I honestly do not know how I feel about this post topic—I dislike it and like it. It forces me to acknowledge the fact that my semester abroad is coming to an end. I have less than a week left! But I also recognize its importance. The chance to write a formal goodbye to Prague is also a way for me to reflect on my time here. My emotions regarding this post reflect my emotions regarding how I feel about the end of the semester. I have ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, I do not want to go home because I love the free-spirited and culturally hybrid European atmosphere that allows me to be independent—both because I am on my own and because those ancient Enlightenment ideals are ingrained in society. However, I do want to go home because that means my finals are over, I can FINALLY have the Colombian food I have been craving, and I can reunite with my loved ones for the holidays. You see the conundrum in which I find myself, dear reader.
While saying goodbye is difficult, it is also quite pleasant because it truly is good. I have no regrets about my time in Prague, and I realize that is a loaded statement but it is true. I did everything I wanted to accomplish, and more! Educating myself about a different history: check. Travel: check. Learning more about how I interact with different cultures and experiences: check. Learning how to adapt myself to new situations and experiences: check. Learning to be okay with not understanding everything but still being able to appreciate that which I did not understand: check. Improving my cooking skills: check. Improving my budgeting skills: check. Increasing my subpar level of patience: half-check (oops). Improving my navigation/memory skills so that I rely less on Google Maps: check. Learning how to navigate the sometimes uncomfortable—but no less empowering—salience of my racial identity, and that of others: big check.
I am really glad I decided to take this course because I love to write and travel but have never been disciplined enough to write about my travels. I know that I will refer back to my posts every once in a while when I need confirmation that Prague actually happened, and that it was not the surreal fabrications of an overeager, imaginative 20-something-year-old.
Quite frankly, it is a bit difficult for me to not group Prague and Paris together. I think it may be too soon for me to really start reflecting on Prague individually, and not as part of my abstract collection of study abroad experiences. I do know that as what happened to my post-Paris self, my world view will definitely feel tremendously bigger when I go back home. However, the most rewarding aspect of my experience in Prague, was hands down, appreciating the beauty of language. As I have mentioned multiple times, this was the first time I truly struggled with communicating with others. At first, it was unsettling but then I actually began to really enjoy it. On my commute to school, I would invent the conversations people were having around me, which made me more attentive to my surroundings; the body language, hand gestures, and facial expressions of the Czechs. My ears would perk up when I recognized words (which were few, but still!).
I will miss Prague’s Christmas markets because even though they commercialize Christmas, especially in such a secular nation, and are still symptomatic of our consumerist capitalist culture, they are so much more livelier and spirited than the ones in NYC. Bryant Park and Union Square’s Christmas markets pale in comparison when they stand beside all the Fifth Avenue shopping frenzy. I am actually vey much curious about how I will perceive US customer service upon my return. Will I still feel like employees are overbearing, fake, kiss-asses? Or will I find their kindness refreshing after interacting with not-so-kind Czech customer service? I think I will probably be more aware about the stark differences that make different places nonetheless, fall under the same category of “city”. I know I will certainly miss how close everything is in Prague, and how easy to use Prague’s public transport system is, as compared to NY and its transit! I know once I am back home, I will be endlessly comparing and contrasting the two cities but in a way that will augment my appreciate for both.
Lastly, my only request to NYU is that it prepare its students more about Prague’s limited amount of diversity—in all aspects. I know it is quite challenging to do so in a way that is authentic but that does not deter students from coming here. But if NYU believed in me when it accepted me as a student in 2014, then I can believe in NYU to step up to the challenge with which I have presented it.
- Malé Náměstí Christmas Market: Maria Alejandra