Most everyone here can’t wait to go home. We all miss chipotle and panera and just general American things that we have been deprived of. But I am not as excited to go home as everyone else. Prague has become a little home away from home. I’m going to miss paprika chips, and Johnny’s place and the general Czech things that I will be deprived of. The convenience of cheap, 2 hour flights anywhere in Europe will be hard to replace. What I have learned here through this immersion and through my classes on Czech history and culture will remain with me as I go forward. This experience has changed my views in a way I did not expect.
The Velvet Revolution and the previous Communist totalitarian regime is such a recent memory in this country’s past and learning about it gave me new insight into politics and history. I, an individualistic American who cherishes my rights to freedom of speech, press, etc, have grown to understand why some people in Czech still look fondly on the Communist times. I understand more than ever how a totalitarian regime can gain power. In times such as these, I believe it to be more important then ever to understand the complexities of politics and how they have been dealt with historically.
On a lighter note, I also learned better how to relax and have fun. Czech culture is vastly more laid back and while I miss the fast-paced streets of the city, it was a good break. People drink beer at lunch and only the NYU students can be seen racing down the street at our normal New York speed. I strolled along the river during the day and went out more at night than I ever do. I wanted to experience all parts of the culture, night-life included. When I get home, I may take a tip from Czech me to remember to relax sometimes and simply enjoy the wonderful city I am privileged enough to call home.
Being able to travel so much this semester has been an incredibly rewarding experience. The exposure to theory cultures and their practices really gives you a “bigger bubble” as my stepmom would say. Things that I’ve grown accustomed to and assumed to be normal have turned out to be exclusively American and rather odd to Europeans. Every place I visit has their own vastly different and unique culture and I have grown to appreciate the differences rather than be irritated by them. It’s almost hard to believe how much I would complain about particular differences when I was younger and how often I simply assumed the way I was raised with was the best one and, in fact, the only correct way of going about things.
I can now easily see that no one way is better than another merely different and the value in understanding that different culture will place emphasis upon different values and practices thereby effecting the way their own world view. Once I can see how their experiences change their view, I can begin to examine my own perceptions more critically and look to understand how my surroundings and culture has effected my view. Broadening your views and expanding your bubble allows you to have a much deeper understanding not only of other cultures but of your own as well. It gives you the tools to think more critically about your own environment and values.