My name is Liz and I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I was born and raised and am studying Marketing and Business Management at Grand Valley State University. I love to travel, I love photography, art and design and my favorite place(s) in the world are the Abaco and Exuma Islands in the Bahamas and Silver Lake in Rockford, Michigan.
Why did you pick this program?
I have had a love for travel ever since my parents first took my family out of the USA for a vacation in Mexico. I was 10 at the time and even then was enthralled by the extreme change of pace, culture, language, scenery, etc. Since then, I have visited 7 different countries and 3 continents. Majority of these were in the caribbean and I really wanted to explore more of Europe.
I knew I wanted to travel a ton while I was studying abroad and wanted to be in a non-English speaking country. This led to me the Czech Republic as it is smack dab in the middle of Europe with a very different and distinct language, culture, and history.
I ended up going through Panrimo because they are very detail oriented and small which gives you personalized help and attention. My visa paperwork, which could have been a nightmare to complete, was completed fast and easily because the advisers from Panrimo walked me through every step of the process. They genuinely want you to have a great time and get the most out of your experience and ensure this happens by checking in frequently to make sure you are comfortable, having a good time, feeling safe, and offering help before, during and after the trip.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
PLEASE DO IT! I cannot emphasize this enough. I want to write a book filled with reasons and stories and photos and facts vs. myths about studying abroad to give to every single college student.
I gained so much confidence from studying abroad and I now know I can travel (almost) anywhere in the world if I want to. I maintained a budget, lived in a country where I had absolutely no knowledge of the language, navigated the public transportation (in a different language) and visited 10 different countries. It seems daunting at first but it is so worth going out of your comfort zone. When else will you have 4 months to drop everything and move across the country to travel and immerse yourself in something totally new?
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Explore whenever you get the chance.
When I say a visited 10 countries and a dozen or so cities as a full time student, it seems absurd. Europe is so much smaller than the US and for that reason, travel is cheap and easy. I flew to most of my destinations for $100 or less and slummed it in cheap (but safe) hostels. I brought my backpack with me and that was it.
Even within Prague there is so much to see. I could kill hours just walking the cobblestone streets and finding something new every time. When you have spare time, use it to wander.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
Probably not what you expected, but my favorite memory was getting stuck in the rain with soaking wet shoes, coat, and backpack in Paris.
Yes. At the time, I was indeed miserable and wanted to scream and cry and hurl my bag and shoes off the Eiffel Tour and sit inside a café all day but now it has become my favorite part of studying abroad because it perfectly embodies how I wanted and did travel.
I had a budget that I had set for each trip to ensure I could visit all the places that I wanted to and buy/do the things that I really wanted to do. It was mid November and cold and rainy all weekend. I was in Paris for 4 days and it rained all day, everyday except for the morning that I left.
I stuck it out and walked about 12 miles everyday to see everything I wanted to. To escape the rain, I went into tons of little shops, boutiques, art galleries, and museums. Little moments like this happened all the time and I never realized how much of an impact they had on my experience abroad until now.
Prague was definitely not my first choice for a host city. When there is Barcelona, Paris, London, Copenhagen, and Rome to choose from; Prague may seem odd.
Well... it is definitely different from every other European city but in the best and most unique way. Their communist past gives it a fascinating culture and rich history and because the city is so old, their architecture is different from most and absolutely stunning. It feels like you live in a fairy tale (cliché but true).
AIt also houses over 1 million people but seems so close-knit and homey. I truly felt at home while simultaneously experiencing big city life. Geographically speaking, I was able to walk to all the major landmarks/sights to see from my apartment.
Because it is not one of the major cities that people want to visit when they travel to Europe, it has less tourists and makes it feel that much more authentic and like home. For this reason, I am torn between keeping Prague, the delightful, beautiful, little treasure it is, to myself; or tell everyone I meet to skip Berlin and Vienna and go straight to Praha to experience it for themselves.
"If European cities were a necklace, Prague would be a diamond among the pearls".