Program: USAC Czech Republic: Politics, Culture and Art Studies in Prague
Term: Spring 2015
I didn't speak the language, I didn't know the country, and I didn't go with friends. And I have to say that it was the best possible way to study abroad. Everything was new for me. I learned how to navigate a new city, how to read, pronounce, and minimally understand a new language, and I had to form new relationships completely from scratch. Going abroad on my own really helped open my eyes to discovery and the beauty of the world. I learned so much about myself, and also about East-Central Europe. The history and culture of the country was astounding and different from anything I had every learned or experienced before. More than anything, though, studying abroad made me completely addicted to traveling the world. It gave me a new perspective about life, slowing down, and making the most of every opportunity given to me.
Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: As a Jew, I saw Prague sometimes through a Jewish lens. It gave me a stronger appreciation for the Jewish history of Prague, and the preservation of the Jewish sites and community in the city. It was also an interesting experience to discover the sadness and the perseverance of many European Jewish communities as I traveled around the continent. My piece of advice would just be to really soak everything in. It's important to not worry about being different, whether that's in the setting of the local people, or among the people on your program. It's a valuable time where you can embrace what's different about you and your identity and search for the meaning in that wherever you are. Rather than be worried that no one will want to go to a specific museum that might hold meaning for your identity, go on your own. Don't apologize for the perspective you have, and use it to contribute to conversation about the feelings and experiences you have in your host country.
Prague is a remarkable city. The whole place looks like a fairytale and there is something new to find around every corner and in every building. Prague, in my opinion, is the most beautiful city in Europe. And as frustrating as the cold can sometimes be, that one small glimpse of Prague dusted in white snow was truly magical. It gave a whole new air to a new city and it absolutely took my breath away.
Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: Study abroad can be more affordable than you think. There are definitely programs that carry a scary price tag, but as an out of state student, my program in Prague actually cost less than a semester at Maryland! Study abroad can be accessible for everyone. And it's always worth at least looking at your options. Traveling to cheaper cities or countries can help cut the costs while you are in your host country, and there can really be an opportunity for everyone. For people that are thinking about studying abroad in the general sense, I would encourage them to step out of their comfort zone. Choose a location based on the merits of the place and how it fits with what you are looking for, not based on where is popular or where your friends are going. It might be easy to choose Rome where all of your friends are going, but maybe the history of South America and learning Spanish really interests you more. Don't be afraid to take a leap. The support system at Maryland and through most programs is really great and can help you have an amazing time even if you are going all alone. Study abroad is the best opportunity to do something that you otherwise might be scared to do. Just go for it!