I wanted to study in a large European city in a country where English was not the official language. I also wanted to attend classes that sounded interesting to me. My program focused on language, culture, politics, and art. After narrowing it down to my top three cities (Berlin, Amsterdam, and Prague), I chose Prague because it was in the country I knew the least about. Also, the program had the lowest fees and cost of living.
Tara is an alumna of USAC Prague and Portland State University. She is currently working as a Front Desk Agent at a hotel in Portland but has plans to move abroad again. Her hobbies include hiking, eating delicious food, and photographing architectural details and flowers.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
USAC organized most aspects of my trip such as the accommodations, classes, and visa process. I was so grateful for the visa assistance because the embassy was very particular on the details and USAC reviewed all the materials before sending them on to the consulate. Although they offered a group flight, I chose to arrange for my own flights in and out of Prague. This allowed me to arrive a few days early which turned out to be the best decision for me because it allowed me to experience the city a little before diving into classes and meeting everyone in the program. Our classes mostly consisted of other USAC students but they offered a variety of subjects to learn.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Pay attention in your Czech language classes. It’s not essential to know Czech to live in Prague, but it makes going to the grocery store and getting around town a lot easier. The language classes last a few weeks when you first arrive before your other classes start. They are a lot of fun and taught by wonderful Czech professors. You’ll know you’ve made it when you can carry out a basic conversation with the program organizers and order coffee or dinner without reverting to English or another language.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Monday through Thursday you attend classes at the USAC building near campus. Some classes are in the morning and others are in the afternoon, depending on what you chose to study. Each class is taught once a week. On the weekends, there are often field trips to other towns and cities in the Czech Republic or hikes in the wilderness. Many students choose to utilize their three day weekends to travel outside of the Czech Republic to neighboring countries by bus. I spent most of my weekends in Prague but ventured out to Munich independently and Dresden, Budapest, Vienna, and Slovakia on field trips organized by USAC.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was afraid of being alone. I am naturally an independent person but sometimes struggle to make new friends that I can count on. The first day of the program, I introduced myself to as many people as possible and tried to learn about where they came from. It took a few weeks before I made friends that I would hang out with outside of classes. The small class size shared apartments, and constant excursions and tours really helped.
By the end of it, I left with a handful of close friends and plan to see them again in Prague in the future. I think I was overly worried about making friends. I’m a friendly person and just have to spend enough time around others to find my people.
What was your favorite place in your city?
My neighborhood was actually my favorite place. I cherished it more than even my apartment. When I had first arrived to Prague, I had arrived a few days before the program started and before most students. I took that time to get to know my neighborhood since I knew I’d be living there for the next four months. This exercise made me feel more at ease in my surroundings even though I was very much in a foreign country. I recommend it for anyone moving to a foreign country.