There are so many things I could say about Prague, and I’ve come to love this quirky little city over the course of the past four months. However, I knew nothing about the city going into my study abroad program, and I wish there were a few things I had been told beforehand. So, now, I’ll share what I wish had been shared with me.
If you’re like me, this is what you know about Prague — good night life, beer that’s cheaper than water, easy traveling access to other countries. That’s about all I knew when I arrived. If you’re planning to come to Prague, don’t expect your typical ‘study abroad’ experience, that you might get in a city like London or Paris. Prague is a relatively newly independent city, which means that although there are many tourists, it still isn’t a huge travel destination. Don’t expect anything to be similar to New York — the metro stops running at 12, there are mandated “quiet hours” from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. If you’re like me, and choose to continue being loud at 3 a.m. on the tram, get ready to be stared at. An advantage of Prague being a smaller city is that the public transportation is reliable and easy to navigate. Students can take the underground metro, tram, or bus, and after a few weeks in Prague, most students know their way around.
You’ll learn this about Europe in general, but the Czechs definitely aren’t known for their friendly personalities. If you thought New Yorkers were rude, you were wrong. Most people keep to themselves, and I’ve learned from experience that if you smile at someone walking down the street, they’ll think you’re an idiot. Now, knowing the difficult history of the Czech Republic, I completely understand why the people are this way. But, for someone who doesn’t know this beforehand, it can be a bit of a shock when your waiter doesn’t make eye contact with you throughout your entire meal or people look at the ground as they walk by.
Each study abroad site differs in terms of typical student activities, and most students in Prague are known for traveling almost every weekend. If you’re also planning to make the most of your travels, when you’re planning ahead, keep in mind that half the week you’ll be in Prague, and the other half, you’ll be in a new place. Keep a handy travel backpack — it’ll become your best friend by the end of the semester — and Euros in addition to Czech Korunas. If you’re going in the spring semester, don’t make the same mistake I did and only pack flowery summer dresses! The winter in Central Europe is almost as brutal as New York’s, so be prepared.
For places I’ve discovered, there’s too many good ones to count. Being a foodie, a lot of the cool places I’ve found are restaurants. If you’re living in the Machova dorm, head to “Las Adelitas” for the best Mexican food and margaritas in town, and “Bad Jeff’s” for some delicious macaroni and cheese, among other comfort food. If you want to get a beer with your friends after dinner (most Czech men head to the pub for a drink after work), the best places are Shotgun in Vinohrady — near Slezka and Machova dorms — and if you’re looking for dance music and a mixed crowd of locals and Americans, head to the Radost Club.
Above all, keep an open mind when you’re abroad. Prague can have a confusing language, a much different attitude in its people and even a completely different view on life. But if you learn to embrace those differences and accept the challenge, your study abroad experience will be enhanced rather than inhibited.