Finally in Prague!

Just as the Spring Semester started up for every one at UMW, I headed off to grand ol’ Prague for the beginning of my very own European adventure! As I write this it’s technically Monday here in Prague (midnight) and NFL Sunday is well under way in the States….and everyone here is also enjoying the live streaming of the playoff games, its really great because it eases the homesickness that some (but not all) of us are feeling. My program is run by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) based in Las Vegas, Nevada which sounds insignificant, right? Wrong! The majority of universities in this consortium are based in the West/Midwest which means that when I arrived to Prague on Saturday afternoon I experienced culture shock on multiple levels. All of my classmates are American except for two girls from South Korea who go to Yonsei University (Yonsei is a USAC member) they hail mostly from like California, Iowa, and Idaho. There’s little….”ethnic” diversity among us….there’s little “ethnic” diversity in Prague….and since I’m Hispanic and heavily involved in activities at the James Farmer Multicultural Center throughout the year this diversity or lack thereof is a BIG deal to me and worth mentioning!

Onto first impressions on Prague itself, in two days I have walked around A LOT in the city, in the Old Towne Square area (ie, tourist central) the streets are small and winding and the sidewalks are made of cobblestone, its beautiful but I have been too tired to really enjoy it. Our program gives its students really great housing, I mean REALLY great housing and I would recommend this USAC program to anyone from UMW just on this fact alone. Our housing is apartments, so all the students live in 3 complexes all close to eachother, about a block from Metro, grocery store and a 15-minute walk to the Old Towne Square. The apartments have very spacious rooms, clean kitchens, and seperate shower and toilet, even a washer (no dryer though!)..it’s just a really great value for how much your paying and so far living in Czech feels very affordable.

Prague has been great on all accounts from what I have seen, however its weakest point for me has been the food! Czechs seem to like their food peppery, loaded with carbs, and LOVE their beer (beer capital of the world is what I’ve heard..and I’m not surprised). I’ve had two authenthic Czech meals: schnitzel (basically fried chicken) with fried cauliflower and something that looked like potato salad; the other meal consisted of a broccoli soup followed by beef in a gravy sauce with dumplings (tasted like mushy/soft bread) needless to say I hit the grocery store after our orientation and stocked up on all the fixings necessary for a sandwich, cereal, milk, and a little bit of fruit!

First day of school is today at 9 am and we’ll all be heading to bed after the excitement of NFL sunday winds down. Phew! It’s been an incredibly busy two days and I’ll be sure to share more as time goes on! I’ll post pictures at the end!

 

Fun Facts about Prague (that I’ve learned so far)
-urinating in public is not illegal
-beer is cheaper to buy than water

 

It’s (almost) the most wonderful time of the year!

So this evening, as I headed to my car after dinner, I noticed the wreaths surrounding my local Giant. I was so excited! I love Christmas time, I love Thanksgiving, and fall and winter. Though I’ve been sick for the past week (I’m talking bed ridden, can hardly speak let alone breathe type of sick) I really have been musing over this great cold weather that’s been around. I can only hope that I get to see a snow-covered Prague in a couple of months.

Last time, I was worried about the visa process, so I did some investigating. I went to a study abroad session at the Center for International Education, the focus was on Central Europe (more specifically Prague) interestingly enough, I was the only one who showed up. It was really cool because the guy who was leading the discussion–erm…conversation– went to Prague Fall 2010 and had a lot of really funny stories, he only made me feel more secure about choosing Prague as my destination. So, I confided in him my worries about being approved for a visa and you know what?

He was denied three times. Wow.

Here I was worried, and I was facing someone who get rejected multiple times, I knew I would be ok. I guess I was always looking at it from an outsider’s perspective. Coming from an immigrant family, I know that the visa process is extremely difficult, almost impossible…if you’re coming to America. On the other hand, I was informed rather cynically “no one will deny an American a visa“.

I’ve never felt more privileged in my life.

Finally, I leave you guys with an image of Charles Bridge all covered in snow, something I hope to see (and capture) when I go over there.

Later Guys.

The famous Charles Bridge covered in Snow.

It’s Fall Break!

I figure now is as good a time as any to start posting to this blog. I’m still in the planning stages of my study abroad experience, and basically nothing is certain until I get on that plane to Prague in January. I’m not sure if this is the case for everyone, but this whole studying abroad thing is really difficult to navigate! It took me a really long time to figure out where I wanted to go (about a semester’s worth of research) and now I’m really worried about being accepted for a student visa, it’s nerve-wracking (sp?) and stressful!  The visa process takes about 3 months and it’s a lot of paperwork, I’m sure most visa application processes are similar so my advice is to send the forms as early as possible!

You literally have to submit proof of EVERYTHING! From how much money you have in your bank account to where you’re staying abroad, I even had to submit proof that I was not a criminal on the run! Also, they took my passport as part of the application process, so forget about any trips during winter break. Which is highly unlikely anyway since I’ll probably be working as much as possible in order to be able to afford all the traveling I want to do once I’m there. It takes money, honey.

[youtube width=”305″ height=”224″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TKQcWEXSKU[/youtube]

Later, I may write as to why I chose Prague…since that’s always a follow-up question with a city that for some reason doesn’t have as much name recognition as other European ones.

I think I got this reaction once: “Prague? That’s in Russia, right?”

…..no, no it’s not.

sigh.

Later guys.