As sad as this makes me, I know my semester abroad in Prague is quickly coming to an end, and this means of course, that the impending doom we all like to call finals is rapidly approaching.
As previously stated, I truly enjoy my classes abroad. I am taking Czech language, Journalism in the Facebook Era, Impact of Media in Central Europe, History of the Jews in Bohemia, and Art and Architecture of Prague. Although I find comfort and excitement in learning, especially when I am learning something new about the country in which I currently reside, there is no doubt in my mind that I have been dreading this week all semester.
CIEE is a wonderful program. They truly prepare you for everything you need to know about living in Prague and studying at Charles University. However, I feel that some of my professors are taking the course work more seriously than expected. In my Jewish history class, I have a 10-page paper, an exam, and a presentation that are all coming up in the next week. On top of having class during finals, studying and writing for other courses, and preparing for my last weekend trip, I feel a tad overwhelmed with school at the moment.
I understand that studying abroad is supposed to be a time of studying and not just having numerous weekend vacations, and trust me; I always make times for my studies because they are the ultimate priority. I do feel, however, that I have learned so much more over this semester about different cultures, countries, geography and myself, than I have learned in a lifetime of school. Studying abroad has been the most rewarding and amazing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
By the time I leave Europe, I will have traveled to 9 different countries and 14 cities within them. I’ve learned about cultural differences and the history of countries that I never even knew existed. For example, Germany is full of states like the US, and those states have multiple cities within them, and there is a stereotype for Northern Germans vs. Southern Germans, just like the differences between people and life in the north and the south of the United States.
I think the most interesting thing I have learned about Europe is that it is smaller than the whole of the United States, yet every city and every country has its own language, culture, and history, but they all overlap with each other. In the United States, there is a clear difference between Chicago and Bloomington in terms of lifestyle and accents. There are even larger differences between people in places like Barcelona, Spain and Madrid, Spain in terms of language and culture, within the same country. Proximity, I have noticed, has nothing to do with similarity, because the history of all of these cities is so lengthy and the pride of each nation seems to be so important in their respective societies.
This makes me wonder if it has to do with the fact that the United States is so isolated in comparison to the European Union (except for Canada and Mexico). I have also learned that there is so much more I would like to see in my own country. There is nothing at all wrong with openly having a map and taking pictures of just about everything. In my opinion, it shows that you are praising the city or country in which you are traveling, and I think that instills a sense of pride in the local people. When I return to the United States at the end of this month, I plan to be a tourist in my own country so that maybe others will follow, and our sense of pride for the cities we live in will be obvious to those who are just passing by for a weekend.
I think the reason for this need for tourism in my own country comes from the fact that I’ve been bitten badly by the “travel bug”. Until I can make my way back to Europe to live, or travel the rest of the world, I know that I need to take a break from my life as a nomad. Traveling to a new city every weekend is exhausting, but I am so grateful for the great times I have had. I have seen countless Unesco World Heritage Sights, checked thousands of things off of my life bucket list, and met the most amazing people who I know will be in my life forever.
I will be terribly sad to leave Prague because this city has given me so much, but I am comforted in the fact that I will always have friends all over the world, including in the United States, if I ever decide to bring out my nomadic tendencies again.