I must admit that as my plane touched down at the Prague airport and I looked out the window to discover snow on the tarmac, I felt a stab of trepidation. 

The little bit of anxiety wasn’t just because of the snow (our relatively mild Michigan winter spoiled me this year) but also because I realized just how far away from home I am this semester. 

As I drove into the city, however, the snow and trepidation melted away as I got my first glimpse of Prague: cobblestone streets (yes, actually), pastel-colored buildings underneath the flat grey sky, and rocky hills rising up from the river. Instead of anxious, I was excited and a little awe-struck. 

The view from my apartment’s front door.

Since I arrived in Prague, I’ve been wavering between trepidation and excitement, anxiety and exhilaration, and I think this is how it will be for a while. After all, there are a lot of changes when you pack up and move to a foreign city for 4 months. 

This week was full of orientation activities in what felt like a rerun of freshman year. Aside from practical sessions on safety, learning to use the tram, and adding/dropping courses, we also had a walking tour of Prague, a trip to Petrin Tower and the John Lennon wall, as well as some other sightseeing opportunities. 

I’ve only been here for a few days, but I think I’m beginning to find my way around the city. For one, I went to the grocery store alone, which was a little stressful. The cashier gave me a row of stickers, which I wasn’t sure what to do with. It took a lot of gesturing on both ends to realize that if I collect a bunch of stickers, I’ll get a discount set of pots and pans. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what they mean. 

I also grabbed some friends and found an English language bookstore called Shakespeare and Sons (Shakespeare a Synové in Czech). After that, we stumbled into a public park that houses free-range peacocks. To say the least, it was startling to run across a peacock in a central-European January. 

On Monday, we start classes, which I am excited about. It will be nice to settle into a routine and, hopefully, start feeling at home here. And today is the first sunny(ish) day since we’ve been here, which seems promising. 

Apparently, we arrived during a significant time in Czech politics. This weekend was the Czech presidential election. In Czechia, presidential terms are 5 years, with a max of two terms. The current president reached his two-term limit and had to step down. 

During our tour, we went to Old Town Square, where the presidential candidate Petr Pavel was about to give a speech. Thousands of people crowded the square, and I got a pin endorsing Pavel. Pavel ended up winning, so I will be keeping the pin. 

A crowd gathers in support of Petr Pavel, a retired army general and former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee.

I’m hoping for more sunny days, less snow, more excitement, and less anxiety, but I know this semester will have all of the above. For now, though, I’ll soak in the sun. 

Published by Lauren Schiller

Class of 2024 Communication and Chinese Studies Major CIEE Communication, New Media, & Journalism in Czech Republic

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