Kira Winkeler, February 18th, 2022
The train from Munich crossed over the Vlatava River at 8pm, and I thought to myself “Wow, this isn’t just a dream anymore.” After months of preparation, stress over visa application, and still not knowing what to expect, I am here, in Prague!
I have been in Prague for a week, and I am surprised at how much of the city I have already seen, like the Prague Castle and the Astronomical Clock. (I learned yesterday that Prague is known as the “City of 100 Spires” … I wonder if I can visit all 100…) The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) has partnered with my host university, VSE, to provide social events, a buddy program, and various discounts for the 200 international students. The social events they provide include touring the main sites of Prague, wine tasting tours in Moravia, brewery tours in Prague, and reserving huge club spaces for international students. My ESN buddy has introduced me to other international students and has shown me parts of the city. The churches, castles, and landmarks are stunning in their architecture and artwork.
My school routine in Prague looks quite different than it did at Texas A&M. The day begins with riding a tram for 20 minutes to the campus. There are four buildings, so it is easy to arrive to class on time. (There is no Wellborn train blocking West Campus lol.) Most of my classes occur once a week for 90 minutes. I have organized my schedule to only have classes Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. It is a pretty sweet schedule, and I have already taken a day trip on Tuesday to a nearby village. (For reference, I am taking the class equivalents of SCMT 340, MGMT 439 & 363, and FINC 341.) Like at A&M, my professors are friendly and passionate about their discipline; their excitement makes it easy to be excited to learn. My class sizes have been relatively small, 20-30 students, and are filled with international students. Participating in the ESN events has allowed me to see familiar faces in classes and make friends quickly. I have just finished my first week of classes, and I am still determining how to balance my time between learning in school and learning through travel 🙂
Outside from the university, I have met many people who live in Prague who only speak English. They claim that it is not difficult to only speak English because many Czech people learn English at a young age. The Czech alphabet is Latin based, and after a little study of a few phonetic rules, reading Czech is very doable. With the tram, most places are about 20-30 minutes away from the student housing, and being a university student makes the tickets very cheap.
Besides the expected American and European differences (metric system, different outlets, sparkling water, etc.), here are a few of my personal “culture shock” moments that will be helpful for anyone visiting Europe:
- Most coffee shops serve alcohol as well. It is not uncommon to see someone enjoying a beer at a Sunday family brunch.
- Eggs are kept in the pantry… this is still difficult for me to comprehend.
- Although Czech people are very friendly, do not make eye contact and smile with people on the street. Some of the stories of friendly Americans who have not broken this habit are unnerving.
- Not so much a culture shock, but non-native English speakers pronounce Texas as “Tex-sass,” I pronounce it as “Tex-iz.”
- People on trams are very talkative. My only experience with public transport is the New York subway and Moscow metro, where it is silent.
Going on an exchange program is a learning process and has been intimidating at times. I have made many mistakes since being here, and from all, I can learn how to avoid the mistake in the future. I was hesitant about leaving my comfortable life in Texas to live somewhere new and foreign, but I am so grateful I took the leap. I’m excited to continue meeting new people, exploring the city, and traveling Europe! Cheers to many more memories to be made, ahoj (“ahoy”)!