El fin.

The realization I was back in northern Wisconsin slapped me in the face this past Sunday when I spent my afternoon hauling wood and doing yard work

I have been back in the states for eight days. It’s been an interesting eight days; full of moments of nostalgia for Prague as well as moments of relief where I am so thankful to be home. The whole situation is bittersweet but considering I can do nothing but look back fondly while continuing to look to the future, I’m doing my best to prepare for a fun-filled summer. To articulate my mixed feelings, I have compiled a little list of things I miss about Prague as well as things that I am grateful to return to

Things I miss (I also like to call this “Prag-stalgia” hahaha…)

I miss the aesthetics of the city. My first impression of Prague was that it was simply beautiful and that impression was only enhanced as I spent more time in the city. Even the shabbiest of the buildings according to European standards, seemed to me, to be ornate and full of history.

As much as I hate to admit it, I miss the cobblestones. Yes, I miss those blasted things that caused my ankles to turn in terrifyingly sharp 90 degree angles. As annoying as they were though, they are beautiful and ornate. The detail and time that has gone into their creation is astounding and after four months of trekking over them in sky high heels, I got used to the uneven terrain. I feel like I have been walking crooked on the straight and level sidewalks in the states- it’s as if I am getting over what I have coined “cobblestone head” (rather than boat head).

Living in Prague was my first time living in a city. I miss being a cosmopolitan with everything at my fingertips and surrounded by international people and food.

As part of living in the city, I miss the extremely efficient Prague public transport. I was able to take the metro or a tram anywhere I ever needed to be. It was a form of convenience that I had never experienced.

Czech beer- they invented the stuff so how can it not be the absolute best?! Plus, I was legal In Europe. It was enjoyable to simply be able to order a beer with my meal. Now I have 72 days of returning to illegal-dom. But it’s not like I’m counting…

The phenomenal public transport allowed me to wander for hours and unfortunately, this would be much more dangerous in northern Wisconsin.

I’ll also miss the daily dog parade. Even though the dogs wanted absolutely nothing to do with me, I enjoyed spotting the resemblances between the dogs and their owners- sometimes it was almost uncanny. And I swear there are more four-legged friends in the Czech Republic than people.

Now that I have listed a few things that I miss in Prague, here are a few things that make me so thankful to be back home in my comfort zone…

Smiles, they’re everywhere! The lack of smiling was one of the first things I noticed in Prague, as well as probably one of the things that I had the hardest time understanding. But now that I’m home, the amount of smiles I see is almost alarming- almost. It’s so refreshing to see outward happiness again. And the thing is, America itself is a smiley place, but you come up to northern Wisconsin, and it’s a whole other ball game…

The lack of customer service sort of goes hand in hand with the lack of smiling. Transitioning back to the customer service-orientated society of America gave me the most reverse culture shock upon my return home. In Prague, before running errands such as going to the post office or dropping off dry cleaning, I would mentally have to prepare myself for a difficult time, not only because of the language barrier but also because of the aloofness of the service workers. So when I dropped off my dry cleaning earlier this week, I was taken aback by the overly friendly help- but in a good way!

Ice water doesn’t exist in Prague. Or really anywhere in Central Europe. And the fact that beer is cheaper than a bottle of water almost makes you think they have some manipulative conspiracy to make you dehydrated…

What was the one pit stop I begged my mom to make after picking me up at the airport? Dairy Queen. The blizzard was even better than I had imagined. And does it worry me that I craved an Oreo blizzard so badly that I had a hard time concentrating on anything other than the anticipated feeling of DQ ice cream melting down my throat? Nope. Not at all.

It was soooooo good...

ENGLISH, oh how I missed you! It was nearly overwhelming my first few days home being able to understand every conversation around me. I had become so used to being surrounded by indecipherable noise, constantly in my own little bubble of my thoughts, that it was so strange to all of a sudden understand the cashier at the gas station or the lady at the post office. But let me tell you, I am so happy to be able to communicate again! The language barrier was a challenge that I asked for, but more than four months and I might have reached my breaking point.

Realizing the things I miss from Prague as well as the things I’m glad to come home to, has helped me smoothly transition back to life in the states. The culture shock that I so feared has been minimal and since I’ve been so busy starting my summer internship and catching up with family and friends, I have had little time to dwell on my time in Europe.

Although I’m so happy to be home, I’m extremely thankful for my four months abroad. I am fortunate to be able to afford, time-wise and money-wise, a semester abroad and it’s an experience that I will never, ever forget. I have had numerous memorable experiences and adventures, but it is what I have learned about myself in the past four months, that I will use for the rest of my life. Understanding how I deal with challenges and tough situations is something that I will use to my advantage throughout my life.

As my last post documenting a wonderful four months abroad, I want to thank you for following my adventures and sending your encouraging words my way…

Na shledanou!

Maarja

1 thought on “El fin.”

  1. Maarja,

    I’ve loved reading your blogs over the past few months. As your study abroad advisor, I could not be more proud of how you challenged yourself and how you grew during your time abroad; this is readily apparent in your writings. I will miss reading new blog posts from you and I hope you will continue to have meaningful international experiences.

    Lauren

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