Travel & First days in Prague

The end of summer arrived before I knew it, and it was time to pack my suitcase and make sure I was prepared for my semester in Prague. I started packing a few days before my trip. I took a while to decide what to bring for three months, but I managed to only have my carry-on and one checked bag.

My journey to Prague was long but worth it. I had a very early morning flight on September 2nd from Denver to Dulles International Airport so I had to wake up around 3am in order to get to the airport and allow for enough time to get through security and get to my gate. I somehow managed to lose my phone charger cable while going through the security line. After my flight from Denver to Dulles, I had a little bit of a layover so I purchased a new charging cable (for $40!). I did have enough time to get a snack before boarding the plane to Brussels, so it worked out in the end.

The flight to Brussels had lots of people. It was a packed flight, and many people had issues finding overhead bin space for their carry-on bags. I was worried I would have to check my carry-on, but luckily a flight attendant helped me find space in a bin near the front of the plane. I wasn’t flying in first class, but my carry-on bag got to haha.

I had an aisle seat on the fight, which I liked since I didn’t have to crawl over anyone if I needed to get up. The people sitting in my row did not speak much English, but they were friendly. I don’t know if it was because I was so hungry, or if I developed a sudden affinity for quinoa, but the Southwest-inspired chicken with quinoa meal they served on the plane was delicious.

Once we landed, I had to navigate the Brussels airport, which I had never been to before. I followed the signs to the terminal I needed, but an airport official stopped a group of us and had us take a confusing detour, but I eventually found my way. One thing I found interesting about the Brussels airport was the massive shopping areas. I’m used to seeing duty-free stores in American airports, but I had to walk through a giant department store and various other stores before getting to my terminal. Another unique aspect of my airport experience was that everyone boarded the plane based on seat number, not boarding zones like in the U.S.

My flight from Brussels to Prague felt like it took no time at all, mainly because I could no longer stay awake in an effort to avoid the worst effects of jet lag, so I took a lovely nap. I happened to sit in front of a fellow student from my program on the plane, so we walked over to baggage claim together and waited for our bags. Our ISA coordinators met us outside the secure area, and a group of us waited until 1pm for everyone to arrive.

Our coordinators divided everyone up into vans that would take us to our apartments since the apartments are spread throughout the city. The van I was in did not have a large trunk area, and in order to make everything fit, one bag would need to sit on the floor in the front passenger seat. However, the van driver was not having it, and we waited while he argued with two of our coordinators in Czech. It must have been decided that it would be okay to make an exception just this once because six of us piled into the van and we were soon on our way to our apartments.

While the building looks a little beat up, my apartment is great on the inside. It is a two-bedroom apartment and I live with three other roommates. I opted not to request to live with anyone specific and I would recommend it since you get to meet new people from DU and other colleges.

The Prague ISA program has you hit the ground running. After dropping our bags off in the apartment, we were given instructions on how to take the tram to the ISA office for our first day of orientation. The first day of orientation only lasted two hours and was super chill. I met all four of the ISA coordinators and they went over basic information since we were going to have a full day of orientation the next day.

The second day of orientation was my favorite because we took a tour of Old Town Square. Lucie, one of my coordinators, also teaches part-time at a nearby school so she was super passionate about giving us all the historical information. She gave us a brief history of the Czech Republic and pointed out various sites and buildings along the way.

After a full weekend of orientation, I just relaxed and prepared to start my two-week Intensive Czech course on Monday.


First Week

The first week is no doubt always the most difficult to get through in any situation. You’re out of your element and are needing to adapt to a new lifestyle for the next few months. During that first week I never believed that from that single first day, the rest of the days would fly. It is currently October 16th and it’s been a full month since the program started in September. Midterms have come and gone and the week after this upcoming week, we get a week off of school. I believed that the days would be so long and I would get very homesick. I did get homesick and I still do because I do miss things from the States every now and then and I do miss my old lifestyle and my friends and family and my dog. However, one thing to note, is that you can most definitely have those moments, it’s not a good idea to stay in them because that will not make your trip enjoyable. There are a few ways that I was able to get over the homesickness quickly and those examples are: hanging out with the friends that I have made during this time, going out to eat and finding new hangout spots, taking nice walks around the city and along the river that is nearby, journal, talk to my family. Now that talking to family one can be a hit or a miss depending on mood.

