I was lucky enough to arrive here in Prague, Czech Republic around three weeks ago. I am glad to say that for the most part, the move has been pretty seamless. Leading up to the exchange, I had conducted quite a bit of research and what I saw/read up on really fortified my stance of not being very nervous about the transition. Prague is a very safe city, with a very high number of English speakers. On top of that, my school’s exchange program has been pretty exceptional so far. There are actually around 500 students here on exchange, and there is certainly no shortage of activities, events, and trips which provided me the opportunity to meet most of the other students! The only thing that has really gone awry is the loss of some of my luggage (but hey, that can happen anywhere, right?).
Now some more about Prague. One of the first things I noticed that is very different from home is the natural demeanor of the Czech people themselves. Born and raised in Houston, “southern hospitality” is a big part of pretty much every interaction I experience. As most of you know, it can often even be considered rude not to smile, say hello, or casually check in on people that are your friends, family, or even strangers such as a cashier. That is much different here. Many people describe the Czech population as cold, short, or disinterested. I’ve actually noticed that many (especially the older) of the Czech people even seem a bit freaked out if you greet them with a big smile or casual conversation. After a bit of a short lesson in the Czech History, this became to make much more sense why. My assigned “buddy” that the school assigned me mentioned that this is largely in part of their political history. In the past 100 years alone, the nation fell victims to WW1 casualties, a German Invasion during WW2, the Communist Regime and annexation under the Soviet Union, and then after their collapse, the difficulty of splitting from Czechoslovakia into two different countries- Czech Republic and Slovakia. Most of the older people have little/no grasp of English and were around for much of these events. It is definitely interesting to see the generational differences between those who did and did not experience these events. It comes to no surprise that many of the citizens (especially the older ones) have very initially guarded personas. That being said, every Czech person I have had the pleasure of getting to know actually are very kind, funny, and good people– you just have to take the time to get to know them first.
Overall I would say that my experience as to date in Prague has been exceptional. I have met great friends, traveled quite a bit, and learned much about a foreign culture. I look forward to even further assimilating myself into Czech life, while simultaneously furthering my education and meeting people from all walks of life.