Last week was like a mini vacation from my new life in Znojmo. I returned to Prague for the first time since moving to Znojmo and was glad to see the rest of the Fulbright ETAs again for our second Fulbright orientation. Rather than focusing on teaching English and the Czech school system, this orientation had a broader focus due to the presence of the other Fulbright scholars in the Czech Republic this year. We had multiple sessions with different speakers on the Czech political system, economy, language, culture shock, security and services of the American embassy.
While some of the information was slightly redundant after living here for a month already, I learned a lot more about current events in the Czech Republic. Focusing on politics, the Czech Republic Parliament dissolved this summer after finding multiple corruption charges with the Prime Minister. A special election to replace the government members will be held this month. One of the speakers who explained the current situation to us was an American political campaign consultant who is currently working with one of the Czech political parties in the election. I found this ironic that despite all the complaints Americans have with the process of political campaigns in our country, we are trying to spread our bad patterns around the world.
One of the greatest parts about our Fulbright orientation was meeting so many interesting people. The new Fulbrighters I met included 2 researchers my age who are studying socio-linguistics and linkages between fetal alcohol syndrome and epilepsy, 2 American high school teachers of History and Creative Writing who will be teaching in Czech high schools, scholars studying jazz and avant guarde music, and a deaf man and his deaf son who are working on a new teaching method for deaf students involving sensory and visual learning. One of the most fascinating experiences for me was the first lunch where I sat with this man and his son. I ended up writing notes back and forth with the son while my other friend spoke to his father through a translator. I look forward to hearing more about their method of teaching and how Czech teachers and students receive it. Having the opportunity to meet people with such diverse interests was very inspiring. We also had a reception at the American Center in Prague where I met the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, some Czech Fulbright scholars who spent time studying in the United States, and several members of the American Foreign Service stationed in Prague.
Most of all, I was so happy to be back in Prague. Even without all my amazing friends from my study abroad program, there is no doubt that it is a magical city. I love that at all times of the day and night it is simply beautiful and I am discovering new awesome places each time I visit. I had a huge smile on my face walking around the whole time. It was really fun to show the other Fulbright ETAs some of my favorite places to eat and go out at night. In addition, I was able to meet up with two Czech friends from my semester here and catch up. It’s crazy to think how much has changed in the month since I saw them when I first arrived!
Of course, after all being isolated in our small towns for a few weeks, the ETAs and I were craving anything American. We had pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, Thai food, Italian food, warm brownies with ice cream, and bagels. I even brought some bagels back to Znojmo for Jana and her family to try. They had never had them and made me laugh by asking, “What do we do with it?” Being surrounded by American friends and going to these restaurants made me realize how much more “American” my study abroad semester was than I thought. Even though Prague is less westernized than England, Paris, or Rome, it is still possible to get by with speaking English and finding comfort in typical American foods and drinks. Traveling away from Znojmo really made me appreciate the unique experience I am getting while living here. By the end of the week I was definitely ready to get back to my small, beautiful town.
Coming up this week: My new apartment and my first official “normal” Znojmo weekend