The following interview was conducted by Tisch Center student worker, Haley Park.
What is it like to study at NYU Prague?
So far, each day has presented me with something new and different. Because I have classes only two days a week, I have a lot of flexibility to explore something new each day. Whether it’s checking out a new cafe or hopping on a bus for a spontaneous trip to Budapest, I seek to incorporate a little piece of Europe that I can’t experience back home. And so on days off, I try to go out and explore Prague and the rest of Europe the most that I can. I would say that Mondays and Wednesdays are days when I have more of a routine. On those days, I usually take the train or tram to Old Town Square, where the NYU Prague buildings are located. The walk to class is absolutely beautiful as you can get a glimpse of Prague’s famous Astronomical Clock and the Church of Our Lady before Tyn. With each building colorful and distinct from one another, you truly feel like you’re living inside a fairytale. Usually between classes, I like to grab lunch at local restaurants for traditional Czech food.
What are the most noticeable cultural differences that you have seen?
Born and raised in New York, I have always been accustomed to the modernity of the suburbs and the fast-paced setting of the city. And so, when I arrived in Prague I was immediately mesmerized by the beautiful architecture that preserves the rich history of the Czech Republic. In the heart of Europe, Prague offers a charm certainly distinct from New York. From cobblestone streets, red-roof buildings, to castles, Prague is like a fairytale but in real life. Even on a simple neighborhood stroll there is so much to see that your eyes can never rest. The bohemian allure of this city has truly made me slow down the fast-paced lifestyle I am used to and gain a new appreciation for my surroundings. Another cultural difference I have experienced here in Prague is the cheap living expense. From freshly baked breads for less than a dollar, beers that are cheaper than water, to meals that average less than ten dollars, Prague is the ideal place to be as a college student.
What is one challenge that you’ve come across?
Prague actually has quiet hours, which mandate residents to refrain from excessive noise in between the hours of 10pm to 6am. Coming from a city that never sleeps, I sometimes struggle with remembering to use an inside voice when walking the streets at night with friends. Also in general, even when it is not quiet hours, Czech people tend to be more reserved. And so, sometimes I get shocked to see how quiet public spaces can get despite there being a large crowd of people. As a result, I am still adjusting to know where and when it is appropriate to be lively. Additionally, jaywalking is considered a crime in Prague. And neglecting to wait to cross the street when the sign turns green will result in a $95 fine. In addition to my New Yorker habit of crossing streets regardless of the sign, the long waiting times with short crossing times have definitely been a challenge for me.
Has there been a favorite experience or memory so far on your trip?
One of the highlights of my trip so far has been exclusive tours of the Prague Castle through my Architecture class. As one of the architects of the Prague Castle, my professor has brought us to parts of the Prague Castle that are generally not open to the public. Using flashlights to maneuver around the narrow internal balcony of the St. Vitus Cathedral, passing by the house where former Presidents of the Czech Republic such as Vaclav Havel resided in, and walking through the Spanish Hall are all experiences that have shaped my study abroad experience so far as one that is unique and unforgettable.
What do you hope to gain from studying abroad?
By studying abroad, I look forward to expanding my horizons and developing into a more open-minded scholar. While spending the next few months in Prague, a historical treasure, l hope to foster a greater appreciation for cultural differences. I believe that studying abroad will compel me to see more of the world than what is right before my eyes. In the hospitality industry it is integral to provide indelible services to customers, which comes from understanding clients and their needs. This is all possible from personally experiencing different cultures and lifestyles. Through studying abroad, I hope to acquire the proper tools to hone my interpersonal and cross-cultural communication skills. An aspiring event planner, I desire exposure to different cultural perspectives for thinking on a wide spectrum, required for the marketing of destinations and management of events. Through this global experience, I hope to gain more insight on what it feels like to be on the other end of the services I hope to provide one day. In studying abroad in Prague, I look forward to building a strong academic foundation to understand the values of culture, community, and character.