Program and Location:
Spring, NC State Prague Classic Spring; Prague, Czech Republic
Why did you choose to study abroad?
I wanted to expand my worldview. I’ve been to Asia beforehand and wanted to see another sphere of the world and how they do things there. Immersing myself as a member of society in a different country rather than simply being a tourist was an experience I wanted to have because there were so many things to see and learn, which weren’t just limited to the classroom abroad.
What did you learn about yourself?
Study abroad was sort of a break from my realities and responsibilities back home, as bad as that may sound. However, the good in this hiatus from home/friends/expectations allowed me to really concentrate on what I needed to do, as well as having increased focus when I got back to the United States. It also reignited a childlike worldview of constantly being amazed at new things, which I sort of forgot while getting older in the US. Coming back, I also see things with increased wonder and gratitude now as well.
What was one of your favorite parts of your program?
One of my favorite parts of the program was the community of staff that helped facilitate our transition into a new country. One of my favorite staff members, Ivana, introduced us to various aspects of modern-day Czech culture, as well as locations and activities that really enhanced my experience. Without the staff, I think I would have been stuck not really having the full experience I so gladly enjoyed.
What advice do you have to future study abroad students?
Take advantage of the community and offerings that the University offers. Make each day a new uncharted adventure, as it won’t last forever. Go out, meet people, eat food, breathe in the different air, just soak it all up like a sponge.
How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?
I believe that going to a new country exposed me to different ways Europeans think about design. I could seriously see myself also coming back to Europe to pursue a career in design as well.
Were you surprised by anything during your time abroad?
This might seem kind of trivial, but a lot of places in Europe actually require money to use public restrooms. Also, their grocery stores are much more minimal than the ones in the US, and plastic bags aren’t as widely used.
How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at NC State? Did you take any field trips or do anything outside of the traditional classroom?
Our classes were more experiential than traditional classroom learning environments. Every other class, we went on a field trip. But again, as I said before, some of the most important things I learned and saw were from experiencing new things, and the teachers would also combine lessons with the field trips we went on. We went to museums, street art installations, space observatories, castles, etc.
In what ways did your identity have an impact on your experience abroad?
I would say being a person in color in Europe is definitely a trip. Although, to be honest, the Asian community in Prague is quite large, with a large amount of Vietnamese people moving to the Czech Republic during the Cold War era. I definitely felt at home in those restaurants, and eating cozy Vietnamese food. In terms of being Queer, there were definitely a lot of things that tested my self-confidence, in terms of getting stared down for being openly queer. However, that was partly due to my own spotlight effect of being in a new country and being scared of being labelled American. It comes with the territory.
Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
Just own up to yourself. Obviously, don’t be an obnoxious American, make the efforts to participate in the culture of wherever you’re going, but also stay true to your identities and don’t fold under pressure.
Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?
The community of study abroad students who shared similar identities to me, as we were able to relate to a lot of these issues since we were all in the same situation.
Would you do it again?
One hundred times yes!
This post was originally published in Study Abroad.