I don’t have much advice for anyone coming to Prague… except maybe to DO IT. I’m a firm believer in always choosing to discover for yourself when it comes to taking risks, but there are few things I actually managed to get right and might actually be helpful for someone.
- Stay awake.
I’m a part of that small group of people who, if they could, would live without sleeping if possible. Those hours of death that I unfortunately need always seem to be obfuscating so many opportunities (for binge-watching Netflix, probably). But surprisingly, this semester, I don’t regret the five Bob’s Burgers episodes I missed, at all. Whether it was waking up early to try a new coffee shop, squeeze in some extra work, make a hearty breakfast, or call my family, it’d always been a good decision to get out of bed while the sun is still up.
2. Go to the farmer’s market.
To add onto the previous tip, the greatest gift my dorm, Slezska has given me is its location next to JZP (aka Jiriho z Podebrad) and the beautiful local farmer’s market. Full of amazing fresh bread, coffee, beer, soup, burgers… I always make sure I’ve accumulated a sufficient amount of change for Wednesday mornings. My personal favorite snack is this parmesan garlic bread for only 15 czk (about 50 cents) with a fresh tomato soup.
3. Become an art connoisseur.
I never imagined, before coming to Prague, that I could be a person who frequents things like operas, symphonies, and jazz clubs. While New York is a rich place for young people with the overwhelming availability of concerts, museums, and plays, there is still a invisible line that separates poor students under the age of 21 from attending these “high society” events. I’m so grateful that I’ve taken advantage of all of NYU’s events that enable me access to seeing displays of art I had never been exposed to before, all of which have been incredibly edifying and magnificent.
4. Be alone.
At first, I was a bit nervous to wander around Prague on my own; I wasn’t familiar with its customs and the people’s mannerisms, and I’m very afraid at getting yelled at by locals. After a bit of time, I realized being alone had so many perks. Less people hassle you, and you just FEEL like a local since you can camouflage into the background as often as you like. The more I wandered around Prague on my own, the more people actually began speaking Czech to me, and people spent less time staring at me, and in turn I could spend more time staring at other people.
5. Take a picture of every sunset.
I’ll admit it, I have an obsession with sunsets. Not one is ever the same, and to be honest, Shanghai isn’t the best place to go if you like skies that aren’t gray all the time. But there’s a particular moment of every day when the sun touches the edge of the earth and the clouds form a particular pattern through which every piece of light hits your retina and everything around you turns a shade of pink that I’d only ever seen before in an Instagram filter.
6. Explore your limits (but stay hydrated)
Every time I eat out, I have a dilemma. Do I buy a bottle of water, or a pint of beer, or a glass of wine? They will all cost me around a dollar. The access to nightlife for study abroad students is a phenomenon many of us are fascinated by… it’s way too easy, too affordable, too much fun. If you have the chance, explore the nightlife of every city you go to, but remember that water should still be your primary source of hydration.
7. Don’t just inhabit Prague, live in Prague.
I’m the most grateful for the knowledge I gained about Czech history and culture. Learning about the characteristics of the typical Czech, why they love Kofola and Vaclav Havel so much, the Velvet Revolution, has been incredibly fulfilling because I feel I have gained an understanding that the layman tourist wouldn’t have bothered to try to gain. It’s one thing to admire the beauty of the Charles Bridge, but another to imagine the dismembered heads of prominent political figures decorating it.
As you can see, none of the tips I’ve mentioned come from a place of regret, or what I would have done differently…they’re just things that I believe have made my experience as unforgettable, hilarious, awe-inspiring, and strange as it was. But overall, I would advise new students to develop their experiences organically; don’t rush, but don’t sleep…go at your own pace, but be open the charm and poetry of Prague. And feel lucky, because I know I do.