I’ve been trying for the past month to think of how best to sum up my semester in Prague. When I got back, one of my friends asked me if I could reflect on my time abroad in a few sentences. Well, no I can’t, number one, and number two, I wouldn’t do it justice if I tried. Of course I have my favorite trips, cities, memories, and roommate (you know who you are*)— but how to capture everything I experienced in those four months into a single sentiment? It feels impossible, so here’s a whole blog post about it.
*It's Vaclav Havel, all 12 framed pictures of him.
I’m extremely proud of how my roommates and I traipsed through Europe. We planned to the nines, and equipped ourselves for each new city not only with overpacked suitcases, but with bursting to-do lists as well. They included our must-sees, our recommended, and things we were interested in doing if there was time. We sort of had a hierarchy system of codes going by the end; each bullet point on the list was marked with a symbol which indicated its level of importance to us. If Rick Steves got a hold of one of them, he’d shed a little tear. I mean, we were not fuckin around when we travelled. Actually, that’s not true— we were, all the time, because we thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. I guess it would be more accurate to say that we weren’t fuckin around with our precious time, because we were very aware of how little of it we possessed in the grand scheme of things. We had 48-72 hours to maximize each trip, and we were never in our Airbnb unless it was to change from our day-sensible-travel-outfits to our night-hit-the-town-outfits. Or if we were sleeping. But there wasn’t even very much of that, either. The days were jam-packed, the nights often even more so, and the wee hours of the morning were the ones when we’d squeeze in a wink or two of sleep. It wasn't uncommon for us to catch our best experiences on a whim, because we went with the flow and didn’t cuff ourselves to a strict itinerary. There were definitely a few things in each city that we had booked ahead of time, such as city or food tours, and for those we of course planned around a time frame. But for the most part, we were exploring while walking with purpose. If we were going through a park to get to a museum or marketplace and saw pedal boats, we’d hop on and peruse the canals first. If there was a hole-in-the-wall cafe right next to the restaurant we’d found on TripAdvisor, we’d try that one instead. If we met crazy fun people along the way, we would find a bar all together. Our to-do lists were less an itinerary and more of a way to make sure we were never sitting in our hostel, wondering, “What is there to do in insert city ?” We were left without a single regret from each trip, which feels amazing.
My roommates and I did everything together. Our reservations were for six, and our plans were always in the group chat as we explored Prague throughout the semester. I never travelled without at least two of them, and it was almost always more than that. We learned so much about not only each other, but about our strengths as a group. For example, nobody throws a party like us. I wish I could have added everyone I know to the Facebook groups we made— there was a haiku involved in our Christmas invite, and it honestly belongs in an anthology of great American poetry. We also had some killer family dinners for which the six of us would contribute in some way, whether it was doing the grocery shopping, cooking the feast, or buying the wine bag that would furnish our dining table like a centerpiece during the meal. We would say grace by clasping hands, inhaling sharply, and trying to shout "Grace!" simultaneously. Then the supper shenanigans commenced.
Sometimes we got on each others’ nerves (so it goes), but our apartment was harmonious for the most part. Harmoniously dysfunctional. I can’t think of a single story involving the six of us that doesn’t fit that description. I really wish I could tell them on the internet in good conscience. The ones I do love to share, however, mostly require facial expressions, gestures, and dramatic pauses that necessitate and in-person telling. I wrote a lot of things down, but so many of them are little tokens for my own personal memory bank, and I wouldn’t know how to explain them to anyone else anyhow. As someone who so enjoys telling a story, it’s a very strange thing to realize that many of my experiences only make sense to me, and would be near impossible to justly relay to others. I mean, I went and lived in a different city, on a different continent, and had different friends at a different school, and went to another country practically every weekend where even more new people and factors entered the mix. How to provide all the necessary context and details now that I’m back home, when none of them are familiar to anyone else? I’ve come to suppose that some of them will just be spectacular memories that aren’t compatible with declamation. That’s okay, too. In my head they are still perfect.
It’s taken me a long time to write this. I’ve had some difficulty articulating my time abroad as a whole, because it really wasn’t just about travel. It was a breath of fresh air metaphorically, and an inhalation of secondhand smoke literally. It was an opportunity for me to live outside of my comfort zone. I was able to see that even in the face of such massive change everywhere I looked, I still carried myself in the way that I’ve always been proud to. I went into the semester thinking, “Everything is different there; I can be anyone I want,” and came back with the confidence that the entire time I was there, I was just me, and that’s who I wanted to be. Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t change; I grew, and became stitched into the fabric of Prague, and I absorbed as much as I possibly could. I can't believe that city is still out there existing without me— how dare it. :)
So, as for my single sentiment regarding my time abroad:
I learned about myself and the world, and I was inspired every single day.