From a very young age, I’ve always been a traveler. It started when my mom carried me on her back through the Canadian Rockies as a baby, and it has continued throughout my life, taking me to places like Spain, Tanzania, Israel, Japan, Ireland and more. I’ve always liked to learn about different cultures and discover beautiful places, and after experiencing countries from such a wide range of political, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds, I so strongly feel that traveling is the cure to ignorance; however, despite the significance traveling has in my life, moving to Prague for the next 3 months is quite different than my past travel experiences. While I had no longer been riding on the backs of my parents (literally) prior to IIP: Prague, I still had never traveled alone. In the past, I had only ever traveled with family or with very structured groups where there was never a moment unobserved by a program director. Additionally, my past travels have never been longer than about 2-3 weeks, only enough time to get a superficial glimpse into a country, its history, and its people. Even though I’ve only been in the Czech Republic for a short time now, I can already feel a difference. Working with Czech people and navigating the city, I feel I have learned more in the past two weeks than I have from other similar traveling experiences, either about the country or just about being adaptable. Even though I have enjoyed rather frequent adventures with other Pitt students, the times when I have explored on my own have been some of my most rewarding. I’ve enjoyed the struggles of getting lost and eventually finding my way, and I can feel myself becoming more and more okay with not knowing what I am doing. For instance, this morning, exploring the old town on my own, was my first moment of wanderlust. I woke up at 4 in the morning to beat the crowds and watched the sunrise from the Charles Bridge. I walked the almost empty street with no direction in mind or no idea where I was going and I was just in awe of how beautiful the city was. While I am usually a person who likes to plan everything out and doesn’t like surprises, I’ve learned from this trip that sometimes you can’t control everything, and that’s okay.
Even though I tried to prepare myself for Prague by reading about the culture and history, there is still so much I didn’t know about the country prior to coming here—one thing being the language. Though I have tried to learn more I have struggled and it has been difficult to communicate with Czech people who either don’t speak English or pretend not to because they don’t want to talk to a foreigner. Because of this language barrier, I’ve had to think on the fly about better ways to communicate or just be okay with getting lost. Despite these struggles, I am so glad I decided to come to Prague. I came for the history and beauty of the city, and it has provided just that.