Beyond What is Seen

In The Art of Travel, 1: Awakenings, Prague by Sean OhLeave a Comment

Hello! My name is Sean Oh and I am a sophomore in Gallatin studying International Law and Sustainable Development. I am currently studying aboard in Prague to get a better understanding of Central Europe. This is actually my first time in Europe so I am both very excited and nervous for the semester to come. My concentration is a combination of law, politics, administration, economics, and international relations. The courses I am taking this semester revolve around the politic themes of this region that I am hoping to have a better understanding of. While I am abroad, I wish to travel to places beyond the Czech Republic and find answers to questions posed in previous classes. Questions such as “What is the extent of which International law and governance is to be implemented?”, “what makes national borders”, and “What makes one set of people identify as a certain race?”.

Prior to coming abroad, I often found myself searching on google “most beautiful places to go in Europe” and “things to do in Prague” which only increased my anticipation as the days went by.  I was expecting the most grandiose buildings , streets full of culture, and entirely different types of food but as I got here, I realized that the mental picture that I had drawn in my head was different from the one in front of me. Reading Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel, I began to understand how Duc des Essientes felt during his travel to Holland.

Prague is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever been to. Indeed with grandiose buildings, beautiful bridges, and Czech food, the city of Prague was in part what I was “anticipating” before coming here. But beyond all the nice photos uploaded on Google Images, Prague had the same basic franchises found elsewhere. From McDonald’s to KFC to Subway, I was able to find common chain stores that, while giving me a sense of familiarity, broke the cultural fantasy that I held in my head for months. Initially disappointed, I entered a café for a quick coffee break and realized that culture is more than what is seen. It is the mannerisms, the noise, the lifestyle, and pride of a nation. Although Western Globalization has entered the Czech Republic, the pride and identity of this nation remains strong.

With the coming months, I hope to better understand this culture and hopefully integrate myself into a small bit of the lifestyle here.

(Image: Prague; Source: Sean Oh)

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