pictures of our interactions without our permission.
My trip to Prague brought me closer to figuring out who I am as a person and gave me lifelong friends I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Not only did it strengthen my core values and morals but this trip also helped me figure out what I would like to study in college and the kind of experience I’d like to have while in college.
It also made me more aware of my insecurities and taught me how to embrace them.
Being away from the United States, I realized the amount of stress I put on myself. The United States is a very mono-chronic country whereas the Czech Republic is a poly-chronic country. In the United States, I felt I had a specific amount of time in a day to get XYZ done or I wasn’t good enough. This all changed in the Czech Republic for me through observation. People in Prague would just sit in the park for 1-2 hours just casually drinking beer and having a conversation with their friends with no care in the world. This was everyday life. People made sure to be as relaxed as they could be at all times and I adopted this into my life.
Before Prague, I was focused on becoming an Engineer. After my trip, I decided to take more of an interest in Anthropology, to learn more about other cultures and the perspectives of people around the world, while deciding if Engineering was for me. I am proud to say this decision led me to complete my Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology in 3 years while doing research with the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at my university. Also, I will be taking a year off to teach in China before going back for my second Bachelors in Engineering. Without this trip, I wouldn’t have thought about taking a break from school to get a new perspective and to gain a new experience.
Challenge: Visit Prague and try to get lost! It's impossible.
If you have any questions feel free to contact me!
Must Try foods
Kofola (Prague’s coca cola)
Old Town Square/Astronomical Clock
Lennon Wall (with these beauties)
Národní divadlo (Prague National Theater)
Franz Kafka Head (It rotates)
Pertin Tower aka Prague Eiffel Tower (amazing view from the top)