For the Love of Prague

Well, I’ve made it home! Back in the U.S. It’s weird to think that exactly one month ago I was finishing a final for my “Politics and Economics of the European Union” class, worried about packing all my breakable gifts for friends and family back home, and starting to say my goodbyes to all of my friends in Prague.

Of course, I meant to write this post in the airport on the way home from Prague. I knew that if I didn’t, it would be so hard to motivate myself to do it in the bustle of the holidays and getting ready to go back to school. But my travel day home was exhausting; it started with me and one of my roommates saying a tearful goodbye to our other roommate as we left for the airport at 4am; navigating the airport with luggage packed full of almost three months’ worth of clothes, gifts, and memories; crying alone in the airport at 6am after saying goodbye to my roommate; and then starting my fifteen-hour trip home. All of this was done with a combined eleven hours of sleep over my last three nights there because—why not? Who wants to waste their last three days in Prague by sleeping? And so (big surprise), despite my best efforts I am writing this on the last weekend of winter break.

The feeling of being back at home is difficult to explain: on the one hand, it’s great to be back with my family and see friends that I haven’t seen since summer. I can show everyone my pictures and tell them about traveling around Europe and daily life in Prague. But on the other hand, it’s kind of lonely; it’s hard to explain just how funny the situation was when I took a certain picture, or how sad it was to say goodbye to the people I just spent the last three and a half months with. It’s hard to explain why being in Target feels overwhelming, how the relentless enthusiasm of cashiers is off-putting, and why it caught me off guard when people greeted me with “hello” instead of “dobrý den.”

But, I wasn’t gone that long. After two days, most things stopped catching me off guard, and after a week I felt completely readjusted. And actually, I think the weirdest part about coming home is how normal it seems; it’s getting harder to picture day-to-day life in Prague, and easier to go back to day-to-day life here.

So, the cultural readjustment was more real than I had expected. But, I think that just means that my experience abroad affected me more than I had anticipated; I grew so much while I was there, especially in how I experience and view the world. I think the biggest takeaway from my experience in Prague is not to let those lessons be isolated; I can continue to learn from people who are different from me, I can continue to push myself outside of my comfort zone, and I can continue to experience new things in daily life.

I wrote my first blog post sitting in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, trying to rouse some confidence while I (literally) prepared to jet off into the unknown. At that point, I had never been outside of the country, never been on an overnight flight, never had to use different currency or tried to mime an order at a restaurant or gotten lost in a foreign city with no cell service. And now I have! I don’t feel particularly different, or braver, or more fearless. But I do feel more capable. And as I start my last semester of college and then the next chapter of my life, that capability will sneak subtly into every aspect of my life, a continuing gift and reminder of Prague.