During the first week for me the biggest struggle was remembering the time chance between here in Austria, and back in the United States. Where I am from there is about an 8 hour time change so it was (and still is) difficult to hold back from calling mom first thing in the morning when it’s usually either late at night or early in the morning. Now, another difficulty was just going to school. Usually when you go to Europe from America, you go to take a vacation and not for school so I did not really want to go to school but, I had to and that first week we were fortunate to be able to go to whatever classes we wanted to try out what we wanted before submitting a final form to finalize what classes we wanted to take this semester. I pretty much already knew what I wanted to take therefore I just went to my planned classes already. It was nice to meet my professors (though here they don’t really call themselves our teachers rather than just teachers) and know what their teaching styles are. Something that I definitely appreciate is that they don’t assign a whole lot of homework to do outside of school. It seems that the teachers and staff in this program seem to have an understanding that us students are here to study but also to explore and live life. The work so far has been so much easier and has caused so much less stress than what I was used to. So that definitely be one thing I will miss when it is time to leave!

That first week not much happened. The program organized a few activities for us to do to get to know each other and to get to know the city more, people hung out together and really it was pretty calm and relaxing. The school part was relatively easy to get the hang of the real headache was the bus. I was not used to taking the bus back in the USA so coming here to where the bus is the preferred way of getting around was difficult. Luckily we were provided a monthly bus pass so after we got it stamped we didn’t need to worry about getting bus passes every day and just got on the bus and got off at our stop. However, because pretty much everything is in German, I really did struggle to listen to what was being said over the radio system in the bus. There is an English translation but it’s a bit odd when you’re listening to someone speak in German one second and the next moment English is being spoken so you can’t always hear the English. I had thankfully gotten an Austrian SIM card already so I was able to use my maps and other apps offline with no problem so I did know where to get on the bus and where to get off the bus and pretty much every day there are groups that go to the study center together so I got the hang of things pretty quickly. I wouldn’t say that for the first day though… we almost got on the wrong bus that would have taken us the completely opposite direction had someone not spoken up and told us we were getting on the wrong bus. So, definitely pay attention to which direction the bus is going in!

As for my living situation I am staying in this “dorm” like building. It’s not necessarily called a dorm as there are more than just students living here but it’s not really an apartment either so I really couldn’t tell you what type of building I’m living in. I was put in a single and some others were put in doubles. In the beginning I was a bit upset that I was put in a single because I do remember selecting the double option for when we were filling out and sending back forms and such but I did realize that it was probably better this way because I do like to have my own space and I do like my alone time as much as I like hanging out with others. It just means that I would need to work a bit harder on making connections and making plans with others which I have learned that I am okay with doing. It’s been an adventure to say the least. There’s a shared kitchen on each floor but we all get our own cabinet and small box in the fridge both of which have locks that we have the keys to. The program provided us with pots and pans and cooking stuff after paying a small deposit. I’ll admit that I was a bit too scared to use the kitchen for the first few days of being here so I did spend some of my money on takeout. However, over the weeks of being here I have grown more comfortable using the kitchen and have even met some really nice people while cooking.

Overall, I would say that it is okay to be scared and during the first week or so it’s common. You don’t know many people, you don’t always know the language, everything’s pretty much new so to go from living your life in your home country to living a new life in a new country is completely normal and understandable. I still get scared sometimes! However, for me, I have made some new friends that have made the transition a lot smoother and easier. I do get homesick sometimes still but I really am enjoying my time here in Austria and have learned a lot about the countries history and its people. I am always looking forward to what the day is going to bring me.

That’s it for now!


Old City