Siona Kowlessar, September 27th, 2021
The first two weeks in Prague have flown by but not without many surprises and adjustments along the way. About 16 hours of travel from Texas, I finally landed in the Czech Republic after months of anticipation. In preparation, I watched many YouTube videos, stalked various Instagram accounts, and joined multiple Facebook groups to better grasp what this new city would be like. While I tried to prepare myself, there is nothing quite like seeing and experiencing it for yourself. Coming to this city, I was captivated by the numerous spires and causal castles in the middle of the town. Each building was so beautifully built and each door held so many stories. I was reeled in by the rich culture that oozed out of every corner of this city. With its beauty, there were also a lot of surprises, mostly because I was setting up to live in an entirely new and different country.
My first surprise was that thankfully most everyone in the city center spoke English. While I had hoped to pick up some Czech language by the end of the stay, I am more than grateful that I could communicate with ease. Along with that, locals here were extremely nice and welcoming to tourists (and students). Everyone I came across was very friendly and willing to help with directions or recommendations. The city was catered towards tourists, but during this season of life, there weren’t many tourists there. When speaking with locals, we found that this is the first time in a while that Czech locals were able to come to the city and experience that life again. With the number of tourists being shockingly low, we also happened upon some of the best weather this fall. The first week I spent being a tourist and noticed how affordable this city was. The currency in the Czech Republic is called Koruna (or Crown for short) and one US dollar is worth about 21 Czech Korunas. This meant being a student in this city was more than ideal as we could explore without fear of overspending.
Now very different from the US, there were hardly any Big Box stores, and there were a lot of small markets or specialty stores. This created a struggle when looking for dorm essentials, and left me missing my not-so-local Target. There were plenty of restaurants and pubs however, and a huge variety of food. Coming to Prague, I was worried about how my diet would change but there were numerous options available. While dining at new places, I noticed that the Czech love their beer. They consume a hefty amount of beer and often have long lunches just eating and drinking. They have a lot of local breweries and many tourist destinations showcasing their glorious pilsners. Many of the orientation week activities from the university incorporated brewery and winery tours, highlighting this aspect of their culture.
When being a tourist came to an end, jumping into a new university began. My first impression of the university centered around its size. Coming from the mammoth of a campus that Texas A&M has, this university was much smaller and closer to the city. This also means classes are smaller which makes it easier for exchange students to meet one another. Again, everyone was extremely nice on campus and there were many orientation events set up for us to participate in. While I just jumped into my courses, they often include seminars that were new for me. Going from a lecture to a seminar and sitting in three hours of content is definitely a new adjustment. The program overall seems highly focused on furthering our real-world knowledge and our participation in the subjects themselves. The professors all seem passionate about the content they are teaching, and extremely engaging which helps with those long class hours. I am eager to soak up their knowledge and take in the new learning environment this university provides.
Overall, my two weeks in this country have been amazing and full of many happy surprises. I am excited to immerse myself in this new culture and experience lessons from across the world. See you in 3 months, College station!