It’s been an amazing four months here in Prague. I was really nervous about coming here; after all, I knew nothing about the culture, the language, or the people. But I’ve learned so much. I’ve met Czech people, listened to Czech music, eaten Czech food, and learned a tiny bit of Czech (like, a very very small amount).
This experience has definitely been eye-opening, as I’ve learned so much about a place that isn’t really talked about in the United States. There’s a whole world out here that I knew nothing about, a world full of people and governments with their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s been a blessing to be able to travel here and truly grasp the differences between the Czech Republic and the United States.
Perhaps the most eye-opening experience was when I took an NYU trip to Ostrava, an industrial city in the Czech Republic. If I were to compare it to a U.S. city, I would compare it to Detroit. Ostrava is the home to the largest Roma population in the Czech Republic. The Roma have been systematically discriminated against, and there’s open discrimination against them in Europe, which was both surprising and heartbreaking. Many of the Roma live in poverty, and our visit to a Roma slum in Ostrava was so eye-opening as to the conditions of these people and slums in general. Of course, not all Roma live like this, but the ones who do at times have no running water and no electricity. Some of the people we spoke to were being evicted by their very corrupt landlord because they openly talked about the horrible conditions to the press. But there was some hope, as a local NGO called Life Together works with the Roma people in various aspects of life, whether it be education, housing, or employment. It was really humbling to see how they were helping the Roma community. And it’s definitely an NGO I will support in the future.
But Prague was home, and I truly loved it. Prague is so accommodating to foreigners, and there is a relatively large expat community here. Even if people don’t speak English, they’re willing to help you and are happy when you say thank you or goodbye in Czech (even if that’s all you know how to say). So while I’m so excited to go home (1 more week!), I know I’m going to miss Prague, its colorful buildings, its lovely people, and its amazing public transportation system. I’m going to miss the people I’ve met here too, the ones I won’t be able to see in New York, like my manager at my internship, the NYU Prague RAs, and the other NYU Prague staff. Add to that the students who go to other NYU locations.
It’s going to be weird going back to skyscrapers and car horns. It’s also going to be weird to not say “dobrý den” (hello) or “děkuji” (thank you) when I go to the grocery store. But it’s also going to be great to understand the nutritional facts on the back of a pack of cookies.
If you’re thinking about studying abroad, come to Prague. It won’t disappoint. You’ll love it as much as I do.