If you’d asked me a month ago, I might have said no.
But if you were to ask me now, I would say Yes, I would absolutely spend another semester here. Immediately.
I’ve made some amazing friends: some with whom I share a love for people (Tori, US), psychology (Toby, DE) some I geek out to film with (Roberto, DO), some I go to concerts with (Josh, UK), some I go take photos with (Georgia, US), and some I simply sit at cafes and work next to (Valentina, HR).
I’ve learned so much about people, culture, and habits from them.
I’ve also learned a lot about myself.
One of the conversations I keep having with friends lately from the US is about this fear we have of going back home and forgetting the things we’ve learned here. But what if we slip back into our old habits? Our old ways of interacting with people? What if we stop being so curious? So assertive? So brave?
My friend Margaret says: I want to feel this powerful all the time!
My friend Tori asks: What if my friends think I’m crazy?
I say let them.
Traveling has helped me see how small I am. And in feeling small, I worry less about things that seemed so big before.
Things like money.
Like being somewhere else.
Like being someone else.
And it isn’t living in just this city that has made me happy and brave and curious…
Studying abroad has taught me to be all of these things no matter where I am.
But enough about me.
Here are some small habits you might pick up while living in Prague:
When you go to an Albert or other small supermarket, you take your items out of your basket and lay them on the ledge next to the scanner. Don’t just leave them in your basket.
Standers stand on the right side of the escalator. Walkers walk (or run) on the left side. Breaking this rule pretty much gives people the right to shove you out of the way.
Be silent or whisper while on public transport. I get really embarrassed traveling with some people from my program because they’ve yet to learn this (or simply don’t care). I’m even guilty of getting in a separate car to avoid associating myself with them when we travel together.
A little bit of Czech (hello, thank you, may I have…?, please, etc.) goes a long way.
If you are standing near the door on a packed tram or metro, step completely out of the tram and out of the way at every stop to let people leaving the tram go. Then get back on.
Loitering in the middle of pedestrian sidewalks is a no-go. Fast-walking Czech people have places to go and people to see.
The people you find out at night who are “too drunk” are almost exclusively tourists. Beer, wine, and spirit drinking is so normalized in Czech daily life that being “too hammered” is seen a childish for a college student (while in US university culture it is oftentimes celebrated).
Meet your friends at a cafe.
Address strangers in the informal tense.
Give up your seat on public transit for older people, children, or people with disabilities.
Czech people aren’t rude or hate Americans. They’re just reserved. (This one took me a long time to really get. I mean it. I figured this out like two weeks ago.)
And PLENTY more that I probably won’t even recognize until I go back home and it’s not normal anymore.