From the day that I decided to go to Columbia Theological Seminary, I knew that I wanted to study abroad in Prague during the fall semester of my senior year. I loved my study abroad semester in college and knew it was something I wanted to do again in Seminary. For awhile, it just seemed like a dream, but then the dream not only came true, it got even better.
One of my closest friends from Seminary, Keith, was also got accepted and suddenly my great adventure got a lot less lonely. I loved my solo adventures this summer, but from the moment we were accepted, I was so grateful to be doing this with a friend. It was a wild ride leading up to our departure and I got my visa in hand only 24 hours before our flight took off!
Thankfully, that was the worst of our troubles and the trip from Atlanta to Prague went smoothly. When we arrived at our dorm, the registration woman told us that since we didn’t pay in advance, our reservations had been deleted. We told her we had gotten specific instructions not to pay in advance and after a few tense minutes, she said she still had rooms available. Keith got what we expected— a shared room, but they had an open single room for a woman and I quickly jumped on it. I am so grateful to have my own room here. In the chaos of adjusting to life in a new country, it is a huge blessing to have a space all to myself. I share a “kitchenette” (aka sink and hot plate) with a roommate from Mexico named Alexandra. She’s 23 and wonderful. I’m excited to get to know her more as the semester goes on. I’m used to tiny living, but this might be my tiniest adventure yet!
We spent our first weekend exploring the city and I was practically in a stupor. It was such a stressful and crazy process getting my visa that I wasn’t letting myself fully get my hopes up, which also meant I wasn’t mentally preparing for this trip. I haven’t been to mainland Europe since I was 13 and it all felt so surreal at first. I didn’t make a list of things to do in Prague and those first few days were more about finding a grocery store and SIM card than crossing things off my bucket list. Still, I was in awe of the city and couldn’t believe it was finally happening.
We spent the last two weeks in orientation with morning Czech language classes and afternoon field trips. There are 13 international students at the Protestant Faculty at Charles University, but only 10 of us took the language class. The other students are from the UK and Germany, most of whom are younger than we are. We aren’t totally sure if Charles University is for undergraduates or grad students or both. Either way, it’s been wonderful getting to know the other international students and it’s made me understand why the international students at Columbia like to spend so much time together.
Our afternoon field trips included a tour of the Jewish Quarter, up a replica Eiffel Tower with amazing views, to an old monastery, and to a town outside Prague where the 15th century reformer Jan Hüs hid from the Catholic church he was trying to reform. I’ve already learned so much about European history and it makes me realize what a ridiculous irony is that when European explorers came to America, they called the Indigenous People “savages.” Our European ancestors were basically in non-stop bloody wars for 800+ years and kept dying from plagues because they couldn’t figure out public sanitation, whereas Indigenous people in the Americas had city planning, running water, and mostly good relations with their neighbors! Europe may be beautiful today, but one quick look at history books will tell you it wasn’t always this way!
One of the biggest highlights of the last two weeks has been the beginning of our friendships with our classmates. Keith and I have gotten to know Ruth and Wassilis, who are from Marburg, Germany where they both study theology. We have had so much fun getting to know them and exploring the city together. One of the main reasons I wanted to study here was for the relationships I would be able to form in ways I couldn’t do back home.
I didn’t realize until I got here that I’d never had German friends before. At one point we were talking about American culture and someone asked if cowboys were real. I said, “yes! My grandfather was a cowboy and he fought in WWII on horseback!” Then I silently realized that he was probably fighting their grandfathers 😳 We had a great conversation later that day about the holocaust and how they view their own history now (spoiler alert: much differently than if someone said Americans committed genocide against Indigenous people (which we did)). It was a conversation I’d never had before and I am so grateful for the time and opportunity for such conversations to arise organically.
Plus, this extrovert just needs some friends!! God is so good.
We start classes tomorrow, so more updates on that will be forthcoming. For now, we’re starting to adjust to life here (although not without many bumps along the way). It still feels surreal, but also like we’ve been here for months! I have nothing but gratitude for this amazing season of life.