Ahoj / Hello! I’ve been living in Prague for over 6 weeks now and I would like to tell you a bit about my experience so far.
It’s fantastic: Prague is a beautiful city and you can just get off at any of the metro stations in the city centre and don’t have to look far to find something nice to look at, eat or drink. I have also made great friends straight away with the other exchange students in and around Prague, with whom I share not only similar experiences but also the same enthusiasm for the culture and the city.
But I should perhaps start with my arrival: I took a train to Prague, as it was the easiest option for me. Saying goodbye to my family was about as hard as expected, but the excitement mostly outweighed it, except for the moment of parting itself, of course.
And after a long train ride without wifi (!) I was there, welcomed by my host family and a representative of Rotary, the organisation that organises and sponsors my year abroad.
My host father Václav and his two sons, aged 17 and 15 (his eight-year-old daughter and ten-year-old son live with their mother), live in a large house in one of the outskirts of Prague. This means that it takes me at least 45 minutes to get to just about everything, including my school. It’s not ideal, but you can’t have it all…
In the first week, the week before school started, I had plenty of time to explore Prague: With friends (exchange students and their host siblings) as well as alone with a kind of geocaching (implemented by my host father himself). On the very first day, there was also a „tasting“ of Czech sweets.
At my school, I received a warm welcome from my classmates: they were very interested in me at the beginning, spoke a lot of English with me and translated the most important things for me. All that has lessened a bit over time, because of course they always speak Czech among themselves and, at least I think so, often simply forget that I need to be told/translated certain things. Nevertheless, I have found a clique that has taken me in, so to speak, with whom I eat in the canteen, spend the breaks and go to the shopping centre. Once we even went bowling.
Their welcome was definitely much warmer than the one by most the of teachers. Probably because they speak little to no English and I speak hardly any Czech, they ignored me at the beginning and for the most part still more or less do. The lessons are in Czech, of course (except for some of the language classes). On the one hand, this is an extra opportunity and/or motivation for me to learn the language as well as possible, but on the other hand, it is also a big challenge for my everyday life: subjects in which I have no hope of learning anything, such as social studies or literature, I usually spend learning/practicing Czech. And that pays off in the sense that I sometimes already understand at least the topic of a conversation and have a decent command of the absolute basic vocabulary and simple grammar, which unfortunately is still not that useful in conversations.
I would like to describe some of the best experiences of the last weeks in more detail.
One highlight was the Inbound Orientation Weekend (an information and get-to-know meeting organised by Rotary for all exchange students / „inbounds“ in the Czech Republic and Slovakia) in a town with the enchanting name Kroměřiž (roughly pronounced: Kromyershish) from 22 to 24 September. Meeting the various people from different countries and different cultures was an extremely great and enriching experience. North and South Americans formed the absolute majority, but there were also two Australians and about ten people from Asia. Only Europe is a bit underrepresented, as apart from me there is only one Latvian-French girl…
Another highlight were the many activities and excursions with the other exchange students. From a barbecue party in the garden of my host family’s house, where I got to know everyone for the first time, to exploring the city, a visit to the zoo and a dinner in a very cosy bar, we hardly skipped a beat in these first six weeks. In Prague we are eight exchange students (girls from South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, USA, Argentina, Brazil and France / Latvia) and another two (a Mexican girl and a boy from the USA) in smaller towns near Prague. We had a lot of fun together in the last few weeks!
And the very best for me? That was only six weeks out of a total of ten months, the year abroad has only just begun.
To be continued…
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