Week one is officially in the books for this program in Prague. It is hard for me to imagine that on this day exactly one week ago I was setting off for the Czech Republic feeling scared, excited, and, more predominantly, exhausted. That Sunday was such a whirlwind of emotions and actions from scrambling around almost missing a flight to the immediate language barrier apparent right in the airport. Now, here I am sitting in my new apartment completely settled in and relaxed. The jet lag has finally worn off, which I am pleased to say, and I already have met some incredible people. I look forward to starting my internship tomorrow, and I find myself eagerly awaiting for what the rest of this trip has in store for me.
Traveling was something I have fallen in love with at an early age. My grandmother used to take me on weekend trips to New York City starting when I was only 6 or 7 years old. I loved seeing new places, sights, and environments; it was thrilling to me. New York City sparked the fuse for wanderlust and a constant desire to travel. From that point on, I made every effort I could to travel all over the United States. I have been to the West Coast, East Coast, down South, up North, but one place I had not ever been was outside the U.S. It was after my freshman year of college that I decided to take this step. I studied abroad in Greece on a Panther Program in the summer of 2015, and that trip was truly a turning point for me in my life. I not only had a great time, but I learned more than I ever had in a traditional classroom. I left with close friends in Greece and in Pitt. I knew as soon as I stepped back in the United States that I wanted to study abroad again, but this time I wanted a longer time abroad since a month felt too short for me. Being already so far ahead in my studies, my study abroad coordinator opened my eyes to the thought of becoming an intern abroad, and this is what led me to the International Internship Program.
When I first started looking to study abroad for an internship, I really liked the benefits that IIP offered so I decided to go down that route. My study abroad coordinator gave me a list of the countries that I would be able to complete an internship, and when I saw the Czech Republic I knew immediately that that was going to be my choice. I grew up in a medium-sized Byzantine Catholic family that celebrated the traditions of our Slavic ancestors yearly. My great grandmother, who used to teach me Slovak words and phrases when I was just a little girl, was the first generation of our family to be born in the United States. Her mother and the rest of her family, as well as my great grandfather’s, were all from Czechoslovakia. Ever since I was a young girl I branded myself with the Czechoslovakian identity, my whole family did. We were proud of the culture. We would sing in Slavonic in our church and we would celebrate Christmas and Easter just as our ancestors did. I had always dreamed of going back to the Slavic regions and seeing where my ancestors came from, and now here was the chance to with IIP. Though my family was born in a village outside of Bratislava in what is now the Slovak Republic, I knew the cultures of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic would overlap so I was thrilled to be accepted.
I must admit that I am still learning about the Czech culture and I find the language barrier to be much harder than anticipated. I spoke Slavonic (a version of Slovak language) in church so how hard could the the Czech language be, right? Wrong. The language is very complex, and every time you think you pronounce a word correctly, it is still wrong. I also did not want to get into the habit of comparing my only other international experience in Greece to the Czech Republic, but so many more people spoke English in Greece than they do here. Every time I encountered someone in Greece they spoke English. Here, I have found that a lot of people do not speak English, which I am then left trying to use Google Translate on my phone while feeling dumb. I finally have grasped several key phrases that have helped me though, such as “Mluvite Anglicky?” (Do you speak English?) I am still learning and I am interested just to see how far I have come when the program ends. For now though, I look forward to starting my internship tomorrow and I cannot wait to learn and understand my company more.