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Farewell to Prague

Kendall Machledt - Prague

Now that I have completed my two months in Prague, I am left with such a bittersweet feeling. There is a strange aspect to studying abroad, and that is that the friends you’ve spent eight weeks getting to know, going on adventures with, and exploring Europe with go back to their homes all around the world. The first session was pretty large and everyone became quite close, and lots of these friendships carried on through the second session as well. It is difficult saying goodbye to people who, in some cases, are the only other people who know this part of your life, or have experienced these life-shaping moments with you. It can be hard to think about the fact that it is not definite that you will see these friends again.

I believe that is an added long-term benefit of studying abroad, however. Having shared such significant and amazing experiences, that is a big incentive to stay in contact with study abroad friends and keep up the relationships. I also feel that everyone will be more inclined to travel either together or to see one another, now that we mastered the act in Europe and share the same desires.

One friend in particular that I am thankful to have made is Paula. Paula is from Beirut, Lebanon, which is also where she attends school. We both went on a trip to Vienna, Austria our very first weekend in Prague with a few other new friends, which is when we really clicked. The funny thing was that Paula and I were so dissimilar in many ways and had very different lives, but it was also in that way that we complimented each other. Her outgoing personality encouraged me to do things that I may not have otherwise, and definitely played a part in making my time in Europe so unforgettable. I expected to make lots of friends all over the U.S., but had not anticipated starting such a unique friendship with someone across the world.

I have been so thankful to have chosen Prague as my study abroad destination. I had always wanted to visit Prague, and studying abroad there was a great opportunity to get acclimated to the culture and life in a foreign country. Being a vegetarian, I was a little apprehensive about diving into an unfamiliar culture’s cuisine. All I had heard about Czech food was that it is creamy, dense, and primarily meat-based. This proved to be very true! However, out of all the countries I traveled to, the Czech Republic had the most vegetarian-friendly food options. The most popular Czech vegetarian dish is fried cheese, which is essentially a giant Mozzarella stick-like square, with Edam cheese instead of Mozzarella, and it is quite good! I did need more than fried cheese in my diet, though, and became a regular at the nearby Burrito Loco, which was the closest thing around to a Chipotle. The fact that Prague is full of a variety of ethnic restaurants really helped me to find meals out. I had some great Italian food and discovered noodle bars. That being said, I am happy to be coming home to veggie corndogs and burgers.

This summer has been the most important one of my life. Having the opportunity to grow in so many ways and creating friendships across the globe has already had such a positive impact on my life and my future. From mastering city public transportation systems, to learning just enough of each new language to get by for our stay, I have gained knowledge and confidence that I don’t think I could have gotten elsewhere. My time studying abroad in Prague left many impressions on me, one in particular being that one day I will return.

Kendall Machledt - discovering new cultures abroad

Living Like a Czech

Kendall Machledt - Prague

After about two weeks in Prague, Czech Republic, I can finally say that I am beginning to get comfortable navigating the city and transitioning into the Czech customs.

I have certainly noticed a great deal of differences in culture thus far between home in Indiana and the Czech world. One of the most significant variations I have come across, and also my favorite, is the immense amount of dogs all over the city. And by all over, I mean on the trams, the metro (subway), the trains, inside shopping malls, and all over the sidewalks. These are the best-behaved dogs I have seen in my life. Most of them walk unleashed and just stick by their owner’s side.

On trams and the metro the dogs immediately lay under their human’s seat for the duration of the ride. The most common dogs in Prague definitely are of the smaller variety. There are so many variations of Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and small Poodles. It is very common for people to carry their dogs in bags or their purses. It has been fun and intriguing to see how much Czechs incorporate their dogs into their culture and everyday life. The extreme presence of dogs does have a downside, however. Everywhere I walk, I have to make sure I am not about to step in a puddle (or mound) of hound droppings. It has been surprising to see how common it is for dog owners to not clean up after their pet on the streets.

Another key difference in the Czech Republic as compared to Indiana is how people treat others in public spaces. I was warned that Czechs are not the friendliest people, and that has definitely been accurate. It is expected for one to avoid looking at others, and especially making eye contact, while walking past them in any given place. It has been quite an adjustment for me to not look people in the eye and to avoid friendlily smiling at strangers. This custom does come in handy in the mornings however, when it is too early for class and you do not feel like talking to anyone anyway.

The language barrier is definitely a real thing here in the Czech Republic. Luckily, there are a lot of English speakers in Prague since it is such a large city. That being said, however, it is still questionable whether ordering food at any given restaurant will be a challenge or not. I have had an especially difficult time in regards to eating in the Czech Republic. Being a vegetarian, I knew that I was not putting myself in the simplest of situations by studying abroad in a meat-saturated country. Therefore, I have become quite familiar with the local grocery stores and outdoor markets. I often have to resort to brining along my own snacks on day trips and outings when the meals are not already planned.

Even though I have only been in Prague for a relatively short period of time, it is already beginning to feel like home. This past weekend each class went on a three-day trip to another place in the Czech Republic. Although it was interesting exploring other parts of the country, everyone was ready to get back to Prague – the city we have grown to know and love.

Kendall Machledt - discovering new cultures abroad

The week before Prague

Kendall Machledt - Prague

In just one week from now I will be arriving overseas to my new summer home in Prague, Czech Republic. I will be meeting my flat mates and my new “Czech buddy,” whom I suspect to be vital in the initial adjustment phase. Having only gotten home to my parents’ house less than a week ago, it really feels like time is slipping away from me.

Taking part in the first and second summer sessions abroad, I have barely had time to unpack all of my clothes and belongings from the semester at college, let alone sort through and assemble outfits to pack up with me again. My past week has been spent almost solely in preparation for my trip. I have exchanged some money for Czech koruna (crowns), applied for an international credit card, purchased some mini toiletry travel bottles, and said some goodbyes. I have also been reading up on Prague and other places and countries I plan on visiting, thanks to my handy Rick Steves books.

I am very anxious to set out on my adventure of a lifetime. It has felt like a weird in-between time for me for a while now, with the semester ending, friends moving, jobs and internships starting, while I am just at home trying to mentally and physically prepare for this incredible journey I am about to embark on. Having never been to Europe or overseas at all, I have been trying to orient myself with all of the cultural information and travel tips that I can.

Although I still have lots of things to accomplish, I must say, as the days pass I am constantly getting more and more excited to leave on my European adventure. I keep getting asked the same question by people over and over again: What are you most excited for? My answer, although broad, is simple: everything. I am so thankful and ecstatic for the opportunity to explore parts of the world that I had never dreamed possible. I cannot wait to take in all of the magnificent scenes, experiences, areas, and people, to help shape the person that I am meant to be.

Kendall Machledt - discovering new cultures abroad

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