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6 Discoveries I’ve Made About Myself From Studying Abroad in Prague

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I won’t lie; I knew absolutely nothing about Prague before I chose to study here this semester. It has always been a dream of mine to study abroad, and my experience in Prague has exceeded my expectations. The city itself is gorgeous and the relationships I’ve formed have shaped me as well. Reflecting on my past 3 months in Prague, I realized that I fundamentally know myself better. Here are 6 lessons I learned about myself and places around the city that connect to these discoveries!

1. My favorite way to explore is by walking (and I can walk A LOT): Letna Park 

Whenever I travel, I’m the type to want to see and do everything. Coming to Prague, this was no different. Since I only had morning classes on Thursday, these afternoons became the time for me to go on random adventures around the city. The detailed, pastel facades of all the buildings around Prague made me want to walk down every street, and that’s just what I did. (Well, maybe not every street, but a decent number) Besides the classic view from the Prague Castle, I’d have to say this view from Letna Park is without a doubt my favorite because you can see all the bridges over the Vltava River. I went here initially to see the Metronome statue and spontaneously decided I’d walk through the park. Not only did I find this view, but there was a random peacock by a mansion, a building with carved designs that looked painted, and a pathway to the back of the Prague Castle. There is so much you would never be able to find without wandering, and my curiosity has surely caused me to rack up the number of miles I’ve walked. 

2. If I want something, I will go for it without hesitation: My Sky Aerial Dance Studio 

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to try aerial silks both because I think I have the skill set and because it looks fun. When I stumbled upon this studio, I knew I had to sign up for a class. Originally, I was supposed to attend with one of my friends, and even though something came up for her last minute, I didn’t let it stop me. I can’t tell you how good of a decision that was because for the subsequent weeks I kept attending and even convinced my other friends to join! I think I was always aware that I’m decisive when it comes to choices important to me, but this situation gave me confidence that I could actually act this way when it comes to it.  

3. I’m not directionally challenged but will always mess up public transport at the start: Prague Trams 

I’d say I’m a pretty good navigator and easily can form a mental map of where I am. However, for some reason, I am destined to take the wrong metro or get off at the wrong stop when I first use public transit. Prague’s public transport is simple compared to other European cities; there’s only 3 metro lines and tickets for all transport can either be bought on the vehicle or in the stations. I personally really like the trams because of how many places they cover and the variety of tram cars in general. Anyway, the first time I took the tram by myself I didn’t check what direction it was going and ended up taking the one that led farther away…oops. Luckily, it wasn’t a big deal since tickets are by time and not per ride, but I’ve yet to break this curse despite having a good sense of direction the other 99% of the time. 

4. I’m a sucker for documenting memories: Vyšehrad 

I can’t tell you how many times my phone has run out of storage, but that should be a pretty good indication of the amount I document. Vyšehrad, in particular, is one of those hidden places that most people who just visit Prague miss. It’s this big fortress on a hill that has a gothic-style church, cemetery with numerous famous Czechs buried in it, and great 360 views of the southwestern portion of Prague among other things. This picture is from one of the lookout points and shows the pretty red roofs throughout the city. One of the reasons I enjoy documenting is that pictures always spark memories for me. I have terrible memory, and the days will easily blur together, but when I scroll through pictures, I’m transported back into the moment. Especially with all the adventures I’ve had abroad, the hordes of pictures are something I know I’ll look back on and, in my opinion, better than buying souvenirs. 

5. My academics don’t define my experiences: Grotta by Grébovka 

Doing well in classes has always been something I pride myself on, but, in the past couple of years, I’ve felt my academics overtake my life. Going abroad, I knew this was something I wanted to work on. Nevertheless, I didn’t expect to feel the difference of focusing on other areas of my life as prominently as I did. Having Prague as a change of scenery did wonders for me in terms of my mental health. I love that I can just go sit in a sunny park or walk through Old Town when I’m bored. It’s so cool how places like the Grotta are just hidden around. It’s literally steps from the building our classes are in, and I would have no way of knowing if we were stuck inside working 24/7. Studying abroad has reminded me how important spending time with people and learning about the community is since these experiences are limited but studying can be done at any time. 

6. I will really miss my friends: Riegrovy Sady 

I am a sentimental person, so it’s no surprise that I become attached to the friendships I formed. It didn’t hit me until this evening in Riegrovy Sady how much I would miss my friends though. A group of us gathered to picnic and watch the sunset in this park. We had a speaker playing music and just enjoyed each other’s company for the evening. Spending time with everyone was so wholesome, and I couldn’t believe I’d been able to get close to this group in a short 3 months. One of the most difficult parts of studying abroad is definitely saying goodbye, but I know the friendships I’ve made will carry on into the future. 

To anyone studying abroad, make the most of your time and don’t forget to treasure every experience you have! 

Catherine Jiang is a student at the University of Michigan and studied abroad with IFSA Tech Career Accelerator – Prague, CZ in Spring 2023. She is an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.